The Lamborghini LP570-4 Superleggera. Even by the standards of a company where subtlety has never been on the options list, this is a shockingly over-the-top car. Just look at it! There is a rather large carbonfibre rear wing, with the option of an even larger one. There are light-weight 19-inch Otto Fuchs forged-aluminium wheels that carry Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires with mere slivers of sidewalls, 235/35ZR19s in front and 295/30ZR19s in the rear. There is also a black streak across both flanks with the colours of the Italian flag to dispel any Germanic accusations, while the nose has been given the Murcielago SV treatment and gives the Superleggera an added air of menace.
And if you miss the Superleggera’s identity from the front, you won’t mistake it from the back. Not when there’s a carbonfibre aero diffuser that is the size of a small boat and creates more downforce than the massive rear wing. The Superleggera also has four, fat, matte black exhausts that stick out of each side like the barrels of a shotgun.
Swing open the featherweight doors and you will find an interior that is almost entirely lined with black Alcantara. To reduce weight, the door panels, the transmission tunnel cover, and the seat buckets are made of shiny carbonfibre. Other nice touches include bespoke instrument faces, body-colour accents like contrasting stitching and piping, aluminium pedals, and a meaty steering wheel with an ever-so-slightly squared-off bottom.
Taking weight out of a Gallardo can’t have been the easiest thing in the world because the cars structure is mostly aluminium and there is very little that hasn’t already been lightened or made from some exotic material or the other. While the standard car wasn’t exactly chubby, the SL has still managed to shave 70 kg from the weight of the LP560-4. Lamborghini’s top brass are very proud of their new technology-sharing relationship with Boeing Aviation that mainly involves advanced methods of manufacturing carbon fibre. And the bulk of the SL’s diet comes in the form of extensive use of carbonfibre, including the engine cover, sills, rear diffuser and the seat shells. Thinner glass for the windscreen and side windows, and Perspex for the rear quarter-windows and rear screen also help to get rid of a few more grams. With the engine management remapped to extract another 10bhp from high-octane fuel the LP570-4’s power-to-weight ratio is up to a mind boggling 399bhp per ton. Something tells me it wasn’t a coincidence that this slightly bests the Ferrari 458.
There is no fancy starter-button in the LP570-4, and with a twist of its key the 5.2-liter V10 spits, takes a big gulp of air through its two monster throttle bodies and cracks open with all four exhausts rattling the sky, then settles into a loud, slightly offbeat idle. At idle, there’s a stiff initial resistance before the throttle pedal gives you what feels like the ability to choose exactly the right rpm at exactly the right time. It also gives you the ability to send a spine-tingling ripple up your spine, not to mention twist the neck of any bystander within earshot.
Pull the right-hand paddle and the e-gear transmission clunks firmly into first gear. Tease the throttle and the SL pulls away cleanly and onto the twists and turns of the Monteblanco circuit. While the transmission is the same as the one in the standard Gallardo, it feels like Lamborghini’s engineers have been fettling away at it over the last few years. The result is the best automated-manual box I have yet to experience. Combining super-fast physical gear changes when in Corsa mode with the ability to be smooth in its regular setting it never feels like it needs a dual-clutch system.
Through the corners the SL’s chassis feels quite different to the standard car’s. Firmer bushes and increased spring and damper rates bring a slight deterioration in ride, although to nothing like the extent you’d expect. Then again the LP560-4 didn’t exactly have a magic carpet ride to begin with. Aim it at a flowing sequence of bends, and the SL comes alive combining massive amounts of grip with nimble handling. Even on a soaking wet track (ironically the Middle East group of journalists was the only one to experience rain) the four-wheel drive system provides astonishing traction and catapults the hardcore Lambo out of corners as the tread of the low-profile Pirellis leave their tattoo in the asphalt. On the limit the SL feels better balanced than even the two-wheel-drive Balboni that I recently drove and will happily step into oversteer without too much provocation.
In a straight line Lamborghini claims the LP570-4 will dispense with the 0-100kph sprint in 3.5sec knocking two tenths off the standard cars time. To be honest though, I couldn’t feel any significant difference from the already staggeringly fast LP560. It makes a little more noise with the Corsa button pressed, but otherwise the powertrain feels almost identical.
Therein lies the problem: unlike the Ferrari 430 Scuderia and the latest Porsche GT3 RS the LP570-4 Superleggera doesn’t feel like a huge leap over the standard machine on which it’s based. The chassis is sharper, it does change direction better and the engine is spectacular, but I’m not sure I could justify the extra $36,700 asking price. It’s a very special car, but then again so is the standard LP560.