Test Driven: Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera (10/10)Posted: June 21, 2013
There is a special tingling sensation that runs through your body when you know that you’re about to go flat out on a racetrack in the ultimate version of the Lamborghini Gallardo. It is the same sort of nervous excitement you experience before getting on a big roller coaster, except here it will be you that is tasked with controlling the thrill ride. Knowing the responsibility you are being entrusted with only adds to the anxiety because the price of a mistake could top a quarter of a million dollars. But nothing could make you turn back at this point. You have been handed the key that will fulfill a dream. So as the engine erupts into life with a loud, satisfying bark, you decide to rise to the occasion, grab on to the bulls horns, and prepare to face its fury head-on.
It has been about a decade since Lamborghini first released the Gallardo. It was a “baby Lambo” model designed to topple the Ferrari 360 in its final years and lock horns with whatever replaced it. A brainchild of Audi, the Gallardo was supposed to widen the appeal of the Lamborghini brand, targeting people who want a car that fits within a single lane of traffic, and who like to be able to see while they drive. Many Lamborghini die hards scoffed originally at the idea of a more sane Lambo, but the end result has been by far the best selling Lamborghini model of all time.
I have had the great privilege to drive 3 other Gallardos prior to this, on both the track and the street. The two that were on the street were both Gallardo Spyders, a first-gen and an LP-560. On the track I drove an LP-560 coupe, also with Exotics Racing, which was both the first supercar and first Lambo I ever drove. All of those experiences set me up well for my drive in the Gallardo LP-570 Superleggera. The Gallardo is now nearing the end of its run and the Superleggera is likely the ultimate version that will be made. I cannot imagine a better way to send off the Gallardo than to experience the pinnacle of its existence firsthand.
The shape of any Lamborghini will turn every head on the block, but the Superleggera comes equipped with all of the extra “machine guns”, as Clarkson would to say. The Superleggera can be spotted by its tricolore racing stripe along the side, its carbon fiber fixed wing on the back, and its more aggressive front diffuser. All of this adds a bit of racecar look to the low and wide supercar look, and my oh my does it turn things up to eleven… or twelve.
In truth the Gallardo Superleggera is a very honest car. Its looks are just as extreme as everything else about it is. This may be the worst car in the world for those who value subtlety or “class”. Instead of speaking softly and carrying a big stick, the Superleggera walks around holding an AK-47, yelling insults at anyone who passes by.
While available in a wide variety of colors, the Superleggera is especially evil in black. It looks like an F-117 “stealth fighter” when it flies past you at speed. People will be getting out of this car’s way on the road, because it makes its intention of lawless speed known at first sight.
This is a car for people who don’t care about speed limits, and it will receive special attention from the general population as well as law enforcement. This is just the way of the world in a Lamborghini, but especially in this Superleggera. I have met a few Lambo owners who complain about all the extra attention they get, and some of them have even sold their cars because of it. All of the money in the world cannot stop people from going nuts over a car like this. If you aren’t happy with people coming up to you to talk about your car, then you shouldn’t buy a supercar in the first place, but especially not a Lamborghini.
If you ask me, the extra attention is just another fun part about a car like this, so it’s best to just embrace it, and learn to enjoy sharing your own automotive passion with others. Let kids sit in your car, and even take people for rides from time to time. You’re lucky enough to have a supercar, so you should use it to inspire other people to do well for themselves. Plus, there are few things car people hate more than a jerk who happens to own an awesome car.
“Superleggera” means “super light”, and this car is one of those track-focused versions like a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or a Ferrari F430 Scuderia. Naturally, “track focused” and “comfort” go together about as well as oil and water, so your expectations should be set at a realistic level before stepping inside the Superleggera.
