It seems as though Ferrari and Lamborghini are always launching their new cars in reaction to each other. The latest example is Lamborghini’s launch of the LP570-4 Superleggera (Italian for “super light”) just months after Ferrari introduced the 458 Italia. But the game won’t involve one-upmanship this time, as there’s little chance that the Lamborghini can overtake the Ferrari on the road. Both offer the same 562 hp and weigh about 3400 pounds. Indeed, their manufacturers claim identical 3.4-second 0-to-62-mph times and 202-mph top speeds.
We sampled the new Superleggera close to Lamborghini’s home base, with the sophisticated character of the 458 Italia relatively fresh in our mind. The Lamborghini’s personality is much rougher in comparison, a trait signaled by its wild exterior. Compared with the regular Gallardo LP560-4, the Superleggera has larger front intake nostrils like those on the Murciélago LP670-4 SV, and they send more air to the radiators and are said to impart extra front-end downforce. The diffuser and spoiler at the rear are bigger, and Lambo says they provide more downforce, too. The side skirts are different, and the Superleggera gets a unique wheel design. Our tester had the truly extroverted large rear wing, but shyer buyers—as if Lambo customers could be described as such—can specify a smaller piece. But it’s not as if this car would ever fly below the radar of law enforcement.
The Superleggera is lighter than the stock Gallardo by a claimed 154 pounds, 88 of which are accounted for by the use of carbon fiber for the engine-cover frame, external mirrors, rear spoiler, side skirts, and diffuser. The remaining weight loss comes from the new wheels and interior changes. The 19-inch forged aluminum wheels—attached with titanium lug nuts and shod with 235/35 front and 295/30 rear Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires—save 29 pounds. Inside, the center tunnel, the door panels, and the bucket seats are now rendered in carbon fiber, and trimming the seats and dashboard with Alcantara instead of leather also helped the slimming process.
The Gallardo’s 5.2-liter V-10 engine makes 10 more hp in the Superleggera than in the LP560-4, thanks to revised engine management calibration. Torque remains the same at 398 lb-ft. The Superleggera comes standard with Lamborghini’s e-gear automated manual transmission, and a conventional six-speed manual with a gated shifter is a no-cost option. The e-gear transmission has three modes: Normal and “corsa” are fully automatic, whereas sport is a manual mode activated via the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Lamborghini has programmed in a launch-control system, called thrust mode, that drops the clutch at 5000 rpm for maximum acceleration off the line.
The engine is incredibly responsive to commands from the throttle, and it sounds malevolent even at idle. On the move, the V-10 is incredibly aggressive, emitting a deep bark at full throttle that’s wilder and more brutal than the Ferrari Italia’s engine note. And the Superleggera is seriously fast in a straight line. Lamborghini’s claimed 0-to-62-mph time looks conservative, because we managed to cover the sprint in 3.2 seconds in an LP560-4, which has slightly less power and weighs in at just over 3500 pounds. Lamborghini also claims a 10.2-second run to 124 mph, so 100 mph should come up in fewer than seven seconds.
A Harder Core
The Superleggera gets suspension changes to make it even sportier, with firmer shock settings and stiffer anti-roll bars. Switching between the transmission modes has no effect on the suspension, which already is about as tied down as you want in a street car. The steering is precise and extremely sensitive, but the trade-off from the suspension modifications is a harsh ride over small undulations. The Superleggera is certainly a sharper weapon than the regular Gallardo, but it’s also almost too much like a racing car on the street.
As in the Gallardo LP560-4, the extra weight of the all-wheel-drive system at the front end makes the Superleggera understeer more than the 458 Italia on corner entry, but as you feed the power in, the central viscous coupling transfers torque to the rear axle, and it’s possible to get the tail out, provided the stability-control system is switched off. Although the Superleggera is quite compact, outward visibility isn’t that great, and we’d recommend ordering the optional rearview camera (it lives under the spoiler), as it’s certainly cheaper than buying a new bumper.