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The best for last? - First drive: Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Superleggera

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Lamborghini unveils the Superleggera version of the Gallardo - it's lighter, faster and more extreme, but is it better than what came before?

Despite containing a back catalogue of greats that include the Miura, Countach and Espada, Lamborghini is undoubtedly going a sustained golden era right now. Both the Murcielago and Gallardo perfectly encapsulate the spirit of Ferruccio, and that’s quite an achievement given how much safety legislation new cars have to pass in order to make it into the new car dealerships.

What makes the Gallardo so special is that although it feels and performs just as a Lamborghini should, but it’s also well-built and won’t try and throw you off the road at the first corner – try explaining those concepts to an Urracco owner. And that’s why we love them. The arrival of the Superleggera (super light weight) is timely – just as the Ferrari 458 Italia arrives to redefine the ‘junior’ supercar class with F40 performance and supernatural ability in the bends, Lamborghini fights back with the latest – and similarly well endowed – Gallardo variant.

To create the Superleggera, Lamborghini has taken the standard LP560-4 and reduced its weight by 70kg (to 1340kg dry) through the extensive use of carbon fibre. The transmission tunnel, diffuser, sills, underbody panelling, and that extrovert rear spoiler are woven from the material, and combining the high-carb diet with an upgrade in power (to 562bhp all in) improved the car’s power-to-weight ratio markedly.

Even before the action begins, the Superleggera makes the right noises. The styling, already purposefully squat, has been given more attitude with the addition of a aggressive front splitter, bold side graphics and that talking-point rear wing. The interior is a no-nonsense affair, with the overall theme being one of blackness – with suede and carbonfibre combining to give an almost racing car ambience to the interior. Shame that the lightweight items, such as the door pull straps are somewhat at odds with the retention of climate control and electric windows…

Octane’s first drive of the Superleggera is at the Monteblanco racetrack near Seville, and that gives us the opportunity to thoroughly explore the Gallardo’s handling fully. The car we’re piloting is fitted with the carbon ceramic braking package, which should make it perfectly suited for a series of fast laps, as is the new suspension set-up, which has retuned spring and dampers rates, echoing that used on the Super Trofeo race cars.

Fire up the 5.2-liter direct injection V10, and you’re treated to an offbeat, albeit musical soundtrack – and even at idle it permeates the cabin appealingly. Dab the throttle, and the response is instant and startling. Foot on the brake, pull the E-gear’s column-mounted gear selector back, and it’s for the off.

After a couple of warming up laps, pushing the Superleggera hard is a revealing exercise. First impressions are that it is ridiculously quick off the line – Lamborghini quotes 3.4 seconds for the 0-60mph run, and we can believe it. Traction is impressive, and with four-wheel drive, it takes serious provocation to get out of shape in slower corners. And driving it becomes a real lesson in point and squirt.

But push harder and the scale of Lamborghini’s achievement in improving the Gallardo on track reveals itself – turn-in is instant, there’s less body roll, and the suspension is well-damped enough to deal effectively with mid-corner bumps.

There is some understeer, especially when its bespoke Pirelli P-Zero Corsas are cold, but you can drive through it and provoke the rear – but that’s an exercise best left to the track. And ultimately, that marks the Superleggera as a superb, safe, road-biased car, which is – despite its extrovert aerodynamic addenda – exactly how it should be.

In ‘Corsa’ mode, the engine sounds even better as the exhaust system is opened to its full extent, while the gearchanges are shortened appreciably. Under full acceleration, the violence of these upchanges is remarkable – so much so that at the limit they can unsettle the car in bends. In ‘Sport’ mode, the E-gear set-up seems just about perfect though.

As for the brakes, for a carbon ceramic set-up, there’s plenty of feel and progression, while stopping power is absolute and ceaseless for lap after lap.

Overall, the Superleggera is an impressive step forward from the standard Gallardo – on the track. It’s faster, grippier, more tuneful, and adjustable. On the road, those in extremis improvements might be missed, and you’ll need to decide on priorities before taking the plunge and paying the premium. There’s also the small matter of the two-wheel drive Balboni edition, which although it has lower levels of absolute lateral grip, is far more throttle adjustable.

As ever, it’s a case of paying your money, and taking your choice.

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