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2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera Credit: Lamborghini (Charlie Magee)
2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera Credit: Lamborghini (Charlie Magee)

Lamborghini

Thrills, chills in latest Lamborghini Add to ...

I've heard it thousands of times: Men envy me.

And the feeling intensifies every time I drive a super sports car like the 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera.

The name is a tongue-twister; it's easier to remember if you break down the alphanumeric mumbo-jumbo:

The roar of the Lamborghini LP 570-4 Superleggera engine is music to every car lover's ears, reports Petrina Gentile

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LP stands for longitudinale posteriore - the position of the engine, which lies lengthwise in front of the rear axle;

570 is the horsepower;

4 represents the permanent four-wheel-drive system;

Superleggera means super light in Italian.

Lamborghini's latest raging bull is made for the race track - that's why I'm at the Monteblanco Circuito in Seville.

The LP570-4 Superleggera replaces the LP560-4 Superleggera launched in 2007; although it was produced for only a year, 618 were sold. The new version is more powerful than its predecessor, yet lighter. In fact, it's the lightest Lamborghini in the stable.

"It has a 5.2-litre V-10 engine with 570 horsepower - 10 more than the Gallardo coupe. It has a top speed of 325 km/h and it jumps from 0-100 in just 3.4 seconds.

"We've reduced the weight of this outstanding car by 70 kilos and we've even reduced CO{-2} emissions against the predecessor, which came out three years ago by more than 20 per cent," boasts Stephan Winkelmann, president and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, before I take to the track.

The stench of burnt rubber and testosterone fill the air while the sticky, hot Spanish sun beats down on the pavement. Nearly two dozen journalists circle their prey - 12 Gallardo Superleggeras in all shades of the rainbow.

I'm one of only two female journalists taking on the challenge. My goal is twofold - don't smash it and keep up with the guys or face ridicule, shame and endless taunting.

An instructor fastens my three-point harness as I sit in a yellow Superleggera. I suggest keeping the driving mode in automatic for my first lap so I can focus on the track's layout. He balks. "No. No. Questa e per la citia!" he says in Italian. In other words - No way.

Automatic is for the city. "Leave it in sport" - he says in broken English. I oblige and hit the sport button on the centre console before I take off alone.

Turn the key and the engine roars to life. I hit the paddle shifter on the right and kick it into first gear. The e-gear system is a six-speed clutch-less manual with paddle shifters mounted on the steering-wheel column. It's simple and straightforward to use - hit the right paddle to up shift; the left to downshift.

But the shifters would be easier to access when turning if they were mounted on the wheel instead of the column. Still, the system is precise and idiot-proof - if you forget to shift, it'll do it for you.

I'm the last of four vehicles - all led by the pace car that Lamborghini's chief test driver Giorgio Sanna is driving. He knows his baby and shows no mercy on the track, letting loose from the get-go.

The Superleggera accelerates like a rocket. I stick to the other drivers like glue. With each passing lap, I hit the throttle harder. I glance down, palms wet; the speedo hits 220.

At sharp turns, the coupe remains perfectly balanced; it hugs the pavement and sticks to the ground - thanks to 19-inch wheels, Pirelli P Zero Corsa, clad in Pirelli sports rubber.

Feedback is quick and instant; the handling precise, stable and predictable.

The driver ahead drifts around the corner, spins out slightly, and then regains control. I back off the throttle.

Over a walkie-talkie in my car, Sanna says, "Yellow car come behind me." That's my cue to gun it. The other Superleggeras move to the right so I can overtake them safely and assume my position behind Sanna.

I only have a few seconds to make the switch. Sweat rolls down the small of my back. I take my mark and stick to Sanna; surprisingly no one is on my tail. I've left them behind.

The alcantera seats hold me in place like a glove. There's no sliding from side to side. In minutes, I'm back in pit lane to wait for another round of laps. It's exhausting mentally and physically, but thrilling none the less. Best of all, I've escaped ridicule from the guys.

Others aren't as lucky. I overhear the guys complaining about other drivers who can't keep up or overtake on the track when asked.

At day's end, Sanna takes a few journalists for hot laps. "The car is now more stiff and with a new balance, not only from the mechanical point of view with the dampers and stabilizers, but also due to the fact we have changed the aerodynamic configuration.

"We have more down-force front to rear so all these fine tunings resulted in extraordinary handling," says Sanna casually as if chatting over an espresso. I clench the door handle; the needle dips past 260.

Besides cutting the fuel economy and CO{-2} emissions by 20.5 per cent, engineers also shaved 70 kg from the Superleggera, resulting in a dry weight of 1,340 kg.

"The 70 kg come mainly from the rims where we take out 13 kilos. ... We take off weight from the front bumper, rear bumper, the engine bonnet," says Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini's director of research and development.

In the cabin, designers also made some weight-saving tweaks. "Inside, we have very extensive use of carbon fibre and alcantara, which substitutes the leather motivated by the need to decrease the weight of the car," says Manfred Fitzgerald, head of brand and design at Automobili Lamborghini.

The Superleggera is a master of the track. But it's so smooth, comfortable and exhilarating it would be a satisfying daily driver.

"What we sell is the dream - the emotion when you drive.

"So you don't need to do the pole position on the racetrack or go 300 km/h to feel these emotions. It's enough on the public road with the acceleration of this car. It's big emotions," grins Sanna.

The roar of the Lamborghini LP 570-4 Superleggera engine is music to every car lover's ears, reports Petrina Gentile

The 2011 LP570-4 Superleggera starts at $237,000 (U.S.). Canadian prices haven't been announced yet, but it goes on sale this June.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

***

2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera

Type: Luxury two-seat, two-door coupe

Base Price: Not available

Engine: 5.2-litre V-10

Horsepower/Torque: 570 hp/398 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed clutch-less manual with paddles

Drive: Four-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 20.4 city/9.4 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Ferrari 458 Italia, Audi R8 5.2, Porsche 911 Turbo

Like

  • Stunning design
  • Incredible ride and handling
  • Improved fuel consumption
  • Reduced C0{-2} emissions

Don't like

  • Price
  • Thirsty
  • Paddle shifters on the steering wheel column

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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