Lambo Aven­ta­dor S driven

The new Lamborghini Aven­ta­dor S drives like a rag­ing bull and, with its doors up, looks like one. But does it have the fi­nesse to match its fe­roc­ity? Dan Prosser finds out

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - PHOTOGR APHY LUC LACEY

Does old school rule?

Give me a Biro and a sheet of A4 pa­per and I’ll fill the page with ways in which the Lamborghini Aven­ta­dor S could be im­proved. But nowhere on that list will you see any­thing to do with elec­tric motors, stacks of bat­ter­ies, re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing or 15 miles of EV range. None of those things would make the big Lamborghini any more thrilling to drive and that, I reckon, is all that re­ally mat­ters.

From start to fin­ish, the Aven­ta­dor ex­pe­ri­ence is a very spe­cial one. When you see it parked at the side of the road, it looks too low to ac­com­mo­date hu­man be­ings and too wide to fit down a res­i­den­tial street. It’s just so mean, al­most hos­tile. Then you open the doors and they rise up­wards like great horns and the cabin, mod­elled on a fighter jet’s cock­pit, is so pur­pose­ful. You drop into the seat and pull the steer­ing wheel all the way out to­wards your chest and re­alise the base of the wind­screen stretches even fur­ther for­wards than the tips of your toes. The Aven­ta­dor makes its sta­ble­mate, the Huracán, or even a Fer­rari 488 GTB feel com­pletely pedes­trian.

Which raises an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion: if the 488 and Huracán are su­per­cars, should we con­sider the faster, more ex­pen­sive Aven­ta­dor a hy­per­car? The styling and sense of oc­ca­sion are of that or­der, cer­tainly, and it has more than 700bhp. It also has some fast car hard­ware that’s straight out of the hy­per­car

tool­box, in­clud­ing a car­bon­fi­bre tub and in­board sus­pen­sion. It gets the same re­ac­tion out on the road as a Mclaren P1 or a Porsche 918 Spy­der too: you see the same gawps and gasps and the same fran­tic pocket shuf­fle as suited busi­ness­men and ex­citable school­boys alike reach for their cam­er­a­phones.

It’s a long way from hav­ing a £1 mil­lion price tag, though, com­ing in at £271,146, and it isn’t limited to a few hun­dred units. Per­haps hy­per­car is a stretch, but the Aven­ta­dor def­i­nitely occupies a mid­dle ground be­tween the var­i­ous se­ries pro­duc­tion su­per­cars and the ul­tra­ex­clu­sive, mega-ex­pen­sive hy­per­cars.

The Aven­ta­dor S is the up­dated ver­sion of Lamborghini’s heavy­hit­ting, mid-en­gined V12. The good peo­ple at Sant’agata kept us wait­ing – the Aven­ta­dor saw its sixth birth­day come and go before it was facelifted or tweaked in any mean­ing­ful way. A glance at the list of up­dates sug­gests the wait will have been worth it, though. You’ll pick out the new model by the ‘fangs’ in the front bumper and the restyled rear end, which swaps body-coloured trim for black cladding. The rear arches have been re­pro­filed too, and they now mimic the swept-back shape of the Coun­tach’s wheel wells. Over­all, the ex­te­rior shape hasn’t re­ally changed too sig­nif­i­cantly and yet the Aven­ta­dor still looks so ar­rest­ing after all these years. That’s a tes­ta­ment to the orig­i­nal design.

The cabin is largely as it was, so it’s still an evoca­tive place to sit with its acres of dash­board and the pill­box view for­wards. I can get on board with the slightly silly flip-up trig­ger guard over the en­gine start but­ton (it prob­a­bly wouldn’t work as a design fea­ture in a Golf) and the row of tog­gle switches. But the over-stylised but­tons and some of the in­fo­tain­ment graph­ics look hor­ri­bly dated. The seats are pretty poor too; you perch on top of them rather than sink into them and, after four or five hours on the road, your neck mus­cles will be­gin twitch­ing in dis­com­fort.

While the ex­te­rior styling and the cabin don’t sug­gest very much has changed, the ex­tent of the up­dates be­neath the skin means the Aven­ta­dor S is less a facelift model and more the next gen­er­a­tion en­tirely. Lamborghini has fi­nally given in and added a cus­tomis­able driv­ing mode, which al­lows you to choose how racy you want the car’s var­i­ous pa­ram­e­ters to be. You can now marry the slack, un­wound dampers to the head­bang­ing en­gine and gear­box set­tings, for in­stance. They’ve called it ‘Ego’ mode, which prob­a­bly sounds good in Ital­ian (it sim­ply al­ludes to the in­di­vid­ual), but in English just sounds a bit daft.

Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant up­date, though, is the new four­wheel-steer­ing sys­tem. Lamborghini will tell you it vir­tu­ally short­ens the wheel­base at low speeds to make the car more agile and vir­tu­ally

length­ens it at higher speeds to make the car more sta­ble, which is true, but re­duc­tive. What it re­ally does is make the rear end much more se­cure in all types of driv­ing and at all speeds, which has meant the chas­sis en­gi­neers have been let off the leash. They’ve been able to make the steer­ing more di­rect and the four-wheel-drive sys­tem can now favour the rear end much more of­ten. Those mea­sures might just make the hith­erto flat-footed Aven­ta­dor feel a bit more ath­letic.

What Lamborghini hasn’t done, of course, is fit any sort of elec­tric pow­er­train. Frankly, if there isn’t the space in the cock­pit for a drinks holder, there prob­a­bly isn’t the space else­where for a pile of bat­ter­ies and a mo­tor. Even if there was, I can’t be­lieve that adding a cou­ple of hun­dred ki­los to a car that al­ready weighs 300kg more at the kerb than a Mclaren 720S would in any way im­prove the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

A punchy elec­tric mo­tor could prob­a­bly off­set the ex­tra weight of the bat­ter­ies that feed it and make the car faster in a straight line, but the whole lot would make the car feel even heftier in its boots in cor­ner­ing. And it’s not as though the 6.5-litre V12 is tur­bocharged and has a re­sponse prob­lem that an elec­tric mo­tor could dis­guise – this en­gine is fe­ro­ciously re­spon­sive and im­me­di­ate as it is. In fact, prop­ping up the lower end of the torque curve with a mo­tor would make the en­tire driv­e­train less ex­cit­ing, be­cause you wouldn’t have to get after the 8500rpm red­line so of­ten. Yep, my mind is made up on this: many cars could be im­proved by fit­ting a hy­brid pow­er­train, but this isn’t one of them.

The big Lambo does need many other things, though. Like seats that are ac­tu­ally de­signed to ac­com­mo­date up­right bipeds, and a gear­box that can swap cogs at low speed in auto mode with­out dimly scratch­ing its head for a sec­ond or two, and change up from one ra­tio to the next in full at­tack man­ual mode with­out dis­lodg­ing your spinal cord.

Now rated at 730bhp – 40bhp more than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion – the howl­ing V12 prob­a­bly doesn’t have a great deal left in re­serve. That means the Aven­ta­dor will never be much quicker than it is now but, frankly, it just doesn’t need to be. This car doesn’t have a power prob­lem, it has a weight prob­lem. It tips the scales at 1575kg dry, which means some­where in the re­gion of 1700kg as you drive it. For a car­bon­fi­bre-tubbed car, that re­ally is far too heavy.

It shows in the way the car finds its way along a tight, wind­ing road. With the re­vi­sions Lamborghini has made, the S is far and away the most nim­ble and best-bal­anced Aven­ta­dor so far, but there’s no get­ting away from the fact it weighs as much as it does and takes up so much space on the road. Your con­fi­dence builds slowly in the Aven­ta­dor. Just when you think you’re get­ting on top of it and find­ing the limit of me­chan­i­cal grip, some­thing will hap­pen – it’ll start rain­ing or a van will come the other way and you’ll breathe in in­vol­un­tar­ily to try to make the car a lit­tle nar­rower, or the throt­tle will stick open for a split sec­ond after you lift off into a bend and fire you a lit­tle too close to the

grass verge – and you’ll be back to square one. Com­pared with a 488 or a 720S, both of which fill you with con­fi­dence and draw you in, the Aven­ta­dor S, im­proved though it is, al­ways keeps you at arm’s length.

I sup­pose the last­ing frus­tra­tion with this car is that it makes such a fan­tas­tic first im­pres­sion – with the way it looks, with the bril­liance of its en­gine, with its oth­er­worldly sense of oc­ca­sion – but it doesn’t back that up with a re­ally re­ward­ing driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. This is a car that needs many things, not least a smaller foot­print, less weight and a trans­mis­sion that wasn’t first mooted when Fer­ruc­cio Lamborghini was a boy – but a hefty stack of bat­ter­ies, a mo­tor and yet more straight-line per­for­mance would do noth­ing to make it a bet­ter car to drive.

Aven­ta­dor feels all of its 2030mm width on a Bri­tish B-road; flip-up trig­ger guard over the start but­ton lends a touch of drama; mighty V12 en­gine de­liv­ers 730bhp and 509lb ft

Seats aren’t the best; cabin is in­spired by a jet fighter’s; new Ego mode of­fers flex­i­bil­ity

More prom­i­nent car­bon­fi­bre split­ter in­creases down­force over the front axle by 130% com­pared with orig­i­nal Aven­ta­dor

Prosser tow­ers over the Lambo, if not its fa­mous scis­sor doors

In terms of design, the up­dated Aven­ta­dor could jus­ti­fi­ably lay claim to hy­per­car sta­tus

LAMBORGHINI AVEN­TA­DOR S

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