After six years, Aventador has only become better
Track Test: 2017 Lamborghini Aventador S
With a more nimble chassis and four-wheel steering, this Italian supercar is now even more thrilling around a circuit
Neil Vorano and Derek McNaughton drove the 2017 Lamborghini Aventador S at Calabogie Motorsports Park near Ottawa, in what can only be described as a life-altering moment for both men. Here are some of their observations about the 730-horsepower, $550,000-plus car.
DM: You’ve got to hand it to Lamborghini. When the automotive world is squeezing more juice from smaller displacement engines and adding turbos to make up for the loss in displacement, Lamborghini says “eff that — let’s stuff the biggest, baddest engine we can into an Aventador.” When most battalions are in retreat, here’s the Aventador holding its ground, saying “we will never surrender, long live the V12!”
NV: And also, Derek, in this world of ever-increasing fuel economies, faux off-roading family SUVs and increasing flux of autonomous driving features, I’m glad there will always be a place for mad, mad cars that make no sense other than for pure — and outrageous — driving pleasure. This Aventador S is certainly one of those.
DM: Insanity might be an apt description for this car because, really, the only place it can be truly driven is on the race track. It reminds me a little of the big-block Chevelle I had years ago — which cost me my driver’s licence from so many burnouts — it has so much horsepower, so much rawness, there’s no safe way to drive it on the street. All that power is just too tempting for even the most strongwilled driver. In a way, like you say, it’s the European equivalent of the 840-hp Dodge Demon: it’s crazy, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it doesn’t have to, everyone still lusts after it. And lust never sleeps. Interestingly, the Demon runs from zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, the Aventador takes 2.9.
NV: Oh, the track is certainly where you want to drive the Aventador. Make no mistake, this isn’t meant to be the fastest car around the track; it’s little brother, the Huracán Performante with “just” 631 hp, beats it around the Nürburgring hands down, and so would a Porsche 911 Turbo. But none of that matters when you climb in (and I do mean “climb in,” considering the contortions needed to fit through the door hole) and fire up the engine in the pit lane, because it’s like strapping into the space shuttle and waiting for blast off.
DM: So true. In fact, I think this is the first time in a car that I felt slightly afraid. Angling into the seat, this wild array of controls unfolds as if inside some alien craft. Flip the red cover to the ignition button, light the engine and the explosion that erupts confirms you are flirting with some potentially serious danger here. Yet, when underway, the excitement that ensues only encourages more speed. You’re right, this wouldn’t be the weapon I would choose in a track fight, but the rawness and purity of the performance makes up for “slower” lap times. It’s the first time I realized why someone would spend so much for an Aventador when they could buy two 911 GT3s or 911 Turbos for the same money.
NV: Oh, it’s raw, all right. That engine screams and the power pushes you to your seat. Taking that wide first corner at Calabogie really shows the grip of those huge P355/25ZR21 rear tires, but it’s the second corner that shows how much fun this car is: hard braking and throwing it into the right-hander, you can make the car wiggle with the throttle, or take a four-wheel slide around the apex and then hammer it out. Now, with its fourwheel steering, you can feel the car rotate around you, and there’s far less understeer than what the original Aventador brought to the table. There’s a lot more movement around every corner, movement that you can control not just with the steering but with the throttle, and that’s big fun.
DM: So true. I drove a 2014 Aventador at this track and it felt heavy and somewhat unwieldy. It was hard to find rhythm and joy in that car. It was good, but it wasn’t sensational, even if it was the son of Countach. This car is truly different, a car that befits the word sensational. While I did find the rear gets a little squirrelly under the hardest braking, the steering is far livelier and more on point. No doubt that four-wheel steering helps, but the AWD setup is better too. In Sport mode, 90 per cent of the torque goes to the rear wheels; in Corsa mode where we had it, only 80 per cent of the V12’s maximum 509 pound-feet of torque goes rearward. Still, even here, the S exited some corners in magical AWD drifts, pulling and pushing with grace. Unfortunately, that ate the tires, but, holy, was it a hoot. There’s now an Ego mode as well, allowing the driver to mix and match, but Sport and Corsa work so well it seems unnecessary. Best to leave “ego” at the door.
NV: What I love that hasn’t changed from the original Aventador is the transmission; instead of a dual-clutch affair, it has but one clutch for all its seven forward gears. Of course, a dualclutch is smoother and shifts a hair faster, but it doesn’t give you the wallop that this box does when it shifts. Under hard acceleration, the engine revs higher and higher, the car goes faster and faster, then there’s a short pause, almost a calmness. Then, boom! The car punches into gear and goes wiggly for a millisecond, and then you’re pushed back into the seat with the force. It’s like a circus ride, all in less than a second.
DM: Pulling on a paddle shifter at 8,500 rpm and feeling that punch is indeed profound, not brutal. But I also liked that, in Corsa mode, the transmission did everything for me, exactly when I wanted, much like Porsche’s PDK. It allowed me to focus on steering and pointing the car and hitting the apexes correctly and going faster than my talent allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever been as fast around Calabogie in my life, but it came with an exhilaration, confidence and thrill that has also never been matched before. This car has a truly inspiring soul. It is passionate about delivering it. And it couldn’t be better looking.
NV: When it debuted more than six years ago, the Aventador immediately became one of my favourite cars to drive on track. And now, with a revised chassis, AWD and four-wheel steering, it’s only gotten better.