Of course with a quarter-million-dollar price tag the interior is far from cheap and spartan. Au contraire, it is expensive and spartan because the whole leather interior from the standard Gallardo has been replaced with carbon fiber pieces and alcantara upholstery. To the side, you will find that the entire door, handle and all, is now all carbon fiber, with a little alcantara strap hanging out instead of a door handle. The transmission tunnel is also now entirely carbon fiber, as is most of the trim on the dash. Aluminum seems to be too heavy for this car, yet I found it funny that, despite all of the emphasis on saving weight around the cabin, this Superleggera was still fitted with a satellite navigation system and full stereo. The reason for this is because Lamborghini knows that most buyers will use their cars on public roads, and still want everything they can have in a normal Gallardo. That said, it does make all that carbon fiber seem a bit of a gimmick for appearances, like someone who always says their “on a diet” but then has a bacon cheeseburger after their salad.
While much of the trim may be more for show than go, the carbon fiber racing bucket seats, trimmed in alcantara, are no joke. You get in the car, and everything just feels stiff and well put together. The seats are meant to hold you in place during corners, and they do that job very well. Remember, this is a track focused car, it’s not meant for coddling you on a grand tour. Like the exterior, the interior of the Superleggera doesn’t waste any time letting you know what to expect.
I should begin this part by letting you know that I drove an Aston Martin V8 Vantage just before I hopped into the Superleggera. If you ever want to really understand the true difference between a supercar and a GT car, that is one of the best ways to do so. It was like first walking my dog, and then being thrown into a cage to wrestle a wild Bengal tiger. Not only does the Gallardo do everything a lot faster, but it also has much less room for error. The Lambo keeps you on your toes the whole time. Try to relax even a little, and it could spell disaster. Driving any Lamborghini on a track is like being a rodeo clown trying to hang on to an angry bull, and I have to believe that they purposely design their cars this way. It is certainly terrifying, but in a wonderful way that I could not seem to get enough of.
Having said all of that, I must say that the Superleggera is by far the best Lamborghini I have driven for a racetrack. The Aventador just seemed to have endless understeer, with little in the way of balance at all, and the Gallardo LP560-4 felt decent, but with noticeable front end push toward its limit. The Superleggera, on the other hand, has found a handling sweet spot. Its chassis is far better balanced near the limit than any other Lambos I’ve driven, with inherent understeer far reduced. When I did manage to challenge the car’s stability control, it was always the rear end that was letting go.
On a racetrack, it is a car’s handling characteristics that make all the difference, especially for those who aren’t professional racing drivers. This better balance allows you a much better sense of where the car’s limits are, and it makes it a lot easier to hold on to a fast pace through corners. The fact that the Superleggera rotates better in a turn also gives you more confidence to get back on the gas sooner during a turn. This is because weight moves rearward when you begin to accelerate, causing more understeer, so having the nose tucked in where you want it gives you room for the car to run a little wide under power. Like most all wheel drive cars, the real strength of the Gallardo is being able to use the extra traction to power hard out of corners. The better handling balance of the Superleggera allows you to more fully exploit those advantages, and its pace is a good bit faster for it.
The Superleggera’s balance is fantastic, but the real key to driving this car is being able to find it consistently. This is where the challenge comes in, and this is what makes this car both terrifying and addictive at the same time. There is a skill to be mastered here, or rather a beast to be tamed. Throughout my drive, each corner was a new challenge, a new chance to get it right. When I did find the right balance, the Superleggera stayed beautifully neutral while holding some insane cornering speeds. The grip just seemed endless as the lateral g-force piled on. Then when it came time to put the power out of the corner, it was difficult to comprehend how the Gallardo managed to hold onto its composure as the speeds went even higher. By the time I hit the next straight, the pedal had reached the floor, and I was barreling towards the next corner at an alarming rate.
There were, of course, many times where I did not get the car’s balance right. When this happened, the stability control had to step in to save me, with the back end stepping out just a bit in what otherwise would have probably been a full spin. It is very easy to go too fast into a corner in this car. Not only because of its massive horsepower, but also because its brake pedal lacks precision. If I have one big gripe about the Superleggera, this is it. Braking is probably the most important aspect of a car like this, and to have it work in a clumsy fashion isn’t good. That is not to say they do not work, because they do stop the car extremely well. The issue is that you have to push the brake pedal in a good ways before anything happens, so there is always a guessing game being played as you are flying into a corner at 120mph. The brake pedal gives you nothing, then more nothing, and then all of a sudden it gives you everything. The car stops extremely well, but from the driver seat it is better to have a lot of initial bite from the brakes so that you know how much more force is needed to adequately slow the car.
