SANT’AGATA, Italy: The policeman smiled and waved as I shot by at 135 km/h in a 70 km/h zone.
This could happen in only one place in the world, Italy’s “Land of the Engines” in the Turin-Milan-Bologna triangle.
It’s called that because it boasts the highest concentration of supercar, superbike and competition car manufacturers in world.
They’re all there: Ferrari, Maserati, Dallara, Ducati, Pagani, and, of course, Lamborghini. It’s an area where the people hold these cars and motorcycles dear with mixture of pride and reverence.
And of all the current Lamborghinis, the Gallardo LP 570 Superleggera, priced at $279,995, is perhaps the most prized.
By the time you read this, Lamborghini will have announced its new all carbon fibre V12 at the Geneva Motor show. But that is in the future, the Gallardo is now.
With razor edge lines and deep frontal air scoops, the Superleggera commands respect, not just when driving, but simply sitting still.
Superleggera stands for superlight and this has been a guiding principle since the very first 350 GT that came out in 1963 produced by Ferruccio Lamborghini who thought (and many agree) he could build a better car than Ferrari.
Boasting an already light aluminum space frame, the current main Gallardo model, the LP 560-4 with its dry weight of 1410 kilograms (3108.5 lb) is the basis for the LP 570-4 Superleggera. But the latter is some 70 kg lighter yet with a weight-to-power ratio of 2.35 kg (5.18 lb) per hp.
Besides extensive use of aluminum, carbon fibre is employed liberally throughout. Lamborghini is, in fact, one of the world leaders in carbon fibre technology working closely with Boeing, maker of the all carbon fibre 787 Dreamliner.
The long body cover section that runs from the roof to the rear of the vehicle is made from carbon fibre. It is also used for the rear spoiler, sills, diffuser, parts of the underbody paneling and the fine exterior mirror casings.
There are many examples where the “every gram counts” approach is used such as a simple leather strap you use to pull the door shut instead of a more weighty medal handle and closure.
With its 570 hp, 5.2-litre V10 engine, it all translates into a 0-200 km/h time of a mere 10.2 seconds. Top speed is 325 km/h (202 mph).
The “LP” in Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera, stands for “longitudinale posteriore” and refers to the orientation of the V10 engine, which is mounted longitudinally behind the driver, just like every Lamborghini engine.
The “570” is the peak horsepower with a torque number of 398 lb/ft.
Lastly, the “4” is for permanent all-wheel-drive with a central viscous coupling coupled to a 45 per cent limited-slip differential on the rear axle. In normal driving conditions traction is 30:70 to the front and rear axles. The weight distribution of the superlight Gallardo is 43/57 per cent front/rear.
Lamborghini engineers vigourously addressed unsprung weight with the 19-inch brakes made of forged aluminum that saves 13 kilograms (28.6 lb). The wheel bolts are made from titanium and are incredibly light and rigid.
The front wheels feature aluminum eight-piston calipers, with four-piston units at the rear. Optionally available are fade-resistant and lightweight discs made from carbon fibre ceramic with six pistons at the front.
In any colour, especially orange, the Gallardo looks menacing. There was also one in a matte black that was actually sinister in appearance.
No push button gadgetry here, the Lambo has a regular key, but after that, things are different.
There is no shift lever, although a manual gearbox is available. You put your foot on the brake and touch one of the three shift mode buttons on the driveshaft tunnel to select the shift mapping of the six-speed sequential box.
Two modes are available in automatic. The third “Thrust Mode” produces maximum off-the-line performance and is programmed to manage starting revs of around 5000 rpm with minimal wheel slip.
Fairly large paddles on the steering wheel do all shifting.
I’m not a fan of paddles, as regular readers know, because I can’t ever really tell what gear I’m in without looking down at the dashboard readout and taking my eyes off the road.
With the Gallardo LP 570-4 you are in no doubt at any time.
In this car you sense everything. Dials and gauges are superfluous.
First there is the rasp of the engine that rises to a howl as you stand on the gas and watch the tach needle spin to the red line.
Next there is the thump in the seat of the pants as the box shifts up and your body is pushed forward slightly as it shifts down with an electronic blip of the throttle and great whack of exhaust noise.
There is nothing subtle about it and that is, perhaps, the only drawback. Even at slow speeds the shift is abrupt which is due to the speed at which the gears are engaged in less than the blink of an eye.
But you forget all that when you head out on Italian roads not even as wide as a Canadian double car driveway.
Lamborghini arranged with the police to have a police car in front to lead of convoy of Gallardos. Now you know the coppers are into the whole thing when their police cruiser turns out to be a Lamborghini with lightbar on the roof.
From the get-go they set a sizzling pace and I was loving it.
Despite all the leading edge driver aid technology, you have to concentrate because things happen so fast. For instance, before setting out I practised shifting my right foot from the brake the gas and back to get attuned to the distance.
We would come whistling up to an intersection only to find the police had shut down traffic so there was no need to lessen the pace.
And it was even better in the LP 560-4 Spyder. With the top down and sun cutting through a late afternoon haze, hearing that exhaust note rise and fall in tune with the other Gallardos ahead and behind me was one experience I will never forget.
It doesn’t get any better that this.
Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera
Body Style: Supercar.
Drive Method: mid-engine, all-wheel-drive.
Engine: 5.2-litre DOHC V10 (570 hp, 398 lb/ft).
Fuel Economy: 22.2L/100 km city, 10.0L/100 km highway, 14.4L/ 100 km combines.