Run­ning with two rag­ing bulls

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

When an in­vi­ta­tion to drive a per­for­mance ve­hi­cle on a race­track ar­rives in our in­box, it im­me­di­ately piques our in­ter­est, and when the car in ques­tion is an Ital­ian sportscar bear­ing a rag­ing bull on its snout, we jump at the op­por­tu­nity.

Lam­borgh­ini SA, now a sub­sidiary of LSM Dis­trib­u­tors, also the im­porter of Porsche, in­vited us to ex­pe­ri­ence the Hu­ra­can sportscar and flag­ship Aven­ta­dor S at Kyalami.

The Hu­ra­can RWD (rear­wheel drive) is es­sen­tially the en­try point into the Lam­borgh­ini sportscar fold and, un­like its heav­ier four-wheel drive sib­ling, it pushes all its power to the rear wheels only.

It is pow­ered by an at­mo­spheric 5.2l V10 en­gine that revs to 8,500r/min and churns out 426kW and 540Nm through a seven-speed dual clutch au­to­matic gear­box.

As far as en­gines go, this is still one of the most soul­ful cur­rently avail­able on the mar­ket and while many a man­u­fac­turer is opt­ing to turbo charge, there is some­thing charm­ing about a big ca­pac­ity at­mo­spheric en­gine that revs to the heav­ens.

Slip­ping be­hind the wheel of this slinky sportscar is easy and the cabin lay­out is geared to the driver’s whims.

Fir­ing up the V10 that re­sponds with a glo­ri­ous bark be­fore set­tling into an ever-so­rau­cous idle, is some­thing to be­hold. Switch­ing the drive mode to the de­fault Strada (Street) then to Corsa (Race­track) not only al­ters the en­gine’s note, but stiff­ens the dampers and slots the gear­box into man­ual mode.

Pull the right steer­ing wheel­mounted shift paddle to en­gage first gear, ease the throt­tle and we’re off.

With an in­ter­na­tional Squadra Corse in­struc­tor in the Aven­ta­dor S ahead to guide us, we first do a sight­ing lap to fa­mil­iarise our­selves with the circuit, be­fore open­ing up the taps.

Com­ing into the long straight hav­ing hooked sec­ond gear, I squeeze hard on the throt­tle and the V10 nestling be­hind my head sharp­ens its horns, clears its throat and charges down the flat bi­tu­men at a lick, while im­mers­ing me in the glo­ri­ous noise of 10 cylin­ders mix­ing air and fuel.

Third gear is sum­moned and, be­fore I know it, I need to shift up to fourth, at which point the Hu­ra­can is trav­el­ling well over 240km/h be­fore I jump on the an­chors for the hair­pin bend.

What is most im­pres­sive about this model is its sense of agility that has it breath­ing down the end of the more pow­er­ful Aven­ta­dor S through cor­ners and tight sec­tions of the track.

Then there is the sur­pris­ingly prodi­gious grip that be­lies the ve­hi­cle’s rear-wheel drive con­fig­u­ra­tion. It al­lows you to take more lib­er­ties with the throt­tle out of cor­ners and shoots you to the next one.

The Hu­ra­can RWD is a su­perbly bal­anced, nim­ble and ef­fi­cient pack­age that will ap­pease even novice driv­ers.

Then it was time to jump into the foam-at-the-mouth bull of bulls, the Aven­ta­dor S.

This was my first en­counter with the ve­hi­cle, so I was look­ing for­ward to see­ing what this 6.5l, nor­mally as­pi­rated V12 with 544kW and 690Nm could muster on the track.

The Aven­ta­dor is seven years old and while it re­mains a dra­matic thing to be­hold, there is no deny­ing the fact that some of its tech­nol­ogy lags be­hind that of its newer ri­vals.

Still, it has some in­ter­est­ing tech­nol­ogy such as the robo­tised se­quen­tial man­ual gear­box and the push-rod sus­pen­sion in­spired by For­mula One cars and it re­mains a pur­pose­built ma­chine.

How­ever, I found the gear­box some­what clunky and slow by to­day’s stan­dards, where twin-clutch gear­boxes are in vogue and the rear-wheel steer means the rear of the ve­hi­cle is con­stantly moving about, which is rather un­nerv­ing. It is a feel­ing akin to push­ing a shop­ping trol­ley back­wards and steer­ing it into shop­ping aisles.

While this is meant to make the ve­hi­cle more agile, I’m afraid it is not to ev­ery­one’s taste and I’m not a fan.

Go­ing through the es­sses at Kyalami, you get the feel­ing of an

un­set­tled, slightly skit­tish car that doesn’t in­spire con­fi­dence. Per­haps it is a dif­fer­ent case out on the pub­lic roads.

We will be driv­ing the more track-ori­ented SVJ ver­sion of the Aven­ta­dor in Septem­ber in Por­tu­gal. It is said to have a great deal of aero in­spi­ra­tion from the Hu­ra­can Per­for­mante and hope­fully will prove to be a more set­tled ve­hi­cle.

That aside, wind­ing up that en­gine close to 9,000r/min is some­thing very spe­cial.

It quickly puts dis­tance be­tween it and its smaller Hu­ra­can sib­ling on the straights. One can un­der­stand why it still com­mands a great deal of at­ten­tion from most quar­ters.

How­ever, of the two, it was the Hu­ra­can RWD that im­pressed me most with its nim­ble­ness and ac­ces­si­ble per­for­mance. It is a fit­ting in­tro­duc­tion to the Lam­borgh­ini sportscar fold.

The rear­wheel-drive Hu­ra­can proved en­joy­able to drive on the track. Left: The Avan­ta­dor’s drama con­tin­ues in the in­te­rior.

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