2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera

In horse racing, there’s an old adage: weight will stop a freight train. In horses, weight is used as a handicap to even the field; in horsepower, though, you want to remove as much as possible, to gain an advantage. And that, in a nutshell, is the thinking behind the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.

The Superleggera – Italian for “super light” – made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, and in March marked its official launch to the press. While the company usually does this in Europe, it chose Arizona as a midway point for its kickoff, bringing in journalists from around the world, including from as far away as China and New Zealand, and yes, even a couple from the Great White North.

This new model comes on the heels of Lamborghini’s best year ever: it sold 2,087 cars worldwide in 2006, up from 1,600 in 2005, but company chief Stephan Winkelmann says that the firm will continue its philosophy of making fewer cars than demand, in order to keep them scarce and therefore very desirable. While most automakers dream of their products on every street corner, “I don’t want to see them everywhere,” he says.

It works: prior to the launch, at a luxury resort where Rolls-Royces and Bentleys are scattered throughout the parking lot, guests formed a constant crowd around the cars. Any one of these people looked like they could have covered the $317,600 (Cdn) price-tag with a hastily-written cheque, and yet they were fascinated. You just don’t see ten of these in a row, no matter who you are, which simply adds to their mystique. There are only 27 dealers in all of the U.S., and a mere three in Canada, in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Click image to enlarge

Winkelmann is also clear about the company’s future direction: no turbo, no diesel, no hybrid. (And no SUV, for that matter.) He also promises a new product each year, although he says there will only be two nameplates, the Murcialago and the Gallardo.

The Superleggera is the Gallardo on a starvation diet, with carbon fibre swapped for aluminum parts. The exterior mirrors, spoiler, hood, rear diffuser, inside door trim panels, engine cover, body undertray and console tunnel are all formed from carbon fibre. The engine cover and rear window are polycarbonate instead of glass, the prop shafts, drive shafts, and front wheel carriers and bearings are modified to be smaller yet stronger, the new muffler weighs less, and the lightweight alloy rims are held on with titanium nuts. Inside, anything that would be normally clad in leather is now wrapped in Alcantara, a manmade fabric that looks and feels like cowhide, but weighs less. For North America, that means a savings of 70 kg over the Gallardo’s standard featherweight of 1430 kg.

2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Click image to enlarge

In the rest of the world, the number climbs to 100 kg, with the addition of monocoque carbon fibre sports seats. North American models get the standard Gallardo seats with side airbags. (Our European-spec cars had the lighter seats, which I found comfortable, but which my taller driving partner found so hard that he turned down an opportunity to drive the car an extra 80 km, saying that he couldn’t sit in them any longer.)

Thanks to revised intake and exhaust systems and optimized electronic controls, the V10 engine also makes an additional 10 hp over the regular Gallardo coupe, for a total of 522 hp at 8000 rpm; both peak their 376 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm, and have a top speed of 315 km/h. But the lightweight materials give the Superleggera a weight-to-power ratio of 2.5 kg per hp, for a zero-to-100 km/h acceleration of 3.8 seconds – 0.2 seconds faster than the regular coupe – along with a one-metre improvement in braking distance. The company says the Superleggera’s fixed rear spoiler provides additional downforce at high speeds, although no one managed to go fast enough on the track to say they noticed a difference. All of the Superleggera’s lightweight components are model-specific; the company says you won’t be able to buy them separately and retrofit your standard Gallardo.

Even more weight savings could be realized if the engineers stripped off the power windows and air conditioning, but the company’s too smart for that: it knows that the majority of its customers want something they know is competition-capable, but in reality, most, if not all of the car’s time will be spent on public roads. When your two biggest U.S. markets are in southern California and Texas, selling a car without refrigeration is pretty much the same as selling one without a steering wheel. (And it’s easy to speculate that if the company has promised a new product each year, removing the final amenities could make for a tasty full-blown race version.)

2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Click image to enlarge

But there’s more to this gentleman’s speedster than just air and auto-down (but not auto-up) windows: the suspension is tuned for the weight, and while it’s sportscar-firm, it’s been softened just enough to be comfortable. With the exception of the fact that you can’t see anything out the back or sides – those mirrors are big for a reason – the car is extremely easy to drive in traffic, as I discovered during 80 kilometres along the highway and city streets between our hotel and Phoenix International Raceway.

There’s something to be said for the sight of the racetrack pit crowded with ten Gallardos, parked neatly in rows behind three Murcialagos. You could even sense excitement among the veteran journalists, although they worked hard to feign boredom, lest they be mistaken for rookies. As for me, it was my first time driving any Lamborghini – actually, the first time I’d even sat in any but a stationary version – and so, unlike the old salts, I couldn’t draw comparisons between the carbon-fibre version and its aluminum sibling. I can tell you, though, that driving a Lamborghini is just as good as you expect it would be.