Other than the brakes, the rest of the Superleggera talks to its driver quite well. Loads of information comes through the chassis to your buttocks, and the steering feels tangibly connected to the front tires. The steering is quick, very accurate, and has a nice weight to it. As you’d expect from a track focused car like this, there is no body roll to speak of, and the chassis responds instantly to steering inputs. Throttle response is also fantastic, thanks to that beautifully tuned V10 engine. Gear changes are handled by a single clutch paddle shift gearbox that gives a satisfying jolt to the entire car when shifting under hard acceleration. It does feel a bit crude compared to many newer dual-clutch gearboxes, but there’s no denying the satisfying feeling you get when you feel that hard, mechanical action occur.
Moving on to the engine, we find one area of the Gallardo that really didn’t need much improvement at all. Consequently, the Superleggera has the same 5.2L V10 as the Gallardo LP-560, but with a 10hp bump up to 562hp so owners can say “it’s faster.” Is it any faster than an LP560 in raw speed though? In short, yes but only just a little. The Superleggera cuts around 100lbs from and adds 10hp to the standard Gallardo LP560-4, but it also has closer gearing. In reality, the normal Gallardo is already extremely fast, and that wasn’t where things needed improvement in the Superleggera.
Opening the taps in the Superleggera is like firing the afterburners on a fighter jet. The acceleration is savagely vicious, and it never seems to end. That V10 howls in your ear like a banshee as the revs reach for 8500rpm, and the speed piles on without mercy. Pull the right paddle, and there is a tranquil moment’s pause, like the eye of a hurricane, just before the next cog is engaged and the fury resumes with a hard jolt to your whole existence. The Superleggera is a ridiculous level of fast, one that has somehow become the norm for the current generation of supercars. Its raw straight line speed will devour many iconic supercars, most of which seemed just as insane not all that long ago.
For all of the numbers buffs out there, Road & Track recorded the following from the Superleggera: 0-60mph in 3 seconds flat, 0-100mph in 6.8 seconds, the quarter mile in 11.0sec @ 129mph, and a gear limited top speed of 198mph. Handling wise the Gallardo Superleggera saw 74.3mph in the slalom, .99g on the skidpad, and a 109ft stop from 60mph, all with Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires at each corner of the car. Very impressive numbers to say the least, and the car feels every bit this fast from behind the wheel.
Being in the Nevada desert during the late spring, the Gallardo’s temperature got a bit hot during my drive. We wound up taking a sort of intermission between my hot laps to let the car cool down. This involved driving around the track at more sane speeds, and keeping the revs down a bit. I was actually happy this happened because it gave me a chance to experience the Superleggera in a more realistic fashion for street use. What I found crazy was that it was able to hold a relaxed 50-70mph pace on the track without the need to slow down at all for most corners. I think that just speaks to the actual abilities of the Superleggera. Its limits are much, much higher than most people will explore on public roads. This car’s pace at 8/10ths on a canyon road will leave most everyday “fast” cars completely in the dust.
As far as livability is concerned, you had better love the speed more than your own personal level of comfort. This is a track focused machine, so naturally it will ride very stiff on the road. The gearbox, while great at speed, will be clunky and jerky around town, especially if your right foot lacks finesse. EPA fuel economy stands at a moderate (for a supercar) 14city/20hwy MPG, but in practice fast driving will easily dip your fuel consumption into single digits. The Superleggera, like most supercars, demands some practical compromises from its owner in exchange for the incredible experience it offers, so naturally it takes a special sort of buyer to appreciate it.
Dollars and sense
Going from that same Road & Track article, a well fitted Superleggera runs around $280,000. Most people will scoff at spending that sort of cash on any car, but those are also usually people who could never afford to do so anyway. Yes it is a ton of money, but let’s take a look at what sort of value the Superleggera offers in the range.
