Lamborghini Aventador SVJ
A 759bhp V12 in the angriest Aventador. In the snow. Only the expletives in the cabin are louder...
“It’d be easier to thread the Lamborghini through the eye of a needle than drive it up here”
As we creep towards the 50th anniversary of The Italian Job, it’s a truism that parts of this beautiful but ultimately unknowable country are indivisible from the Quincy Jones soundtrack. Let’s ignore for now that it doesn’t end well for the man in the orange Lamborghini Miura in the film’s opening sequence.
The Aventador SVJ pulses with Miura DNA, not least in its 6.5-litre V12, the noise of which is reason enough to make it a 2018 TopGear award-winner, although this is also the most powerful V12 Lamborghini has ever made. The Boss (Charlie Turner, not Bruce Springsteen) selflessly volunteered to collect the SVJ from Sant’Agata, and many miles and hours later following a rendezvous near Turin, he’s sitting alongside me rifling through his iPhone for ‘On Days Like These’. Soon Matt Monro’s swoonsome croon is filling the Lamborghini’s cabin.
Charlie, who picked today’s route, has a great sense of humour. We’re on the SS36, heading north towards the Swiss border and the Passo dello Spluga – or Splügen Pass, if you prefer – an Alpine road that unfurls itself in spectacular fashion at an elevation of almost 7,000ft. Google it and you’re taken direct to a dangerous roads website.
Danger? I’ll give you danger. Danger is listening to the differential whine on a £360,000 Lamborghini on full lock in first gear on a road so twisty it seems to be feasting on itself, while the fog and rain battle each other for supremacy in the ‘who’s more elemental?’ weather stakes. And, yes, that’s definitely snow out there, so we’d better factor that in as well, and crank the demisting up to 11 while we’re at it. The SVJ’s A-pillars, meanwhile, are so thick they almost go to Z. There’s so little forward visibility (rear visibility on the Aventador is a meaningless concept, regardless of the weather) that Charlie has resorted to giving me pace notes. It would be easier to thread the Lamborghini through the eye of a needle than drive it up here. Meanwhile TG’s indefatigable Rowan Horncastle follows behind in our Fiat 500L hire car, maintaining a Loeb-like pace compared with mine. Whatevs. The murkiness means that we have no idea how steep the drops are, so it could be worse.
It gets worse. We make it to the top, and dutifully lift the Lambo’s nose to clear the slush as we peel off the road and splash towards our hotel. It’s 22:30. The albergo shimmers like a mirage though the gloom, not quite as foreboding as the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, but not far off it. The front door is unlocked, but the reception is shut. We dial the number and listen as it rings off the hook. I scamper up the stairs, trying every door. Only one is open, and the low light reveals clothes strewn about the place. Signs of life but no one’s home.
Back in the hallway, I rummage through a cupboard looking for some blankets, and turn up a deflated football and a single padded glove. Charlie, meanwhile, has found another hotel a few miles back down the road we’ve just ascended. You know what? We’ll take it.
The Lamborghini Aventador is not a car in need of extra drama, but in the SVJ Sant’Agata has somehow found some
tucked away in a corner. Despite having driven and conquered a few over the years – including on a Speed Week around Clermont-Ferrand in 2013 – the moment you first climb aboard an Aventador sends every childhood memory you have of a big, hirsute, mid-engined Italian supercar galloping straight into your cerebral cortex. Isn’t this exactly how it should be? Scary, stupid, sensational. The doors scythe up. The sills are wide and awkward. The driving position, although much better than it used to be, still takes some getting used to. The transmission makes its way past your elbows in a tunnel that’s about as wide as the one that burrows under the River Thames in Rotherhithe. The windscreen is vast, and sweeps down towards a nose whose extremities you can’t see. As for the view behind… fuggedaboutit. At least there’s a reversing camera now, although if you’re like me, you still won’t trust what you can’t see with your own eyes.
Similarly, your first few miles in the SVJ will be as faltering as Bambi’s first steps. There is so much to take in, and you don’t uncork 759bhp until you know how much and what sort of fizz there is. From past experience, I’m not certain there’s a road in Europe long enough to let the Aventador properly pop its cork, never mind that the SVJ now red-lines at 8,700rpm and is torquier at the top end. Test drives were conducted on the circuit at Estoril, where the car was reportedly doing 170mph at the end of the pit straight. Sheesh. Not to mention the new productioncar lap record set at some track in Germany everyone’s always banging on about (6:44.97). Yes, Lamborghini has thrown everything at the SVJ. And some more besides.
Which makes the edict from the office to go north to the Alpine snow line adventurous, to say the least. That route also involves a lot of significant tunnel action, which is a great way to explore the full bandwidth of the SVJ’s 7.1 surround sound experience. Bring the noise.
But first, the rush hour. That might sound like hell on earth, but even this elastic ebb and flow is somehow special in a car like this. It’s deliberately overcooked inside, much like the exterior, but mostly works surprisingly well, despite some notable idiosyncrasies. The graphics on the main instrument display – including a graphic for the active aero – are too bright, and the MMI is prehistoric Audi. There’s nowhere to stash your phone, so you rest it on the central screen where it heats up nicely and obscures the display. But at least it’s next to the electric window switches, because that’s the obvious place to put them. And you push to lower the windows, not pull. The single-shell carbon-fibre seats are fabulous, though.
What is SVJ? Super Veloce Jota, which basically means really f**king fast. Apparently Jota also references Appendix J of the FIA rule book, back when the Miura was being homologated for racing, but imagine using a rule book for inspiration… (Countach is a Piedmontese profanity, a fact I recently double-checked with an actual Piedmontese person. Surely it’s only a matter of time before they launch the Lamborghini Stronzo.)
So to the engine. It is part of a bloodline back to the Miura, but now has titanium inlet valves, its innards operate with reduced friction, and there’s a lighter flywheel for even sharper throttle response. The SVJ’s ultimate torque figure, 531lb ft, is reached at 6,700rpm, 1,250rpm higher than on the lazy old SV.
Tight corner, stone wall, wet road, big drop. Not the time for a ‘hold my fag’ moment Snow, fog, rain, ruined mountain roads. Perfect driving conditions for a £356k, 759bhp Lambo, then This is what the Aventador’s flame-throwers look like without flames. Boring
I don’t care how flash you are – if your name’s not on the list, you’re not coming in