What's so special about this evil-looking bit of kit?
It's a harder, faster and lighter Lamborghini Gallardo, a kind of pre-emptive strike against the Ferrari F430 Challenge Stradale due for launch next year. Shorn of its hi-fi and fitted with thinner glass and more carbonfibre and less metal, the Superleggera weighs 1330kg, a soild 100kg less than the standard Gallardo.
Run me through the changes
First there's the carbon. It's everywhere: on the new engine cover and rear wing, the sill extensions and the door mirrors. Then there's the new multi-spoke 19-inch alloys, bucket seats and four point harnesses. Sadly the engine's pretty much untouched, but tweaks to the inlet and exhaust system have liberated an extra 10bhp for a 530bhp total, dropping the 0-62mph time from 4.0 to 3.8sec. The 197mph top speed is the same as the standard car's though. It's also four-wheel drive, just like the standard car. Lamborghini could have chopped another easy 100kg out by making it rear-drive only but according to R&D boss Maurizio Reggiani, four-wheel drive is part of a Lambo's DNA.
So is this a new benchmark in hardcore supercars or a cynical marketing excercise?
Bit of both really. On paper, a 100kg weight saving and a 10bhp increase in power don't sound likely to make an enormously different driving experience. But there is a tangible difference between this and the regular Gallardo - providing you're prepared to spank every last drop of performance form the sticky rubber and 5.0-litre V10. The sportier dampers are a welcome modification on the track where poise, roadholding and control are instrumental for shaving off tenths here and there. On fresh tyres, the Superleggera must be pure bliss, but even on used rubber the car is flat and amazingly stable. Despite the tail-friendly 30:70 torque split, you experience the full handling spectrum from determined understeer to radical oversteer. To get the best out of the Superleggera, you hit the sport button for even quicker upshifts from the e-gear transmission and a more lurid ESP calibration. You can turn in late and brutally abruptly, Alonso-style. And you can brake past the point of no return and will still be reeled in unscathed, providing you've left the ESP switched on. Switch it out and there's a different story to be told. You need to be very quick to catch any slide that gets out of hand.
On the road, the Superleggera is noisier and louder than the standard car and only really begins to shine at the sort of speeds most drivers will never see away from the circuit. Added to that it's significantly more expensive, commanding a £22k premium over the £123k needed to secure a regular Gallardo. So is it worth it? Probably not in cold, hard objective terms. But when has common sense ever been a factor when buying a supercar? If you want to grin so much your face aches, you need to get yourself a Superleggera. For Georg Kacher's full impressions and our sensational action shots of the Superleggera melting its tyres grab the May issue of CAR Magazine.