First Drive: 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera stupefies our senses

2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera - Click above for high-res image gallery

The explosive burble from the V10's exhaust coming off the back straight seems powerful enough to vaporize insects in mid-air. The Howitzer-like concussions shock through the firewall and slam into our spines an instant before the combustive dissonance has time to reverberate off the outside wall and into our eardrums. The menacing acoustics force the other cars on the circuit to back off, while trackside spectators crane their necks to look up and cheer as the Lamborghini rockets by.

We're at California Speedway attending the "The Ultimate Lamborghini Experience." This annual event allows owners to play with their exotics in a controlled environment free of driving citations and other pesky... um, slow cars. Since we don't own an Italian exotic, we have to thank Lamborghini of Beverly Hills for graciously bringing along the automaker's latest and greatest. In this case, it's the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera.

View 31 Photos

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Lamborghini has made thousands of Gallardos over the past eight years – it's the automaker's best-selling model. The various Gallardo iterations have included the all-wheel-drive Gallardo SE, matte black Gallardo Nera, topless Gallardo Spyder, lightweight Gallardo Superleggera, Gallardo LP 560-4, Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder, Gallardo Super Trofeo and the recent limited-production rear-wheel-drive Gallardo 550-2 "Valentino Balboni."

All pale on a race circuit when compared to the all-new 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera.

Metamorphosing into the highest-performing Lamborghini Gallardo model to ever leave the assembly line in Sant'Agata Bolognese wasn't easy. Using a 560-4 as a base, Lamborghini painstakingly made dozens of changes to lighten the chassis, improve aerodynamics, refine the suspension and tune the ten-cylinder engine for more power. When it finally debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in early 2010, the newest Gallardo flagship was nothing short of spectacular.

At a glance, the 570-4 Superleggera is physically differentiated by its reworked front bumper with deep trapezoidal frames around the air intakes, a V-shaped nose and LED daytime running lamps. Lamborghini says the new fascia is functional, as it increases engine cooling and adds downforce to the front axle. The underbody, featuring a full belly pan, has new side sills, new tailpipes and a redesigned diffuser to improve aerodynamics. A small spoiler is standard, but a large wing for even more downforce is optional. There are new graphics on the sides and the ever-important identifying "LP 570-4" emblems in front of each rear wheel.

Under the paint, things are a bit more radical. As mentioned, the 570-4 Superleggera is based on the Gallardo 560-4 (itself a lightweight 3,108-pound platform). The new model retains aluminum spaceframe and body panels, but replaces many of the exterior components with lighter composite structures. Carbon fiber has been used on the rear spoiler, sills, diffuser, exterior mirror casings and underbody panels. Composites are also used extensively in the cabin. The center tunnel cover, door panels, transmission surround and sport seat shells are all carbon fiber (our model had an optional carbon fiber package that adds even more "lightness" to the cockpit). Even the "heavy" natural leather has been replaced by lightweight synthetic Alcantara. Still seeking to save more weight, Lamborghini fitted the 570-4 Superleggera with polycarbonate rear and side windows, and a polycarbonate panel over the engine. While the engineering team went seriously unhinged when it came to weight loss, the air conditioning and power windows were deliberately retained (one must not sacrifice comfort, says Lamborghini).

The aluminum double-wishbone suspension is left in place, but the shock absorbers are firmer, the anti-roll bars are stiffened and the mounting points have been reinforced. Standard brakes are huge iron rotors with aluminum calipers. However, our test car was fitted with Lambo's optional carbon-fiber ceramic brake package with 15-inch discs and six-piston calipers in the front, and four-piston units at the rear. The wheels are 10-spoke forged aluminum beauties secured by featherweight, but very strong, titanium wheel bolts. Special Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires are 235/35ZR19 in the front and 295/30ZR19 at the rear.

Mid-mounted in the 570-4 Superleggera is a direct-injected 5.2-liter V10. The engine features an aluminum crankcase, dry sump lubrication and a cylinder angle of 90 degrees (to help lower the center of gravity). With a compression ratio of 12.5:1, and several new engine software tweaks, the powerplant is now rated at 570 horsepower and 399 pound-feet of torque. The exhaust gasses go out quad pipes that are coated with a matte-black heat-resistant ceramic finish that keeps temps in check to avoid the lower panels from melting. The horsepower is sent through the automaker's six-speed single-clutch "e-gear" sequential automatic transmission connected to a permanent all-wheel-drive system, but if rowing your own is a requirement, a six-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option. The powertrain utilizes a central viscous coupling and a 45-percent limited-slip differential on the rear axle. Under normal conditions, the torque is split 30:70, although the bulk of the power is usually directed at the rear wheels.

