Aventador. Even the name of Lamborghini’s flagship sounds dramatic. And adding an S? It’s like turning the 6.5-litre V12-powered supercar up to 11. We spend a precious few hours with Lamborghini’s star car.
Most vehicles we get through the office we have for a week in order to get to know them better. The higher up the price spectrum, the less time allocated to you however. Sometimes it’s a few nights, or an overnighter, while the likes of the rare and desireable, you’re lucky to spend the day with them. So it was with the Aventador S, the most expensive car we’ve tested this year. I say tested, but it was more of a drive experience, as one of the many clauses on the eight-page loan form forbade the use of launch control to performance test the S, one of the fastest cars on the planet. Oh well, we can tell it’s mind blowingly quick, but we just can’t quantify that for you.
We can tell you it’s on an entirely different level of expense too. The base price is $595,000, and with a swag of options, this one was close to 700 large. No wonder they were cautious throwing us the key. And there’s the case of an easy 740 horsepower to deal with too.
The S is essentially the facelifted version of the six-year-old Aventador, the new standard model if you like as you can expect extreme versions to arrive in limited numbers eventually. The design has been around for a while yet it still stops traffic, especially with its special Nero paint lending it a more sinister appearance. It will be labour intensive to keep it shiny though, so too those optional wheels ($8800). We feel for the groomers responsible for making it all gleam for the owner’s outings. And the person who first kerbs those exotic wheels.
Aventador can still gather a crowd like a star. You’ll never be lonely with a car like this. Attention-seeking owners must love it but it becomes tiresome pretty quickly if you’re not so inclined. Reactions from passers-by range from those of pure adoration (accompanied with all manner of hand gestures) to looks of outright scorn, as if you’re some greedy property speculator.
For the facelift, both ends have been re-styled and better aero appendages added; a deeper splitter on the front adding downforce at speed, while breather ducts in the bumper provide a better path for the air down the flanks and into the intakes, which also help power production and cooling. There’s a larger rear diffuser underneath and a new active wing. Fortunately, the front end lift system, which adds some ride height at the touch of a button, is one of the few standard features on the Kiwi-spec cars which will help keep the front end looking good. Still, this is a low flying machine and there will be plenty of driveways and ramps you’ll fear to point the Aventador toward. It’s big and wide, filling much of the lane, and other road users come perilously close to you at times, usually because the driver is trying to take a photo of the Lambo.
It’s not just the visuals that get ’em though, there’s that exhaust note. The V12, touting yet more power thanks to revised valve timing, a variable intake, software fettling and a new exhaust, is never quiet. It erupts into life, the start-up akin to a fanfare, and the V12 is always audible. From just 2000rpm it starts rumbling, the pitch changing as revs rise, wailing from 5000rpm right up to a bellowing 8500rpm. And then there are the crackles on the overrun, like someone has let off a string of double happys in the muffler. It’s all real life drama this.
The upgrade didn’t extend to a new gearbox, the Aventador S still sporting a seven-gear single-clutch automated transmission. While the initial take-up has been smoothed, and it’s better at slow speed manoeuvres (as long as no tricky incline is involved), it’s still too jerky in Auto mode, and each manual upshift via the paddle needs to be accompanied by a throttle lift. It only ever works well in max attack Corsa mode, the changes banged through, but any other time it feels laboured; a twin-clutch is simply a better all-round solution, even if such a device adds weight, as Lamborghini always points out. It’s not like the Aventador S is a lightweight, this one weighing in at 1854kg, slightly more than the 1575kg quoted dry weight. And yet with two onboard, plus what camera gear we could squeeze into the small boot up front, the 544kW V12 moves the near two-tonne weight with out-of-this-world rapidity. The thrust out of corners in second gear, even third, is barmy. This runs to frighteningly big speed numbers in next to no time. The engine is bull-like, running rampant from 5000rpm. And the throttle response is killer; punch the gas in-gear and the reaction literally jerks your head back.
The chassis tweaks include revised bushings and spring rates, and the latest generation of the magnetic ride dampers give it some ride quality. Adopting rear-wheel steer and a variable ratio steering rack make this big car turn quicker than a traitor. The rear steering gives it both a better turning circle at parking pace – it U-turns with surprising ease – and also rapid turn-in on the move. This quick action takes some getting used to, the Aventador needs but a hint of steering lock to get it darting into the slower, tighter corners. And with the variable AWD on the case, and mammoth treads, there’s grip to ground all that go as the V12 launches you out the other side. It inhales short straights – velocity is something the Aventador S does very well. Occasionally the rear end feels just a bit weird when exiting a longer bend, though it perhaps has something to do with the fact you’re often having to back the pace off to keep things sane. This thing doesn’t really do slow. Keeping it legal is like holding a rabid dog back on its leash. The S does ride fairly well for what it is, but you’re ever weary of dips in the road that might challenge the ground clearance, and tyre roar is a constant too. The Aventador S manages to stir up a mix of emotions, from amazement to frustration, and it’s an experience only an Italian supercar maker could deliver.
Even getting in and out is an adventure, the big doors rising up and though entry isn’t horrendous you do have to thread yourself through the narrow gap to plonk down into the low-slung seat. There’s reasonable enough adjustment but the pedals are off-set and the seats aren’t overly comfortable. At least the low speed ride is tolerable. The optional front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera ($6300) are a must as the extremities are hard to judge, and though the rearward view is compromised, outward vision isn’t all that bad. A few active safety features might help too, but none is available. Some of the old Audi switchgear used looks and feels underwhelming and the lone cup holder is a bit of an afterthought but they get the dramatic bits right; the bomb switch starter button, the digital display and the new individual driver setting mode labeled ‘Ego’.
The Aventador S leaves you wondering just what you’d do with a car like this? It’s a showpiece really, an extension of one’s personality. And as the market moves towards ever more exclusive hypercars like the Valkyrie, the Aventador S has this super coupe market to itself. But true egotists should wait as the Aventador S Roadster will be along soon.
|Model||Lamborghini Aventador S||Price||$595,000|
|Engine||6498cc, V12, EFI, 544kW/690Nm||Drivetrain||6-speed robo manual, AWD|
|Fuel Use||16.9L/100km||C02 Output||394g/km|