Lamborghinis are their own breed, and many buyers want exactly that. For them a Ferrari or a Mclaren isn’t even a consideration because it will not fulfill their desires in the way that a Lambo will. If this is you, then an LP570 Superleggera may be one of the better ways to spend your money. In addition to being the pinnacle of the Gallardo range, the Superleggera is also a rarer, limited production model. It is to the Gallardo lineup what the LP670 SV was to the Murcielago lineup. But I will let you in on a little secret, the Gallardo Superleggera is quicker than the Murci SV by a pretty decent margin.
The Superleggera is also definitely faster than a Murcielago LP640, which can be had pre owned for around the same price. Sure the V12 Murcielagos may edge out the Superleggera way up top, but under 160mph the Gallardo runs things. On the street the Superleggera will be quicker, and on the track its more nimble handling will outpace any Murcielago. So among Lamborghinis, the LP570 Superleggera seems to be “the one to buy” because of its rarity, performance, and comparative value.
If you are just looking for a supercar under $300 grand, without any brand loyalties, then the choice becomes a lot harder, if only because that is an obscene amount of money, and there are countless quality options available. The Superleggera’s rarity does still come into play here, but its performance is both rivaled and bettered by various other cars in the range. For me, used Porsche Carrera GT is one of the more tempting alternatives, as is a Mclaren MP4-12C or a Ferrari 458 Italia (both of which are a little newer, faster, and nicer). At this level there are so many ways to spend your money that it is pointless to go through listing all of the possibilities. The Superleggera will definitely require a buyer with a more raw taste for driving, and that buyer will be rewarded with a fantastically extreme driving experience.
The real thing that you need to know is that a Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera is definitely worthy of your $280 thousand bucks. It holds its own in the level of performance available, and even manages to offer some decent value for money within the Lamborghini range. Any car that isn’t a total ripoff at this price point is worthwhile in my book. If you want a supercar experience, this has it all.
For me, at 23 years of age, any day I get to drive a Lamborghini is generally a good day. I’m not that far out from my childhood years, and experiencing a car like this always brings be back. Trying to sleep the night before is like trying to sleep on Christmas Eve, and being handed the keys is like getting the gift you wanted most. It is unreal.
Generalizations aside, the Superleggera is definitely the best performing Lamborghini I’ve tried from a driver’s perspective. While they’ve done a lot to dress the car up in all sorts of ways, its real strength is in its improved handling balance. It isn’t a drastically different car than the standard Gallardo, but any wrinkles in the performance have been ironed out. The Superleggera just takes everything the Gallardo does well, and turns things up even further. That is what a track-focused version of a supercar is supposed to do, and the Superleggera is a brilliant example.
I think the LP570 Superleggera serves well as the pinnacle of the Lamborghini Gallardo lineup. VW hit a home run with the Gallardo, especially when you consider that the Audi R8 is based on the same platform as well. They easily could have made it a true “baby Lambo”, but instead they made it its own special breed of beast. Just look at the performance, there is nothing “baby” about this car at all. Sure it was a different direction for Lamborghini in the beginning, but its Lambo befitting looks, roaring V10 engine, and staggering performance won people over very quickly.
I am very glad I got to try out the Superleggera for myself before the Gallardo’s production is finished, and not just for the obvious reason of “hell yea, I want to drive a Lamborghini on a racetrack”. I enjoyed it because I got to experience the final form of an idea that first took form back in 2003. A lot has happened since then, and the Gallardo has evolved along the way. So now, having experienced what has been done, I am even more excited for what’s to come.
WoM Score: 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Practicality(2) Unique(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 10/10
PS: You too can get behind the wheel of this monster Gallardo Superleggera at Exotics Racing in Las Vegas Nevada. This was my third experience with them, and they have really got their business down to a science at this point. Their track is wonderful, and has been refined a bit since my last visit. The new layout is a lot more approachable, and fun for a wider range of drivers. The instructors are awesome, and you can get quite a good pace going if you do what they say. Overall it’s a great experience, and a great way to fulfill your automotive fantasies. I have driven a bunch of supercars at this point, but Exotics Racing is surely one of the best ways to do it because you don’t have to worry about avoiding the police. You can go 120mph on their track, and it’s entirely legal. So if you want to try your hand at driving a supercar, check out their website in the links above.