Driv­ing the Lam­borgh­ini Aven­ta­dor S in Va­len­cia

Sharp - - ED­I­TOR’S LET­TER - By Matt Bub­bers

IN THE BE­GIN­NING, there was only Lam­borgh­ini. Mar­cello Gan­dini, a de­signer work­ing for Ber­tone, and two en­gi­neers — Gian Paolo Dal­lara and Paolo Stan­zani — cre­ated the first su­per­car in Sant’agata Bolog­nese in 1966. Fer­ruc­cio Lam­borgh­ini wanted some­thing rad­i­cal, a race­car for the road. They called it the Lam­borgh­ini Miura, named af­ter a fa­mous fight­ing bull. It had a 12-cylin­der en­gine mounted lon­gi­tu­di­nally be­hind the driver and a shape that would make Bot­ti­celli weep. It was, by all ac­counts, terrifying to drive. And drivers saw it, and it was good. Stan­zani and Gan­dini went on to cre­ate many of the most terrifying and de­sir­able cars the world has ever seen. lam­borgh­i­nis be­came known as edgy, an­gu­lar cars that granted the bare min­i­mum con­ces­sions to the driver — they were built for speed, and noth­ing else. (This was a time be­fore air-con­di­tioned cab­ins, power steer­ing, or er­gonomic seats.) The pair did the Jarama, Es­pada, Uracco and fi­nally the Coun­tach, an­other mas­ter­piece. It was a dif­fi­cult car too: re­luc­tant to turn at any speed, and, as Lam­borgh­ini’s test-driver once told Mo­tor Trend, pray­ing was more ef­fec­tive at slow­ing the car than the brakes.

Fer­rari fol­lowed Lam­borgh­ini, creat­ing su­per­cars of its own, which ar­guably be­came more fa­mous — and cer­tainly more valu­able. But al­though the cars from Mo­dena came from the same ba­sic mould those three men in­vented with the Miura, Fer­rari’s cars — and nearly all sub­se­quent su­per­cars — soon veered in an­other di­rec­tion. Su­per­cars be­came softer, eas­ier to live with, less dan­ger­ous; be­cause, why wouldn’t they? Lam­borgh­ini — whose crest is a golden rag­ing bull — re­mained true to the Miura, to the idea that the true pur­pose of a su­per­car should be to scare the shit out of its driver. Af­ter all, it’s when we’re clos­est to death that we feel most alive.

To­day the com­pany says the goal is to “sur­prise” the driver, but that’s a eu­phemism for the same thing.

Af­ter tak­ing part in the Miura’s 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion, Paolo Stan­zani died in Jan­uary. He was 80 years old. His suc­ces­sor is Mau­r­izio Reg­giani, the di­rec­tor of re­search and de­vel­op­ment at Lam­borgh­ini, a post he’s had for 11 years now.

Reg­giani re­mem­bers what it was like when the Miura was un­veiled. “You must imag­ine: in the ‘60s, in Italy, it was the time of Fiat 850,” he says. That Fiat was a tin can with wheels, ba­sic trans­port. “Com­pared to that car, the Miura was a rocket, some­thing from space!” It is a sym­bol of the Ital­ian mir­a­cle, the rapid post-

war trans­for­ma­tion of Italy from a poor, ru­ral place to an in­dus­trial pow­er­house.

“The Miura is re­ally a wild car. You have a per­cep­tion that it is a wild beast.”

Seat­belts were an op­tional ex­tra, one your typ­i­cal ‘60s su­per­car buyer would’ve seen as un­nec­es­sary and wimpy. Nat­u­rally, Rod Ste­wart or­dered his Miura with seat­belts.

“It was a match be­tween a mar­velous en­gi­neer­ing ar­chi­tec­ture and a mar­velous de­sign,” says Reg­giani. “It was only be­cause of this ar­chi­tec­ture that Mar­cello Gan­dini had the free­dom to draw a sil­hou­ette like Miura.”

To get into Lam­borgh­ini’s lat­est su­per­car, the Aven­ta­dor S, you have to write a cheque for $463,775 (and in truth, most own­ers spend much more, su­per­siz­ing the amount of car­bon-fi­bre trim and leather quilt­ing). I was lucky enough to sam­ple one on a race­track in Spain ear­lier this year. No check­book re­quired.

