Now that it has been bought by the Volkswagen Group and put under the direct supervision of Audi, Italian sports car manufacturer Lamborghini, passed from owner to owner for the last 35 years, finally has a stable platform from which to operate, and a group of companies that can offer high-technology and manufacturing synergies while it goes about designing and building breathtakingly beautiful sports cars.
The new, 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera is proof that the partnership is working.
Superleggera means super light, in Italian. The Lamborghini designers took the existing Gallardo coupe, added still more power and more torque to the V10 engine, and then took 220 pounds out of the car by substituting lightweight carbon fiber and titanium throughout the car to make it quicker and faster than it was before.
This thing is so quick, so fast, so loud, and sounds so angry at full-throttle that it may scare kids, old people, pets, and livestock. But that's just part of its charm.
This is one of the most exciting, easy-to-drive sports cars ever built, a very special car for the few who can afford it.
The Lamborghini Gallardo is available in coupe and roadster versions.
The Superleggera is intended for drivers who may want to take it to the race track on weekends, so it comes only as a coupe, safer and more structurally rigid than a superlight roadster would be.
Options for the Superleggera include a stationary rear wing instead of the standard articulated wing that rises and falls with the speed of the car. Also on the options list are eight-piston carbon disc brakes ($10,000), as well as a window net, fire extinguisher, and a bar for competition seat belts.
The six-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option.
A navigation system and an entertainment system is available for the Gallardo, but not on the Superleggera version because it would add weight. You can listen to the AM/FM radio, or just listen to the music from the V10 engine.
Safety features include seat-mounted side air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, and all-wheel drive.
All Lamborghini Gallardo models are built on an aluminum space frame, with aluminum extruded parts welded to cast aluminum joint sections, and an aluminum body structure with thermoplastic hang-on parts such as fenders and door skins. The Gallardo is plenty light, but the Superleggera goes even further.
From the outside, the Superleggera is nearly identical to the standard Gallardo coupe, with the exception of the Superleggera logo on the lower portion of the doors.
But the shape hides a whole menu of lightweight parts including a carbon fiber diffuser under the rear end of the Superleggera, a pair of carbon fiber mirror housings, a carbon fiber driveshaft to the rear wheels, a polymer rear window and engine cover instead of glass, carbon fiber intake manifold, lightweight exhaust manifolds, forged aluminum wheels, and titanium wheel nuts, to make the car as light as possible.
Inside the cockpit, the Superleggera has shiny gray carbon fiber door panels, a carbon fiber dashboard panel and carbon fiber console in order to save weight and look sexy. The headliner and carpet also have special graphics.
The standard Superleggera seats for the rest of the world's customers are carbon fiber sports seats that are closer to racing seats than street seats, with fore-aft adjustment only; since they are one piece, the backrest portion can't be adjusted separately, and some drivers simply won't be comfortable in the scantly upholstered seats.
The seats, in turn, are equipped with racing-style four-point seat belts, which means donning and adjusting two separate shoulder belts that come through openings in the seatbacks. Once adjusted to the body and cinched tight, the belts allow very little movement, so it's a good idea to close the doors first, because you won't be able to reach them once belted.
Fortunately, U.S. models will have the standard Gallardo coupe seats and seat-mounted side air bags as well as conventional three-point seat belts. The good news is that, once belted in, driver and passenger can reach all the audio, climate, window and other controls in the center of the dash quite easily and comfortably.
Enthusiasts will recognize the audio and climate controls from various Audi models.
The sharply angled windshield and the deep dashboard give the feeling that you're sitting quite far back in the car, and you are, just ahead of the rear window and firewall that separate you physically but not aurally from that fire-breathing, V10 engine.
To drive the Gallardo Superleggera is to drive one of the most exciting, powerful and capable sports cars in the world today. Lamborghini quotes a 0-100 kilometer (0-62 mph) time of only 3.8 seconds, and a top speed just under 200 miles per hour.
