Lamborghini Aventador S

Tarmac-tearing focus, V12 thrust and downforce in a newly polished raging bull

RYAN LEWIS

FIRSTDRIVES

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

THE VIEW from the driver’s seat is like peering out of a combat tank, the accelerator is too sharp in its initial travel, and the brake pedal needs vigorous modulation to pull the Aventador up after an exploration of the 544kW V12’s upper reaches.

And then there’s its size...

From its indicator stalk at seven o’clock on the column to a rear-view mirror that presents a gun-slit view of the heat haze rising from the mid-mounted V12, the Aventador S is utterly unlike your average new-age supercar, and certainly not what you’d choose to drive if you just needed to get somewhere.

Yet if you find yourself in a position to allow driving to be the event, as we did at the international launch in Valencia, Spain, then it’s a narcotic beyond compare...

Lamborghini’s modern-day icon broke new ground for the Italian brand when it arrived in 2011, emerging as a completely new, carbonfibre monocoque, inboardsuspended supercar flagship after decades of evolutionary re-engineering of the Countach, Diablo and Murcielago.

Six years on sale hasn’t dulled the Aventador’s concept-car-like magnetism for camera phones, yet the mid-life mechanical refresher that lays beneath is surprisingly expansive, amounting to a digital coming of age and a (slight) taming of the Bull … while ramping up an already extreme set of abilities.

The centrepiece, physically and figuratively, is a sonically momentous naturally aspirated V12. With just eight fewer kW than the hardcore (and sold out) Aventador SV, it rockets this $789K supercar to 100km/h in a claimed 2.9sec.

The V12 crests the power summit 100rpm before the digital needle blurs into the 8500rpm cut-out, with a visceral howl and a blue-flame chaser licking its Saturn 5-inspired tailpipes.

At the other end of the vocal scale, cylinder management can shut off one bank of the V12 to save fuel in between blasts. Valve timing tweaks are said to deliver more of the 690Nm peak later in the rev range, according to Lambo.

Fear factor is now squarely the

SPECS

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Fuel economy Price On sale Lamborghini Aventador S 6498cc V12 (60°), dohc, 48v 544kW @ 8400rpm 690Nm @ 5500rpm 7-speed sequential 1575kg 2.9sec (claimed) 16.9L/100km $789,425 Now

product of ferocious pace, rather than the threat of being speared off the road backwards.

New variable hydraulically assisted steering locks its ratio in corners for a more consistent, natural feel than the previous-gen Aventador, which Lambo had on hand for back-to-back belting.

With newly introduced fourwheel steering doing its bit to shrink the furious parmesan wedge around you, the S arrows its low nose to the apex with alacrity, and feels smaller and more agile than its presence and proportions might suggest.

The four-wheel steer increases high-speed stability, which allows a more rear-biased torque split to help rotate the chassis and point the nose from mid-corner to exit.

Press on and the Aventador S is fearsomely physical to drive quickly. Yes, it will still gore a graceless matador, but the dynamic improvements have made it a friendlier road car.

Ride quality takes a step up with help from standard adaptive suspension. That’s good, because the seats are as stiff as boards.

The switch to magnetorheological dampers and rear-wheel steering upped weight by 6kg, subsequently trimmed by a lighter exhaust system to keep the coupe’s dry weight at 1575kg.

Still flawed is its seven-speed gearbox, and there’s a sense that Lambo’s engineers are apologetic – they argue the single-clutch ’box is the only unit they can package in the space between the seats.

A reprogramming has made its automatic mode a little smoother than before, but it still lurches uncomfortably in the less extreme Strada and Sport modes.

Flat-out on a racetrack in Corsa it starts to make sense, delivering addictively forceful, almost violent shifts.

There are styling tweaks too, though the classic proportions remain. No need to change those when the Aventador is among the most theatrically styled objects money can buy.

Aero updates are focused at the nose, belly and tail, and include a front bumper said to increase downforce by 130 percent.

Underbody vortex generators reduce drag and control brake temperatures, and an active, three-stage rear wing makes more aerodynamically efficient use of air passing over it.

It’s possible that tacking on an S refers to the Aventador’s thoroughly reworked suspension and steering, yet with a claimed 0-300km/h in 24.2sec (0.5sec shaved) they’re peripheral to the big S – speed.

Up until now, Lamborghini’s flagship has traded on machismo, but the Aventador S puts a letter on what it needed for broadened driver appeal.

PLUS & MINUS

Flawed transmission; unwieldy Fl d i i i ld dimensions; cabin comfort Epic, flamboyant V12 engine; sharpened dynamics; improved ride

Park ’n’ fly

Parking a five-by-two metre supercar with the outward visibility of a jail cell is enough to break the most steadfast anger management graduate.

Worse still, the lacklustre reversing camera and parking sensors cost a staggering 9600. gg g $ Heated seats? Premium sound system? They’re $8200. Each. Factor in a carbonfibre styling package for $34,400 and alternative wheel designs at up to $10,600, and the on-road cost creeps towards the magic mill.

OR TRY THESE...

Ferrari F12tdf $808,888

Similar wallet damage for the V12 thrill, this time with the engine up front. The Ferrari’s 574kW and 690Nm bring bigger bragging rights. Cheaper Berlinetta is the comfortable alternative; F12tdf is a barbaric menace.

McLaren 675LT $616,250

Britain’s comparatively modest alternative nudges the performance ballpark with a boosted 3.8-litre V8 (497kW/700Nm) for significantly less money. Trades Aventador’s audio-visual drama in focused pursuit of quick lap times.