Lamborghini says the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera will crack 62 mph in just 3.4 seconds. Even more astonishing is the fact that 0-124 mph falls in just 10.2 seconds, and this high-powered projectile won't run out of horsepower until it hits a tire disintegrating 202 mph.

Thanks to its very strict diet, the new "superlight" Gallardo is 154 pounds lighter than the Gallardo LP 560-4. That's right kids; the new Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera tips the scales at a mere 2,954 pounds, making it the lightest road-going model in the automaker's range. Lamborghini says there is no other model in its lineup that's as close to a true racecar.

And as you'd expect, none of this comes cheap. The base price of a 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera is $237,600 (plus $2,995 destination and $2,100 in gas-guzzler fees). With a window sticker in hand, our test vehicle was equipped with the following options: Anti-theft system ($800), Superleggera Rear Wing ($6,500), Carbon Ceramic Brakes with black calipers ($15,600), Multimedia/NAV ($3,250), Rear View Camera ($2,600), Superleggera Floor Mats ($750), Carbon Fiber Engine Bay ($4,235), Travel Package ($750) and the Interior Carbon Fiber Package ($4,150). Punched into our solar-powered $3 calculator, the as-tested price is $281,330 (plus tax). You just had to ask.

With that out of the way, it's time to get back down to the business of driving.

The LP 570-4 Superleggera is low – silly low. Standing next to it, with both arms down to our side, it barely comes up to our elbows. With an open-face helmet capping our dome, we drop our six-foot, two-inch frame into the Lamborghini's exquisitely detailed womb. Our rear is firmly planted in the buttery-smooth Alcantara-covered cushion, while the top of our flat-black helmet presses firmly against the Alcantara headliner – we're literally wedged in place (for the record, we fit much better when we take a spin sans helmet later in the day). With our vertical movement apparently secured, we snap the three-point belt firmly to restrain forward movement. There's very little room for our left foot, but since this particular LP 570-4 only has two pedals, it's not a problem for both of our feet to share the tunnel's limited real estate.

The layout of the cabin is familiar to the Gallardo faithful, but the appointments have been upgraded. Snug in the lightweight Lamborghini's cockpit, it takes restraint to not run your fingers over the glass-smooth carbon fiber center console, the suede-like synthetic on the dashboard or the cross-hatch finish on many of the switches. The craftsmanship is stellar. Do not wear driving gloves while piloting the LP 570-4, lest the palms miss out on one of the most exquisite part of the machine: the deliciously shaggy thick suede sport steering wheel.

A traditional key slots into the right side of the steering column. With a twist, the 5.2-liter V10 spins to life. The "e-gear" takes a bit of instruction, but that's why we have Davy Jones sitting in our passenger seat (the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, not the lead singer for the Monkees).

As mentioned, we are sharing the track today with "The Ultimate Lamborghini Experience." As a result, there are dozens of Lamborghinis (mostly Gallardo and Murcielago models) in the paddock waiting for their turn at the circuit. The organizers are kind enough to let us out before the masses.

Without hesitating further, we press the "S" button on the center console and pull the right column-mounted paddle back to engage first gear (there's an "R" button to the left of the wheel, but since we are in the hot pits at California Speedway, we only need to go forward). The 570-horsepower engine, sitting about a foot behind our ears, resonates smoothly as we rumble past the observers and make our way to the hot track.

Our first few laps are under yellow as the corner workers get into place. We are familiar with the "Roval" at Cal Speedway, but or path today is awkwardly restricted by bright orange cones mid-point on the banked oval to keep everyone's speed down. Wisely, we use the first five minutes orienting ourselves with the Lambo's basic mannerisms. Except for a lack of outward visibility, it seems surprisingly docile and easy to drive at low speeds.

Green flag up. Accelerator pedal down. Responding to our right foot, the sequential automatic abruptly drops a gear and a deep roar emanates from behind our backsides. We are pressed and molded into our seatbacks like warm Play-Doh as the tachometer spins towards its 8,500 rpm redline. The second-to-third upshift is harsh and not particularly quick when compared to the best dual-clutch gearboxes, but it keeps us pinned in our seat grinning ear-to-ear as our velocity increases.

