It is a sunny afternoon in November and we are in Sant’Agata Bolognese. Parked in front of us, awaiting our arrival is the most anticipated supercar of 2011; the Lamborghini LP700-4 Aventador. Dressed in Nero Aldebaran, the test car offered us our long-awaited chance to take the new Lamborghini supercar for a spin around the Italian countryside.
The Aventador is a massive leap forwards in terms of design and technology. It’s the result of an entirely new project, but at the same time it’s a direct and consistent continuation of Lamborghini’s brand values, according to Stephan Winkelmann, President and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini. The flagship of the Sant’Agata Bolognese manufacturer is the latest in a long line of V12-engined supercars, starting with the 350GT in 1963.
As a replacement for the ten-year-old Murciélago, it bears a close family resemblance to its predecessor not only because of its mid-mounted V12-engine, four-wheel drive system and scissor doors, but mostly because of its visual similarities and its sinister looking presence. The resemblance can also be found in the name! Aventador was the name of a bull that entered into battle in October 1993 at the Saragossa Arena, earning the “Trofeo de la Peña La Madroñera” for its outstanding courage. Having the courage to go up against a new world of super sports cars the significance of the name is clear.
The heart of the bull features two major highlights. The first is the carbon fiber monocoque. It offers a lighter and stiffer body and is produced in-house by Lamborghini with help from Boeing and the University of Washington. Aluminum subframes bolted to the front and rear of the monocoque carry the bits that make the Aventador go. At the back the subframe cradles the second highlight, a new 6.5 liter V12 engine that produces 700hp at 8,250rpm and 690Nm at 5,500rpm. The engine has a much bigger bore and a shorter stroke, meaning it’s revvier and massively more refined. There is more torque and more horsepower than its predecessor. The package is lighter and makes more extensive use of an aluminum-silicon alloy. This ensures minimal weight and the opportunity to mount the engine lower into the frame.
Using thrust mode – Lamborghini’s version of launch control – allows you to reach 100km/h in less than three seconds, 2.9 to be precise and 0-200km/h is done in a staggering 8.9 seconds flat. In the right environment you will keep accelerating all the way up to 351km/h and pull 1.3 G when braking from 100-0km/h. The start button is positioned in the center console and is protected by a red cover, as if you are planning to unleash your full arsenal of fire power at any given moment, which seems appropriate. Flip it open, press the button and the engine comes to life with a superfluous rev.
The V12 is a remarkable responsive engine. Just tap the throttle, the revs rise quickly and you get a wonderful screaming soundtrack from the back. Flip the paddle on the right and the gearbox enters first gear. The single-clutch ISR system has seven gears and weighs only 79 kilos, which is significantly lighter than many DSG counterparts in the market. It comes with three modes – Strada, Sport and Corsa – and 50 millisecond shifts that work in such a fashion that when one of the shifting rods is moving out of one gear, the second rod is already shifting on to the next.
Leaving the factory premises we tested Strada mode, the most comfort orientated of the driving modes with 100-125ms automatic shifts and ESP in nanny mode. The first few kilometers through the country side ask for a more refined suspension setup. The race-style pushrod suspension system has passive Ohlins dampers and no ability to cushion out the firm ride. The Aventador is just shockingly hard, and the automatic isn’t your biggest friend either at slow speeds. Unfortunately, neither Sport nor Corsa have any affect on the suspension. What they do alter are the steering weight, transmission shift speed, electronic stability control, and engine management algorithms.
The Aventador begs for speed and high speed turns. So we deliver, switching to manual and sport mode, pushing the throttle further downwards. The straight-line speed is so insane you have to take the time to reflect on how mind-bendingly quick it actually is. It is easy to forget just how fast we were going on an Italian country road, although the operatic soundtrack never lets off. The V12 makes a wonderful low-frequency roar at lower revs with an increase over 3,500rpm. Stay on the throttle beyond 5,000rpm, and it sounds like a screaming apocalypse.
In Sport mode the first turns offer a slight understeer or oversteer behavior depending on your throttle input. The setting offers more playing room from the ESP. The traction out of corners is phenomenal, and don’t forget, we haven’t even touched Corsa yet. The tons of lateral grip and the balance of the car are excellent and ask for more. We switch to Corsa and the fighting bull is engaged. The front/rear torque split goes from 20:80 to 40:60, offering more traction out of corners and the shift speed becomes a brutally fast 50ms. Immediately you feel the difference in behavior. There is more steering weight, the four-wheel drive system tries to pull you through corners and the up- and downshifts are impatient.
The most noticeable difference for the passenger is felt while shifting. Accelerate from standstill and keep your foot planted on the throttle. Near the 8,250rpm redline shift to second gear and your mind can hardly grasp the underlying violence it has just experienced. Keep pushing and go from second to third whilst pulling the paddle, now the earth stops rotating, via your spine you feel the gearbox entering the next gear and before you know it your head is smacked against the head rest as if a boxer has just hit you in the face. You scream like a little boy and push the throttle for more. Before you know it you have reached 200+ km/h on an Italian country road and you turn around to do another run.
The steering weight of Corsa mode is precise and excellent for the race track, but not suited for high speed turns on local roads. The movement of masses, the 4WD characteristic and ferocity of the gear changes doesn’t fit the kind of roads you find in the Italian country side. In that environment you will switch back to Sport mode. It offers an easier steering characteristic and allows you to play, whilst maintaining that sporting urge. The carbon ceramic brakes are terrific, with a soft, progressive pedal feel.
Open the stunning scissor doors and check the inside of the cockpit. You have Italian refinements combined with German technology. The Aventador is equipped with an Audi-based navigation system and a high-end audio system, but we prefer to listen to the conversation between our right foot and the engine. Your responses are visible on the electronic Playstation-like set of displays offering the choice of either a speedo or tach as the main dial.
The narrow racing seats have enough comfort, but are too short for larger people. The sheer size of the Aventador only becomes visible when parking or turning. The most noticeable downfall in the interior is the lack of any storage space. There is some luggage room behind the seat, a cupboard at the passenger side capable of storing the car’s manual and a small space between the seats to fit a medium sized mobile phone. But that is all!
At the end of the day it was time to hand back the razor-sharp jet-fighter on wheels. We entered the factory premise, woke up the test driver behind his desk with some flame throwing revs and parked the bull which was our drive for a day.
So is this the Lamborghini supercar we expected? Yes, it is completely but somehow it doesn’t fit the nimble mountain and country roads of the Emilia-Romagna region near the factory. This Aventador needs room to play, like the fighting bull it was named after. Next venue? Monza or the Autobahn please!