Cocktail of control, power and noise
If this car were a man it would have a mane of hair, a shirt unbuttoned to the waist, leather trousers, a medallion and he’d be drenched in aftershave. And nobody would laugh.
AT 240KM/H on the main straight of Vallelunga, with a 6.5-litre V12 wailing in my ear and a Raging Bull on the nose, objectivity falls by the wayside and I find myself giggling and dancing in the seat like a hyperactive child at Disney World.
On lap two, only the G-force pushing me into the bucket seat stops me licking the Lamborghini Aventador’s window.
There is just something special about a range-topping Lamborghini, an emotional overload that renders normal judgment useless. To drive this car is to connect with it on an emotional, visceral and dangerously close to sexual level. Suddenly everything else seems ordinary, in truth that was already the case just standing and staring at the thing.
Those straight cut lines, overtly aggressive cuts and the tornado line running down its side make the back look even lower and wider, the sides look sculpted and lightweight and the front like it’s about to kill you. Inspired by the Reventón, an evolution of the Murciélago and yet with an identity all of its own, the Aventador is simply breathtaking to look at.
Only Lamborghini could get away with that audacious exhaust: four pipes held within one cavernous hexagonal cannon in a design that’s mirrored throughout the car. Even on the inside, where the instrument panel, centre console, seats and the buttons, including the infinitely cool starter that’s contained within a flip-up, fighter jet-style trigger guard, all come with the same contour.
This is pure, unbridled, unapologetic masculinity to its core and a car that captures the spirit of the old school Diablo and Countach to near perfection. If this car were a man it would have a mane of hair, a shirt unbuttoned to the waist, leather trousers, a medallion and he’d be drenched in aftershave. And nobody would laugh.
Of course, you can’t sell a €260,000-plus-taxes car on style alone, and to sell 18-months production in advance as Lamborghini already has, there must be substance, too. Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann says this car is two generations ahead of the Murciélago it replaces. It is not an unreasonable claim.
At its core is the breakthrough, an affordable one-piece carbon-fibre chassis that is the end result of years of work with Boeing and the University of Washington. It saves weight and increases torsional rigidity to racing car levels, but it also brings unique problems. Carbon-fibre isn’t like metal; if it takes a hit then it must be X-rayed and examined to check for cracks, which is a foray into the unknown on a car in this price bracket.
Then there’s the new 6.5-litre V12 to consider, which is the heart and soul of the car. Winkelmann refused to countenance smaller capacity and forced induction and so the firm has toiled endlessly to maintain the urgent, insanely aggressive spirit of Lamborghini as well as upping the power by 8 per cent. And though it isn’t a dealbreaker for the buyers, fuel economy is now up by 20 per cent, too, without even resorting to direct injection.
The emotional connection with that gorgeous powerplant comes at the start of the straight at Vallelunga, when I can finally plant the throttle to the floor and hear that wailing V12 wind all the way up to 240km/h while the infinitely cool TFT speedo winds up like an out of control telethon counter.
That screen-based instrument panel is a work of art, with the depth of real dials and all the relevant information a cursory glance away. Which is good, because when you drive this car time is a rare commodity, everything happens ridiculously fast.
Of course it’s quick, it’s 690bhp with a 0-100km/h time of 2.9 secs and a top speed of 350km/h. Speed is a given, but it’s the total crushing authority with which it lays that power down and the shocked double take I have to do halfway down the straight as the car blasts through 200km/h and just keeps going. In the end I have to lift, or stack, into the Superleggera that is leading us round. Epic traction and four-wheel drive control fools the brain until the speedo presents the obvious insanity of the situation.
It’s a perfect Molotov cocktail of control, explosive power and noise. The V12 comes with a thuggish, organic quality and we’re all slamming it up to the 8,250rpm redline just to drink in that last 1,000rpm of mechanical brutality. This is not the synthetic symphony on offer elsewhere, it’s the engine equivalent of heart-stirring, guitar-based hard rock.
You can really hear induction, pistons and exhaust gases at work and as the seven-speed slams home the next gear and almost shunts the whole car sideways with the sheer violence of the move the sheer madness of the thing has me grinning like a maniac.
Lamborghini avoided the twin-clutch system that Audi has developed already on weight grounds and feel grounds. They were right, in Corsa mode it feels like an assault as the box shifts in just 50 milliseconds, but driven in Sport the seven-speed works like a dream.
Now this is far from a perfect car. Designwise it’s beautiful, of course it is, in that over the top and crazy Italian way, but there’s way too much visible plastic for my liking on a car this costly. The cynic inside reckons on an expensive optional carbon pack hitting the market soon and ramping the price up further.
And despite the super lightweight pressed carbon-fibre under the skin, it comes with a 1,575kg dryweight, which equates to around 1,650kg loaded with fluids. It’s lighter than the predecessor, then, but it isn’t actually what you’d call light.
So in the slower corners, despite the Haldex tech and F1-inspired pushrod technology that keeps the Aventador flat and firm, that weight makes its presence felt.
The traction control system worked overtime to hold the cars on track and we needed a new set of – very expensive – Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres by lunchtime.
I quickly learn it is better to go in slow and then power through the bend than go in too fast and bog down while the electronic reins hit the panic button and try to stop me ploughing off the road. But it’s disconcerting to see the much lighter, cheaper LP560-4 Superleggeras leading the group stick far more convincingly in the twisty bits.
Conversely in the fast sweepers that huge footprint and the four-wheel drive serve to trim the understeer and keep it planted in an almost bizarre way. It is courage, rather than physics, which provides the natural limit in the fast corners.
Those brakes take some getting used to, as well, because despite preposterous 400mm discs on the front and carbon-ceramic construction throughout, there’s almost always too much speed on the clock and the car struggles, pitches and even weaves under heavy braking.
This is on track, though. On the road only a lunatic would drive like this. Or through town. It’s 2.26m wide and 4.78m long and despite an array of parking sensors and a rear-view camera in the dash, it would give you nightmares in rush hour.
The thing is, though, none of this matters; indeed Lamborghini’s genius lies in the fact that its flaws add to the overall experience. Aventador owners might take their car on track occasionally, and they’ll have fun, but it’s a road car designed to make an outrageous impression and announce to the rest of the billionaire boys’ club that they have, indeed, arrived.
Should they find a suitably long straight and plant the throttle to the floor, any objectivity will fall by the wayside and they will find themselves giggling like a child at Disney World. And in a way, that’s exactly what they’ll be.
Price: €255,000 + taxes
Engine: 6.5-litre V12
0-100km/h: 2.9 secs