Life & Style | Motoring

New Lamborghini is a bit of all light

The new Superleggera is one of the most extreme Lamborghinis yet. Amit Benjamin takes the feisty baby bull by the horns

  • By Amit Benjamin, wheels
  • Published: 14:30 January 13, 2011
  • Wheels

Lamborghini Superleggera
  • Image Credit: Christopher List /ANM
  • At 1,340kg, the Lamborghini Superleggera weighs a whopping 40kg less than its chief nemesis, the Ferrari Italia.
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The Superleggera that you see here, is the lightest car Lamborghini has ever produced. At 1,340kg it weighs 30kg less than Porsche’s hardcore 911 GT2 RS and a whopping 40kg less than its chief nemesis, the Ferrari Italia. That’s no mean feat.

At this point, the world’s armchair motorsport experts will eagerly point out that a lightweight car is always better. And that should make the Superleggera the best Lamborghini yet.

In pictures: Superleggera Lamborghini

Hang on a tick, I think I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Sixth element

Let’s start with the Sant’Agata carmaker’s fetishistic hunger for Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer, in plain speak, carbon fibre. The company, as evidenced by the Sesto Elemento concept, is badly obsessed with lightweight construction and has formed an alliance with aerospace giant Boeing for further research and development of the exotic weave.

It’s no surprise then that its latest offering, the Superleggera, goes completely berserk with the composite. The wing mirrors casings, door cards, seats, handbrake, column tunnel console, rear-view casing, steering wheel, centre console, most of the undertray and the rear diffuser are all crafted from carbon fibre. The new Reventónesque front air intakes jut out and are lined with carbon fibre, while the squatted stance and broad shoulders, punctuated by a massive carbon wing, complete the quasi-racer look.

This, along with other race-inspired jewellery such as forged aluminium wheels with titanium wheelnuts and lightweight Alcantara, shaves 70kg from the overall bulk of the standard Gallardo.

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The mildly-fettled 5.2-litre V10 now develops 562bhp — 10 more than the stock car — and as complex maths reveals that gives the Superleggera a remarkable power-to-weight ratio of 419bhp per tonne. That’s better than the 458 Italia.

But does that necessarily mean it’s an improvement over its brother, the regular Gallardo?

Bull riding

Around town, the Superleggera is a mortifying experience. The brakes are squeaky, the mere sight of badly surfaced roads will have you squirming nervously in your seat, and thrown into the vortex of a traffic jam it grunts, huffs and hisses like a restless tiger pacing its cage. It just doesn’t belong. As an everyday car the Superleggera, and I reached this conclusion fairly early on in my test drive, is about as useful as a bucketful of warm hamster vomit.

It’s fast, though. Mash the throttle and the Superleggera charges towards
the horizon, tearing past the 100kph marker in 3.4 seconds — two-tenths faster than the LP560 — and topping out at 325kph. The steering is more loquacious, too. The tiniest dips and crests on the road are transmitted to your sweaty palms, while inputs from the chassis are hotwired to your brain through the spine. All this while you can hear that epic roar and feel the hot breath of the simmering V10 on the back of your neck. This car feels alive on fast, winding roads. It gives you a distinct impression that you’re an important part of this man-machine equation and not a mere trigger for the various onboard computer systems.

The chassis is markedly different from the standard Gallardo’s — the bushes are stiffer and spring and damper rates increased. And although this ruins the ride quality quite a bit, dividends are reaped in the handling department.

The turn in is as precise as a pinprick and it corners flat no matter how challenging the bend or sadistic the camber change. Slicing through the revised six-speed E-gear transmission, right foot firmly planted on the floor, the V10 symphony reaches an ear-shattering crescendo as the needle fervently chases the 8,500rpm limiter and the SL scythes through the most daunting bends with nonchalant ease. Downshifts, if anything, provide a greater thrill with gruff racecar-like throttle blips as you put the massive 365mm/356mm (front/rear) carbon brakes to work.

Even though the AWD SL feels sure-footed at most times, it does allow a considerable amount of slip. Unlike the rear-wheel drive LP550-2 Valentino Balboni it’s much easier to wrap things up neatly, but don’t let that mollycoddle you into a false sense of security. Even if you don’t end up wrapped around a tree, the end result will decidedly be terrifying and expensive.

Verdict

Here’s my quandary — despite the heightened noise and drama, the lower weight and increased power, the Superleggera doesn’t feel quicker than the standard, and already feral, Gallardo. Only less comfortable and more frightening. You’ll love it if you like a sense of danger and have a perverse penchant for carbon fibre.

I do, so the Superleggera ticks all the right boxes for me. But be warned, the improvements, and there are many, are minute and you’d have to really pay attention to truly appreciate them. I suspect most people would probably never be able to tell the difference.

And as much as it pains me to say this, the Superleggera, though it may be the lightest Lamborghini yet, isn’t exactly the best. 

Specs

Model
Superleggera LP570-4
Engine 5.2-litre V10
Transmission Six-speed E-gear, AWD
Max power 562bhp @ 8,000rpm
Max torque 540Nm @ 6,500rpm
Top speed 325kph
0-100kph 3.4sec
Price Dh890,000
Plus Looks, noise and pace. Oh, and that noise
Minus Ride, twitchy at the limit

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