First Drive: 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera LP570-4

Duck your head, limbo in, probe the footwell for legroom, lower yourself carefully into the Sparco tub, stretch out, breathe out, and relax if you can. No, the Gallardo cockpit is not made for tall fatsos whose Gold's Gym membership expired in 1972. Which is a shame, because the Superleggera epitomizes luxury in a modern, laidback fashion - super, yes; leggera, less so. Almost the entire passenger cell is lined with black Alcantara, which looks and feels like suede. To reduce weight, the door panels, the transmission tunnel cover, and the seat buckets are made of shiny carbon fiber. Other nice touches include bespoke instrument faces, body-color accents like contrasting stitching and piping, aluminum pedals, and a meaty steering wheel with an ever-so-slightly squared-off bottom.

Painted orange metallic, our fully loaded test car was charmingly over the top, what with orange weaving in the seat faces and orange brake calipers. To shed the 154 pounds required to bring the power-to-weight ratio down to 5.2 lb/hp, the engineers switched the rear side windows and backlight to distortion-prone polycarbonate. The high-gloss engine compartment cover, rear diffuser, front splitter, full-length undertray, and the extra-wide rocker panels are baked from carbon fiber. Not exactly essential - but nonetheless available at extra cost - are such attention grabbers as the LED engine bay, cabin and puddle lighting packs, and the stacked, nonadjustable, Countach-style tail spoiler. All in all, the more radical material mix helps to push down the curb weight to 2955 pounds, which isn't bad at all for a fully loaded, V-10-engined, four-wheel-drive supercoupe.

The tight-fitting Superleggera makes for an extremely intense driving experience. The one-size-fits-few seats are suction-cup fixtures that a dominatrix would be proud of. The instant throttle response launches you forward like an ejector. The ultra-quick steering feels like a high-voltage handshake. The merciless brakes threaten to inflict reverse whiplash injury. The suspension holds the road like an unsprung magnetic field. Dressed to impress with go-faster stripework and plenty of drag-cutting add-ons, the Superleggera marks the transition from boulevard racer to hardcore supercar that can't wait to be unleashed. This Lamborghini redefines the demarcation line between pain and pleasure, punishment and reward. Its helm dismisses you with chimney-sweeper palms, its exhaust system temporarily impairs your hearing, its chassis is liable to blur your field of vision, and its transmission combs your hair backwards as it changes gear at 8500 rpm sharp. The term cruise missile comes to mind as phenomenal grip and insane traction make the mighty orange wedge stick to its flight path as if inertia, mass, and g-force were totally negligible dynamic commodities.

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