The noise from a 100 cylinders crests and crashes against the pit walls assaulting my eardrums. It’s an angry and urgent sound, and it tears apart the stillness of the morning with its absolutely raucous loudness. But today I’m not complaining. Obviously I won’t, not when the noise comes from ten V10 powered tifosi hunting predators circling the Circuito Monteblanco.
This purpose built racetrack is largely used as a proving ground and hasn’t held much of a race in several years. It’s largely used for trackdays, testing and corporate motoring events, such as the one today, the first drive of the very special Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera. For the last hour these cars have been pounding the track and despite the heat generated from those massive engines, exhausts and the blazing sun, not one of the journalists present has been scurrying to the air conditioned lounge. Lamborghinis do have that kind of effect on people and the LP 570-4 Superleggera even more so. That’s because this is the more powerful lightened version of the more powerful lightened version of Lamborghini’s best-selling supercar, the Gallardo.
Two years ago I drove the Gallardo Superleggera in Italy, and I came back thinking that there was no way a car could be this sensational. At the end of that drive I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that sensational cars as I know them, be they sports cars, hot hatches, hyper saloons or supercars could ever come close to replicating the melodrama of a Lamborghini. Then I drove the Murcielago LP670-4 SV and life as a motoring scribe took a new turn. Yet that experience could not overpower driving the LP570-4 on a racetrack, no holds barred.
The LP 570-4 is a premeditated response to Ferrari’s 458 Italia (and the power outputs, would you believe are identical to the last horse, or bull). Lamborghini still dislikes Ferrari like you dislike broccoli. And you still won’t ever see a scarlet Lamborghini; it just goes against the grain. The closest Lamborghini has come to the colour red is a hot flaming orange, first seen on the Superleggera. The decades old rivalry between two of the most iconic supercar brands on the planet has seen some of the most startling and evocative cars emerge from Sant’Agata, Bolognese. However the last two years have been difficult for the Italian supercar manufacturer no thanks to the economy plunging lower than the neckline on those Lamborghini show girls. Sales fell and as a result production was cut to keep matters within hand. Yet the world saw the Reventon, the Balboni and then the final encore of the glorious Murcielago, the Super Veloce (Italian for super fast – what a language!).
Today however business is looking up again, the buyers are back and to keep in tune with this new turn of events, Lamborghini has decided to reframe its priorities. It starts by focusing more on lightness (which we shall see later) and handling rather than acceleration and top speed. That does not mean you’re going to see a hot hatch or a go-faster saloon, and even though plans for the four-door, four-seat Estoque have been (temporarily) shelved, Lamborghini will continue to make cars that are absolutely mental.
So before unveiling the Jota, a hyper car that replaces the Murcielago next year Lamborghini, staying faithful to their one new car every year philosophy, gave us the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera.
Unlike the Gallardo the LP 570-4 is visual drama of the sort concocted on Broadway. It’s tempestuous and broody, and has an air of sublime malevolence. This is Freddy Krueger dressed in Ed Hardy, and just a moment’s glance will give you sleepless nights.
The front chin is new though it’s not carbon-fibre since it was prone to getting chipped by pebbles. And neither is it ornamental; along with the massive fixed wing at the rear it provides tremendous downforce to the LP 570-4 SL and along with the four-wheel-drive powertrain gives it astounding dynamics. The Gallardo, like every other Lamborghini and unlike the limited edition Gallardo Balboni (the only RWD Lambo right now) sends all that copious power to all four wheels. And that delivers forceful handling using lessons derived from the Gallardo Super Trofeo, Lamborghini’s one-make race car series.
In the quest for a higher plane of exotica, Lamborghini have made the LP 570-4 nearly 70 kilos lighter than the LP560-4, which by itself was a 100 kilos lighter than the bog standard Gallardo. In order to attain that lightness of being, Lamborghini found that they could use carbon-fibre and other lightweight elements even more abundantly than before. On an aluminum bodyshell, polycarbonate windows sit within carbon-fibre doors panels. The engine cover has a polycarbonate window while the engine cover itself is made from carbon-fibre. The rear spoiler is also carbon-fibre and it like on the Murcielago SV is pretty hard-to-miss large. It isn’t flappy so at varying speeds you won’t see it do the Macarena simply because there aren’t any motors to raise or lower the spoiler which would add weight. Further bits that get the carbon weave are the sills (running board) and the huge diffuser at the rear that houses twin Patriot missile silos for exhausts. The underbody tray has several more components constructed from the fibre compared to the LP560-4 and even smaller bits such as the outside mirrors are carbon-fibre. The wheels are forged aluminum alloy with titanium wheel nuts holding them in place and together they contribute a 13 kilo weight loss.
The carbon fetish gets more pronounced inside the car which is a bit minimalist since there isn’t a stereo though it has air-conditioning and power windows. The entire transmission tunnel, the door pads (which incidentally don’t have a door handle but use a leather strap to yank the doors shut), the steering wheel covered in Alcantara, the handbrake, the dial housing and the seat shells are all lightweight bits woven in carbon. Even the seats use Alcantara instead of leather which adds… oops, sheds a few more grams of weight. It may not sound like much but didn’t you feel on top of the world not to mention more active and agile when you slipped easily into a pair of trousers two inches narrower than the last one.
