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Lamborghini Gallardo

The Gallardo Superleggera nearly matches the Porsche 911 for sheer excitement and style

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The Gallardo Superleggerais a sensational car. It manages to bring Lamborghini up to Ferrari levels for excitement, and it nearly matches a Porsche 911 Turbo for fit and finish. The ride is excellent, and you'd be happy to take the newcomer for a hard driving day at a circuit. But the likely price hike over the standard Gallardo is substantial, and some of the improvements are uncompromising if you are planning to use the car daily.

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Lighter, meaner looking and more powerful and exclusive - is this the ultimate Lamborghini Gallardo?

Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, the new Superleggera weighs 100kg less than the standard car. It also gets 10bhp more power as part of a package of modifications that includes a bodykit and fresh interior.

With a mighty 522bhp, it promises devastating acceleration and reaches a near-200mph top speed. And the Superlegerra is much more than a special edition - Lamborghini is promising to build it alongside the standard Gallardo as an addition to the company's model range.

For our test, we drove the range-topper fitted with every option possible. These include a rear view camera on the 1,300mm wide carbon fibre rear wing - an essential bit of kit for reversing into tight spaces! The car also gets a flat belly panel and new rear diffuser, as well as carbon fibre interior door panels and rear view mirror housings. To reduce the weight further, some of the glass is replaced by polycarbonate, most notably for the engine cover.

Inside, the dashboard, steering wheel and deep bucket seats are swathed in black suede, giving the race car-inspired cabin an upmarket feel. Four-point harnesses hold you firmly in place, while it seems like you are mere inches from the tarmac due to the low seating position.

Fire the Lambo's meaty V10 powerplant and the cabin fills with the harsh engine note. And slotting the car into gear couldn't be easier.

With a semi-automatic, clutchless change - called e-gear - you only need to move the Superleggera's transmission lever into drive and pull back on the steering wheel-mounted paddles to select first.

Release the brake and press the throttle, and the car heads for the horizon at a staggering pace. The four-wheel-drive system, inspired by Audi's quattro set-up, means there is virtually no wheelspin, even with the traction control system turned off. The steering is well weighted, crisp and precise. Meanwhile, both the grip and the braking performance are improved with the addition of new Pirelli tyres and sensational ceramic brakes. Put simply, this is one of the fastest supercars on the planet.

However, is the combination of added power and reduced weight really noticeable? Not immediately, but after a few miles you do become aware that the Superleggera is a step on from the standard Gallardo.

This is backed up by the facts and figures. On the track, the fractions of a second which are gained by the Superleggera will be as important to buyers as the new carbon fibre extras and the ceramic brakes.

The sprint from 0-62mph is estimated to take only 3.8 seconds, which is two-tenths of a second faster than the standard Gallardo. It's also the same figure achieved by the original V12 Murciélago.

As you would expect, though, this performance does not come cheap. Deliveries get underway next month and the base price is expected to be £126,800, which is an eye-watering 24 per cent more than you have to pay for a standard Gallardo. So while the newcomer might be lighter, in the case of the Superleggera, less really is more - in virtually every case.

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