Lamborghinis have long stood for sheer, menacing speed, usually courtesy of a monster engine. It's a solid formula, but any engineer will tell you that you eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. How, then, do you make an even more insane Lamborghini? Make it lighter.
Lamborghini first applied the "lighter is better" approach to the compact Gallardo back in 2007, aptly naming the special model the Superleggera, or "super-light." Extensive use of carbon-fiber and the deletion of such frivolities as a radio and cup holders knocked more than 200 pounds off of the curb weight, allowing the stripped-down, road-legal track car to hit 62 mph in 3.8 seconds. The lack of creature comforts didn't scare away buyers -- Lamborghini moved 618 Gallardo Superleggeras during its one-year production run.
Built on the success of the original and with lessons learned in the new, one-make Lamborghini Super Trofeo racing series, Lamborghini is bringing back the Superleggera, and it's lighter and wilder than ever. The speed freaks in Sant'Agata went over the Gallardo, now in a new generation known as the LP 560-4, with a fine-tooth comb and managed to shave 38 more pounds over the first Gallardo Superleggera, dropping the curb weight to just 2954 pounds and making it the lightest Lamborghini available.
To strip 154 pounds from a standard Gallardo LP 560-4, Lamborghini engineers first turned to the original Superleggera's bag of tricks. The exterior mirrors, the new rear diffuser and side sills, the wing, the engine compartment lid and parts of the underbody are all carbon-fiber, as are the interior door panels, the transmission tunnel, the shifter surround, and the seat shells. Where the last Superleggera used polycarbonate instead of glass for the engine window, the new model uses the lightweight material for the rear and side windows as well. In all, 88 of the 154 pounds lost came from the carbon-fiber and another 28.6 pounds were lost in the 19-inch forged-aluminum wheels.
Of course, this is Lamborghini, not Lotus. They couldn't just go on a crash diet and leave it at that. No, they revamped the engine computer and wrung an extra 10 horsepower out of the 5.2-liter V-10, hence the 570 moniker. That of course refers to metric horsepower. U.S. models will have 562 horsepower available by either measure at 8000 rpm, with 398 lb-ft of torque is available at 6500 rpm.
With only 5.18 pounds for each of those ponies to carry, Lamborghini says it has knocked 0.2 seconds off its estimated 0-to-62-mph time. The Gallardo Superleggera now explodes to 62 mph in a scant 3.5 seconds, blows past 124 mph in 10.2 seconds, and tops out at 202 mph. Those numbers are conservative, because we got a standard Gallardo LP 560-4 to hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds. Not bad for a car that also lowered its C02 emissions by 20.5 percent and improved its city fuel economy by 2 mpg on automatic transmission models.
That's not to say that the Gallardo has suddenly become a gas miser. Equipped with an optional six-speed manual, the Superleggera manages just 12 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. Stick with the E-Gear single-clutch automated manual and the numbers improve slightly to 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. Either way, power meets the ground through all four wheels with 70 percent of it going to the rear.
Handling all that power are the aforementioned 19-inch wheels, which have been wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero Corsa rubber made exclusively for the Superleggera. Suspension tuning lifted from the Super Trofeo cars keeps the wheels planted and the ride rock-solid, but such is the price for absolute performance. Stopping duty is handled by 14.37-inch steel rotors and aluminum eight-piston calipers in front and 14.0-inch rotors and four-piston calipers in the rear. Stability control is standard and offers three modes, allowing you to dial in your preferred level of insanity.
If those aren't enough for what you have in mind, 15-inch carbon-ceramic front rotors clamped by six-piston calipers and 14-inch carbon-ceramic rear rotors with four-piston calipers are optional. The race fever doesn't stop there. If total domination on the track is your goal, four-point harnesses, a fire extinguisher, and a steel roll cage are all optional, as is a larger rear wing.
For those on the opposite end of the spectrum, or even those who prefer some modicum of civility with their madness, the Superleggera isn't entirely without creature comforts. The interior is wrapped in black Alcantara (which is lighter than leather) with colored accent stitching, and air conditioning and power windows are standard. If you're willing to give up some of your weight savings, a navigation system, backup camera, alarm, a storage package, LED lighting, special floor mats and Lamborghini's front-end lifting system are all optional extras.
You may want to spring for that lift system, lest you tear up that pointy new nose and the enormous air intakes that feed the giant radiators needed to cool the monster V-10 and create a familial resemblance to the mighty Murcielago. Lamborghini has also done some work around the back end with that new rear diffuser mentioned earlier, and new quad exhaust pipes. Overall, the new body work adds 3.4 inches to the Superleggera's length, but all other dimensions remain identical to the original.
Lamborghini hasn't announced a price for its latest lightweight screamer, but the original model's $220,000 base price is a good starting point. Adding options will surely push that tally much higher, but if you can afford a Superleggera in the first place, you probably aren't worried about that.
2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera
Base price $237,600
Vehicle layout Mid-engine, AWD, 2-pass, 2-door, coupe
Engine Engines 5.2L/562-hp/398-lb-ft DOHC 40-valve V-10
Transmissions 6-speed auto-clutch manual, 6-speed manual
Curb weight 2954 (mfr)
Wheelbase 100.8 in
Length x width x height 172.7 x 74.8 x 45.9 in
0-62 mph 3.5 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 12-14 / 20 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.20-1.33 lb/mile (est)
On sale in U.S. June 2010