No more than 20 seconds later, we run out of banked oval as Turn 1 starts to fill our windshield. Strong on the brakes and the speed bleeds much faster than we anticipate (the huge ceramic discs like very firm pressure – the feel of the pedal perfectly mimics a race car). The 90-degree left is easy, as we are now going too slowly. We need to increase velocity for the upcoming right so we get back on the throttle. Caught off guard by our right foot again, the e-gear drops abruptly down to second gear and the back wheels momentarily break loose under the sudden increase in torque. The LP 570-4 Superleggera squirms a few times, and then briefly drops a wheel into the grass as we input corrective steering. This requires serious concentration.

Fed up with the e-gear's abrupt "logic," we find manually shifting via paddles to be much more effective, even if they are small and a bit hard to find in the heat of battle. Downshifts are accompanied by a super-sexy ten-cylinder throttle blip that takes your breath away (the lightweight acrylic windows let all the right sensations in), while upshifts are instantly delivered on command. Thanks to a center of gravity that requires a spatula to get under, the LP 570-4 lacks anything even remotely resembling body roll. Corner transitions are completely flat and quite mechanical, but the Lamborghini gives very palpable and welcomed feedback through its controls. Nothing is artificially overboosted.

It takes about five laps before we are comfortable. By then, we think we've figured it out.

The LP 570-4 Superleggera prefers to go in hot and take advantage of its huge brakes to bleed speed just before turn-in. It rewards light throttle in the corners, to keep the rear wheels at the limit of their adhesion, then generous power in the exits to utilize cat-like all-wheel-drive grip to pull hard out of the corners. There is plenty of available power. Oversteer is just a quarter-inch of throttle travel away at nearly any velocity. This is bloody fun.

And 45 minutes later it's over. They pry the keys from our hands. We weep.

Back in the pits, two impressions have stuck. First, the lack of mass helps immeasurably during initial high-speed turn-in. Whistling past the start/finish line at 150+ mph, we needed to drop down to 60 mph and make a tricky off-camber turn to get through the cone "barricade." Nearly every car we've ever had on this track needs to be handled with kid gloves when shuffled at those speeds. If not, the back end continues in its original trajectory. Not so in the LP570-4 Superleggera. We could grab the brakes and initialize our turn without worrying that the rest of the machine wasn't going to follow. Credit its low mass, low center of gravity, sticky tires and a wide stance. Second, it drives much smaller than it appears. We've had big cars on road circuits that seem to swell up when flogged (the Dodge Viper and Challenger SRT8 come to mind). The Lamborghini seemed to shrink. While it's no Lotus Exige, the Lambo's girth never prevented us from putting the tires exactly where they needed to go.

Lamborghini owners will scoff at this, but we half-expected the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera to drive like an Audi R8 5.2 V10 (no hiding the truth that they are heavy DNA-sharing cousins). In fact, most cynics will say that you can put the aforementioned Audi in your driveway for $100,000 less with nearly the same performance. Not so fast. The Audi R8 is damn near perfect, but it's no Lamborghini. The 570-4 Superleggera is lighter (by a staggering 761 pounds), shorter in height (by 3.4 inches) and in length (by 1.9 inches). The R8 5.2 is also down 45 horsepower (costing the Audi two full seconds in a timed race to 124 mph against the Lamborghini).

In all fairness, the R8 5.2 is a trophy-toting beauty queen while the LP 570-4 is an international supermodel – but let's ignore the ocular comparisons for now. The Audi is amazingly easy to drive fast, and just as easy to drive slowly. The German is comfortable, roomy and well-mannered. The Lamborghini is harder to drive, but faster and more rewarding at speed. The Italian is impeccably finished, but raw by design. To be more concise: The Audi can waltz, but the Lamborghini grabs you and does an R-rated Rio tango.

The Audi doesn't really compete with the LP 570-4 Superleggera, nor does the Aston Martin DBS or Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, for that matter. However, the upcoming Porsche GT2 RS may put up a good fight. We didn't check with Animal Planet, but our current research says the only true natural enemy of the LP 570-4 Superleggera could be the stunning Ferrari 458 Italia. Owners need not worry, as this Lamborghini will most likely never cross paths with any worthy adversary.

The 570-4 Superleggera is unquestionably the most talented Lamborghini on the road today. Fusing a highly-tuned powerplant and a sophisticated drive system to a lightweight chassis is what real sports cars are all about. Unlike its predecessors that seemed to possess more panache than event-winning medals, the all-new 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera delivers astronomical performance that will not only land the coupe on the red carpet, but more often than not, on the top of the podium.

View 31 Photos

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Special thanks to Al & Ed's Autosound and Lamborghini Beverly Hills, co-sponsors of the Ultimate Lamborghini Experience, for inviting Autoblog to the event.

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.

Share This Photo X