How fast!? Forget the electric snap of a Tesla here; Lamborghini's Aventador S is all latent menace and bellowing acceleration, just like this Italian car maker's fighting-bull mascot.
JAN 26th 2017
Review: Lamborghini Aventador S
So it gathers speed, but what a gather it is. At one end of the flooded Circuit Ricardo Torono in Valencia, I floored the throttle coming out of the corner. A fair proportion of the engine's 509lb ft of torque hit the wheels, which twitched and danced as the six-foot-eight-inch wide coachwork fishtailed its way up the home straight and the stability control went into meltdown. Gears engaged with a snap and another slide as 100mph came and went, while the huge pantograph wiper sloshed away at rain. I ran out of road (and nerve) at over 160mph, as one of the last great naturally aspirated V12 engines boomed and gurgled its disappointment at having to stop doing what it likes best, namely, putting you directly into harm's way...
Wow, what a ride! It's ever been thus, of course, right back to the days of Marcello Gandini's epochal Countach in 1972 and while that could only muster 370bhp, all of it went through the rear wheels; these days the Aventador has a sophisticated Haldex-clutch-based four-wheel-drive system.
Saint Agatha of Sicily, who is buried in Lamborghini's hometown of Sant'Agata, is the patron saint of fire, earthquakes, patients and wet nurses, but unfortunately not of wet weather, which dogged the launch of the latest version of this extraordinarily powerful car. The Aventador first appeared as the Felippo Pelini-designed LP700/4 five years ago. Two years ago we drove the limited edition Aventador Super Veloce (SV), a stripped out version, and this car, the S, has modifications based on that car.
The raw data is enough to make a saint blush. The 6.5-litre V12 engine is titivated to breathe deeper and longer, which raises peak output 39bhp to 730bhp at a shrieking 8,400rpm, with a red line cut at cacophonous 8,500rpm. Torque is slightly up to 509lb ft and the performance marginally increased. Read 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, 0-124mph in 8.8 seconds, 0-186mph in 24.2seconds and a top speed of 217mph.
All that travels through an automated manual seven-speed gearbox to all four wheels. It's a high-tech solution to keeping the car on the road, but the engine is a dinosaur. Naturally aspirated engines are an endangered species as emissions legislation seeks them out like fugitives, mainly because of their terrible part-throttle economy. The big Aventador delivers an abysmal 16.7mpg in the Combined cycle.
Not that high-tech, turbo power or even hybrids give you much advantage when you really go for it. If you want to see what this big bruiser can do, I urge you to watch brave little Marco Mapelli, a Pirelli works driver muscling an Aventador SV round around the Nordschleife circuit in under seven minutes, which is a whisker short of Porsche's hybrid 918 hypercar, but at a third of the cost.
Other changes for the Aventador include restyled roof vents, new Countach-like rear-wheel arches and sundry other modifications by Mitja Borkert, who is the current head of design at Sant 'Agata.
Grope for the door handle and with a tug the big scissor door hinges up leaving you an egress over broad sills that will make men look ridiculous and rob women of their dignity. Once in there, the seats are comfortable and cosseting. The dashboard design, reminiscent of video war games, is looking a tiny bit dated these days, with its lurid graphics on the instrument binnacle and the matt-black military-style switches. There are now four main driving modes, Strada (Street), Sport, Corsa (track) and Ego, a new setting which allows you to customise the steering, throttle response, four-wheel steering and the magneto rheological adjustable damping response. The fact is, however, as soon as I put the car into anything but Strada, the twitching over- and understeer response on the flooded track and ultra slippery roads was scary and not absolutely predictable.
Part of the problem is that gearbox, which is unlike a twin-clutch or automatic unit in that it wavers before changing if you are light on the throttle and horribly brutal if you are on it like marmalade on toast. So brutal in fact that in Corsa mode, the gearchange actually causes the car to start sliding. Then there's that steering, which is ultra sharp, partly as a result of the rear steering system, which adds almost twice the lock of rival systems. At low speeds the wheels turn up to three degrees in opposite direction to the fronts and at high speeds, they turn up to 1.5 degrees in the same direction. This results in an effective wheelbase reduction of 500mm at low speeds and an increase of 700mm at high speeds, which should make the car feel more agile at low speeds, more stable at high speeds, but can also make the helm feel darty, which in this case it does.
Away from the track on admittedly slippery roads, the Aventador S felt more mannered and docile, but still very fast and not something you'd want to take liberties with. And this, of course, is partly what you pay for when you dig deep for a Lamborghini; a nearer-to-the-edge-of-the-cliff feel that other car makers draw back from – well that and the intoxicating noise. You'll pay about £260,040 for the Aventador S and that's exactly as it should be, a gorgeous, big, super fast car that sits you in its figure-hugging embrace and asks a lot of searching questions about your ability as a driver, which not many can honestly answer. Great isn't it!
Photography by Charlie Magee
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