The Aven­ta­dor is as wide as a truck but only three-and-a-half feet tall. I fold my body in half to avoid smash­ing my head on the roof, which will in­stantly ruin the driv­ing-away-in-a-lambo buzz. The seat doesn’t lean back enough and my head is nearly against the top of the car. My view out is com­pro­mised by the wedge-shaped front end — a Lam­borgh­ini trade­mark — which pri­or­i­tizes style over be­ing able to see pedes­tri­ans.

Un­like the Miura, seat­belts and power-steer­ing are stan­dard, which makes the ex­pe­ri­ence a bit more com­fort­able. But then, the Aven­ta­dor S has power and grip the en­gi­neers of the Miura wouldn’t have dared to imag­ine. The “S” is an up­grade over the reg­u­lar Aven­ta­dor, with 30 ex­tra horse­power. The spec line reads 730 hp; frankly, it didn’t need the ex­tra boost. No bat­ter­ies. No tur­bos. No hy­brid sys­tem, just one huge en­gine.

Be­hind a lit­tle glass win­dow over my right shoul­der is the mas­sive, fire-spit­ting V12 mo­tor, the heart of the Aven­ta­dor. The en­gine shakes vi­o­lently as it roars to life.

Flick the shift pad­dle to get first. Clunk. Trun­dle out of the pit lane. Ac­cel­er­ate and aim for the first cor­ner and oh shit, I’ve missed it. I brake too late, turn in late, run wide. Try again. The gear­box in Race Mode slams be­tween gears in 50 mil­lisec­onds, caus­ing a shock­wave that kicks me for­ward and then back into the seat. Mid-cor­ner a jolt like that could up­set the car, maybe cause a spin. Chang­ing to Man­ual Mode, us­ing the pad­dles to shift gears smooths things out, but it’s an­other thing I’ve got to man­age. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is mer­ci­less. Zero to 200 km/h takes less than 10 sec­onds.

I brake early this time, but too hard and the en­gine starts to act like a pen­du­lum, caus­ing the rear to sway eerily from side to side. I’m happy I made it around that cor­ner alive.

But it’s not just the speed that de­fines the Aven­ta­dor ex­pe­ri­ence. It takes a lot of skill and brav­ery to drive the Aven­ta­dor fast, just like it did with Miura and the Coun­tach. It strikes me just how easy other fast cars have be­come to drive. Too easy. Elec­tronic aids have taken the edge off su­per­cars, but not this one.

I try again, brak­ing hard and late, smooth to avoid the pen­du­lum thing again. Trail­ing the brake into the turn gets the front wheels dug in. Hit the apex, wait a heart­beat, and then full throt­tle and the car fires out of the cor­ner with tires squeal­ing. It’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing — adren­a­line-pump­ing — to be caught up in so much metal go­ing so fast, on the ragged edge be­tween in- and out-of-con­trol.

Lam­borgh­ini has come a long way since 1966: power, tech­ni­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion, ma­te­ri­als are in an­other league. But what’s amaz­ing — what makes Lam­borgh­ini spe­cial and the Aven­ta­dor so unique — is that’s it’s still an edgy, an­gry and, con­se­quently very scary, car. Just like the Miura. It’s a new ma­chine with an old soul.

The Aven­ta­dor S is the last su­per­car true to Miura’s for­mula. It’s the last one you can buy with a mid-mounted V12 en­gine. Mclaren’s cars are all tur­bocharged, ul­tra-light and ag­ile like hum­ming­birds. Fer­rari has a mid-en­gine V12, but it’s a hy­brid, which is hardly old-school; and be­sides, it’s sold out. While ex­cep­tional in other ways, those com­pa­nies don’t of­fer cars that strike fear into drivers’ hearts. Their cars fo­cus on ev­ery­day driv­abil­ity, user-friend­li­ness be­cause — for some rea­son — peo­ple value that. Maybe we’ve got­ten too soft. Have we re­ally be­come so prac­ti­cal that even our coolest toys have to be id­iot-proof? Soon it’s go­ing to be vir­tual-re­al­ity su­per­cars. Crash as much as you want! No con­se­quences.

But the Aven­ta­dor S is like a stiff drink. Once you get over the ini­tial burn, you want more. Thank god some­body is still mak­ing scary su­per­cars. In the end, as in the be­gin­ning, there is only Lam­borgh­ini. And still, it is good.

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