Total the use of carbon-fibre, Alcantara and those lightweight wheels contribute to a 43 kilo weight loss out of the total 70 kilos. But what I could not figure out is that most of the cars on the track had a three-point seat belt not the four-point harness. That of course makes it lighter and easier for the driver to utilise but there is a sense of purpose when you strap on a four-pointer. It magically makes your right foot heavier and narrows your vision to just the steering wheel, paddles and track. Everything else fades into oblivion.
Effectively the on-a-diet LP570-4 accomplishes a much better power-to-weight ratio making it quicker, nimbler and more balanced around a racetrack. So on a race track, with a car like this you don’t just dab the throttle; you stab at it like Norman Bates. And it’s the only time you will ever get such bountiful reward for murdering that drilled aluminium pedal so mercilessly. The LP570-4 darts forward so violently it displaces your kidneys, drains the blood from your eyes and if you had to leave the window open, it would even exfoliate your skin. It does a 100kmph in 3.4 seconds but it does 200kmph in a little more than 10 seconds! And it does ridiculous speeds in ridiculously short distances.The 5.2-litre V10 screaming away behind my head yields a bit more power than the earlier Superleggera or the LP560-4. A new engine management system finds 10 more horses to play with, taking the horsepower tally to 570PS at 8000rpm. That is a ridiculous amount of power for a car that weighs just 1410 kilos dry. This puts its power-to-weight ratio at just a little over 400PS per ton which is a staggering figure to play with.
The acceleration sounds dramatic accompanied as it is by that thunderous exhaust roar that fills the cabin with an unholy presence. Dial in a series of thuds and clunks which sounds like chunks of metal rending themselves apart from the engine and you have an atmosphere which may feel like Hell’s Kitchen but is actually the gearbox’s machinations at work. Lamborghini transmissions are famous for their cacophony of mechanical sounds and the Superleggera LP570-4 is no stranger to that club. Each shift of the paddle on that e-gear automated manual transmission if you can excuse the noise induces sharp intakes of breath sucked in, in exclamation.
One second you’re rushing towards the horizon in crazed frenzy and then next second it’s back on the brakes again as the corner looms up dangerously close. Applying the brakes on a Lamborghini exercises the eyeballs, you brake they pop out, accelerate and they sink back in. The yo-yo action repeats itself on each of the 12 corners of the circuit in such rapid progression that my eyelids look buff at the end of the stint.
The LP570-4 is attuned to savaging corners with a ferocity that belies conventional physics. It isn’t what you would call finely balanced, a superb traction control system lends it a small measure of finesse, yet this breed of bull has to be led firmly by the horns. The first few laps go by with me just trying to get a hang of when to apply the brakes and when to step on the gas. Twenty-four corners are then spent in understanding just how much power sees the rear stepping out of line, which, in Corse (race) mode, is not much by the way. With the carbon-ceramic brakes (a Rs. 8.16 lakh option) digging the front end in firmly the rear lightens up considerably so when you deliver the 70 per cent of the 30-70 power split front to rear, the rear is bound to cough up a big hairball. Yet on the very limit Lamborghini has engineered some amount of understeer into the LP570-4 which manifests itself on the fast sweeping sections of the circuit. What makes the experience magical, is the way the LP570-4 relays information with lightning bursts. You sense every perceptible shift in its weight at any corner of the car. It’s something you barely notice in a hatchback and almost never realise in a cushy sedan. It’s part of what makes supercars so special, so involving and so expensive. You don’t just pay for those gorgeous lines and curves, but an experience that can get you pretty close to seeing your maker (this is a hypercar story, God had to make an appearance). The LP570-4 can resurrect anyone from the mundane existence of their lives. A flick of the wrist, a brisk step on the gas, two fingers beckoning the paddles, and the view from the windscreen turns from portrait to landscape.
Mechanically the LP570-4’s underpinnings are quite close to that used in the Super Trofeo Gallardo. Downforce has been improved by nearly 50 per cent compared to the standard Gallardo thanks to new sill elements, a fully covered underbody and a redesigned diffuser. There is also a new suspension set-up with stiffer spring and damper ratings. Damping has increased by 20 per cent for both bounce and rebound while 90 per cent stiffer bushings tighten the LP570-4’s dynamic abilities. A stiffer anti-roll bar further reduces body roll compared to the Superleggera, which by any standards is hard to detect but I am presuming is what tries to reduce the understeer effect. Pirelli has also developed a new P Zero Corsa tyre specifically for this car, 235/35 ZR19 at the front and 295/30 ZR19 at the rear.
With such aggregates the LP570-4 is by far one of the quickest Gallardos ever made, and not just in a straight line. It will max out at 325kmph (electronically limited) but is now fantastically quicker around corners. That is its primary directive yet it does not hug or carve corners, but rampages through them pretty viciously. The pace with which you have to go through the motions of braking, downshifting, turning in and then accelerating out is rapid to the point of you developing blurry vision. I like it because it isn’t the typical bull in a china shop, it isn’t hyperactive like you expect a Lamborghini to be. The LP 570-4 won’t leave a mess in its wake yet always keeps you in this heightened sense of anticipation. It is scary fast and it is unreal; lap after lap the LP570-4 is an adrenaline-fuelled rush leaving you begging, nay murderous for more.It is also a car purpose built for the track and while the ride comfort on the circuit was something I really couldn’t care about, on the road, it can take itself apart.
I have never come across a Lamborghini I didn’t lust after, and while you can find blemishes if you look real hard, it’d be like saying JLo has a big bum. And even though I am no matador, I’d love another go at taming this bull. Toro, el Gallardo Toro!