A six-speed manual gearbox is available, but the company expects most North American buyers to opt for the six-speed E-Gear system (both are the same price), an electronic sequential transmission that can be shifted by paddles, or set into fully automatic mode via a button on the console. The paddles are mounted on the column, rather than the wheel, which make it difficult to shift in the hairpins when hands and paddles are too far away from each other.

2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Click image to enlarge

That, a dead-pedal set so far ahead that even my short little leg was cramped, and a set of cheap-looking gauges whose fat gold numbers are impossible to read (an oft-heard complaint which Lamborghini reps at the event said they’d convey back to the factory) are just about my only complaints with the vehicle – well, that and the fact that they didn’t let me keep it.

Getting into the low-slung coupe isn’t easy to do gracefully, but once inside, the not-for-North-America seats grip the body, aided by the optional four-point harness that’s a pain to do up, but which holds one tightly against the chair. Engine-start buttons are all the rage with many automakers, but the Superleggera’s V10 roars to life with the simple twist of a key. The sweet, uneven rumble reverberates through the cabin, bouncing off the hard door panels.

A while back, so the story goes, a U.S. journalist let loose with a Diablo prototype crashed it into a wall. Lamborghini now keeps tabs on drivers, and so a line of three or four cars lapped the speedway behind one of three Murcialago pace cars. We were also told, in no uncertain terms, that we were not to touch the button that disables the electronic stability control.

2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Click image to enlarge

Even with such clipped wings, it was impossible to drive without a huge smile. Going hard into the curves, you’re aware of the car’s rear-end bias – 42/58 front to rear – and you can feel it wanting to push the rear end out, but the all-wheel drive’s torque transfer and the stability control combine with the super-sticky P-Zero tires to guide it all safely around the cones. Come out of the curve, hit the throttle, and the Superleggera eats up asphalt like a 747 just before take-off. The E-Gear system matches revs noisily when you hit the paddles to downshift, ratcheting the tach needle up near its 8000 rpm redline when braking hard. I made a couple of laps strictly in full automatic mode, where the system sometimes lost its way and scrambled to up- or downshift when a hard stab of either pedal caught it off guard.

Thanks to their lighter weight, the optional carbon ceramic brakes have bigger discs but tip the scales the same as their conventional cousins. Three different cars produced three different experiences: the first, my ride to the raceway, was so touchy I was pitched forward in my seat (in fairness, I never drove that particular car, and so can’t say if it was the brakes or my driving partner). The second had a hard pedal that produced uneven results, but I’m tempted to blame the emergency brake being pulled on after a hot lap and causing warping (done, to my surprise, by a Lamborghini representative, not one of the journalists). But like Goldilocks, the third was just right, with a confident pedal that brought the car down from speed in an incredibly short space of track. At times they felt like they were almost too much for the car’s weight, and squeezing them gradually produced more stable results than stomping hard, but then, I didn’t have the opportunity to bring it down from more than 180 km/h.

The Superleggera isn’t a limited-edition model, but it is limited production: the company won’t say exactly how many it plans to build overall, but all 350 scheduled for 2007 have been spoken for. Colour choices are limited to yellow, orange, grey or black; options include a CD changer, fire extinguisher, glovebox and a rearview camera that may be the most useful of all. Back at the resort, I nosed into my parking space, figuring I’d let the company rep take responsibility for any introduction of carbon fibre to cement parking barrier that might result from backing up this rolling blind spot.

2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Click image to enlarge

Once home, I described my experience to a friend, who said, “Is the car really worth that much money?”

I had to admit that no, it isn’t; there isn’t a car out there that justifies its price, no matter how fast it goes. But this is where Lamborghini’s marketing philosophy comes in. As wonderful as the Superleggera is, the customer isn’t just buying wheels and engine. He’s buying what I was fortunate enough to experience, if only for a few hours: walking through the crowd in the parking lot with the key in my hand, sitting at the light while people on all four corners stared, listening to the sound of that engine behind my head, hitting the throttle and knowing that being pushed back in my seat is something I’ve often described but have never before, not until this moment, truly experienced. Just for a moment, I was a member of a super-exclusive club, and it’s a membership that starts with cash but transcends the mere value of money with a turn of a key. You’re not buying the car so much as you’re buying the “wow”. And oh, my goodness, what a wow it is.


At a glance: 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera

  • Price: $317,600 (Cdn)
  • Engine: 5.0-litre V10, DOHC, 40 valves
  • Transmission: Six-speed standard or robotized sequential E-Gear system
  • Horsepower: 522 @ 8000 rpm
  • Torque: 376 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
  • Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds
  • Maximum speed: 315 km/h
  • Tires: Pirelli P-Zero Corsa 235/35ZR19 front, 295/30ZR19 rear


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