The six-speed manual transmission is a very good transmission hobbled by a Sixties-style shifting gate built into the floor console, an anachronism that makes it difficult to shift cleanly and smoothly. Although we spent some time with the clunky-shifting 6-speed manual version, we spent most of our test drive time on the roads around Scottsdale, Arizona, and at Phoenix International Raceway with the much more attractive egear version.
The egear transmission is a combination of manual and automatic that is shifted up and down by paddles attached to the steering column (and not to the steering wheel itself, which can be awkward in some driving situations). To get Neutral, you pull back on both paddles at once. To drive in automatic mode, push the console-mounted button with a large A on it. To engage Reverse, touch the R button on the dashboard. Although the egear transmission can be clunky, too, especially as it downshifts into first before coming to a stop, it is a joy to use in performance driving situations, shifting in lightning-fast fashion under full throttle and blipping the throttle on downshifts to match engine rpm to road speed. This transmission, coupled to a 522-hp engine that doesn't run out of revs until 8000 rpm, makes for an exciting driving experience.
The thoroughly sorted-out racing-style suspension system on the five-year-old Gallardo works in concert with a front/rear weight distribution of 42/58 percent, the huge, sticky Pirelli P Zero Corse tires, the car's low center of gravity, and its viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system to deliver acceleration, cornering and braking that few other cars on this planet can match. The viscous coupling can send up to 100 percent of the engine's torque to either the front or rear tires, but normally operates at 42 percent front-drive and 58 percent rear-drive for maximum performance on dry pavement.
At the same time, the steering is ultra-direct and quick, and the ride is reasonably plush and quiet, but it does crash pretty hard on rough pavement and potholes.
The stationary wing optional for the Superleggera is said to add more than 370 pounds of aerodynamic downforce to the rear of the car at high speeds.
Braking performance, even without the $10,000 optional carbon ceramic brakes, is exceptional, with a 60-0 braking distance of only about 109 feet, and a powerful feel that will pull you right up against your seatbelts in a panic stop situation.
Overall, the Superleggera instills a huge degree of confidence in a good, experienced driver.
We think the Lamborghini Gallardo was a very special sports car as it was, easy to drive, dramatic to look at, an all-around sexy beast. But with the advent of the Superleggera version, the Gallardo becomes even more exciting and more special. Only about 350 of these cars will be available worldwide, making them instant collector's items.
Jim McCraw drove the Gallardo Superleggera in Arizona.
|Model Line Overview|
|Base Price (MSRP)||$220,300|
|As Tested (MSRP)||$220,300|
|Model lineup:||Lamborghini Gallardo; Superleggera Coupe ($220,300)|
|Engines:||522-hp 5.0-liter V10|
|Transmissions:||6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic|
|Safety equipment (Standard):||frontal airbags, side-impact airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, ABS, all-wheel drive|
|Safety equipment (Optional):||window net, fire extinguisher|
|Basic warranty:||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Assembled in:||Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSRP):||Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera coupe ($220,300)|
|Standard equipment:||air conditioning, power steering, ABS disc brakes, power windows, power locks, console, cruise control, automatic transmission, sports seats, carbon fiber interior trim|
|Options as tested:||N/A|
|Gas Guzzler Tax:||N/A|
|Price as tested (MSRP):||$220,300|
|Layout:||rear-engine, four-wheel drive|
|Engine:||5.0-liter dohc 40-valve V10|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||522 @ 8000|
|Torque(lb.-ft. @ rpm):||376 @ 4250|
|Transmission:||6-speed automatic egear|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||11/17 mpg|
|Track, f/r:||63.8/62.7 in.|
|Turning circle:||37.7 ft.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||36.4/54.2/32.1 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:||N/A|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||N/A|
|Cargo volume:||2.5 cu. ft.|
|Suspension F:||independent, upper and lower arms, coil springs|
|Suspension R:||independent, upper and lower arms, coil springs|
|Ground Clearance:||5.1 in.|
|Curb weight:||2992 Lbs.|
|Tires:||P235/35ZR-19 front, P295/30RZ-19 rear Pirelli P Zero Corse|
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.|
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of 19/Mar/2007.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges.
N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
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