Lam­borgh­ini Aven­ta­dor LP740-4 S Road­ster

We drive the lat­est ver­sion of Lam­borgh­ini’s big, brawny su­per­car around Kyalami

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

The bull may be the an­i­mal as­so­ci­ated with Sant’agata’s finest but I’ve al­ways thought of the Aven­ta­dor in more rep­til­ian terms. Since the flag­ship Lam­borgh­ini’s launch in 2012, this apex preda­tor’s an­gu­lar body pan­els – a mo­tif car­ried through to the in­te­rior – and huge 6,5-litre, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V12 en­gine were more akin to a scaled branch of the evo­lu­tion­ary tree that pre­dates those grass-eat­ing mam­mals by mil­len­nia and is in­her­ently more vi­cious.

And the vi­cious streak runs deep in the Aven­ta­dor’s DNA; from the Coun­tach to the Di­ablo and Mur­ciélago, a deep-seated de­sire to frighten and maim has been part and par­cel of the breed’s le­gend. As su­per­cars have be­come more ap­proach­able, with en­gine ca­pac­i­ties and cylin­ders mak­ing way for whistling tur­bos and whin­ing elec­tric mo­tors, the Aven­ta­dor has stood out like a big, an­gry di­nosaur hatched from the same clutch that spawned Godzilla. The big Lambo was never a car in which you could poo­tle down to the shops, a trait both it and its han- dlers were only too proud of.

It did, how­ever, look like last year’s mild facelift might’ve di­luted some of that Me­so­zoic Era mojo. While be-fanged fron­tend styling, ex­tra air in­takes on the roof and a tweaked en­gine might’ve given this S de­riv­a­tive an even scarier vis­age to com­ple­ment its 30 kw gain in power, the car now also had four-wheel steer­ing in its AWD sys­tem, a re­pro­grammed sus­pen­sion and fet­tled steer­ing all ap­par­ently de­signed to make for more as­sured han­dling.

Well, I had the chance to drive the Road­ster S in its nat­u­ral habi­tat and I can as­sure you it re­tains all the squinty-eyed cun­ning of its ances­tors. Elec­tric prods may now be the means of con­trol but goad­ing it through Kyalami’s 14 cor­ners and two straights made it per­fectly clear this was a beast merely bid­ing its time, wait­ing pa­tiently to pun­ish any lapse in con­cen­tra­tion with a neat row of nee­dle-sharp teeth marks.

Not that it doesn’t cau­tion you right up front, though. There are enough vis­ual clues both in­side and out clearly com­mu­ni­cat­ing ex­actly what you’re sign­ing up for here. From the over­lap­ping glass scales re­veal­ing a huge 12-cham­ber heart puls­ing within a car­bon-fi­bre har­ness, to scis­sor doors which seem more in­clined to sever a limb than wel­come you within, there’s no doubt what you’re about to poke in the chest once you push the starter but­ton.

On ex­it­ing Kyalami’s pits on a sight­ing lap, the Aven­ta­dor seems rel­a­tively docile. De­spite be­ing in corsa (i.e. track) mode, keep­ing the revs be­tween 3 000 and 5 000 r/min makes for a car that feels en­tirely man­age­able. The seven-speed trans­mis­sion’s se­quen­tial-man­ual ISR swaps cogs rel­a­tively smoothly, the steer­ing feels nice and ac­cu­rate, and the four-wheel steer­ing per­suades the heavy rear to obe­di­ently fol­low the front around tight cor­ners.

Lap two on­wards, though, is noth­ing like that.

From 6 000 to the 8 500 r/min red­line, the en­gine note turns into a howl send­ing alarm bells ring­ing down my own an­ces­tral DNA. Gear changes hit me in the small of the back like an Anky­losaurus tail club; what a mo­ment ago was the dis­tant end of the main straight is now sud­denly a sweep­ing left-han­der re­quir­ing my ur­gent at­ten­tion. The brakes, thank­fully, are mighty and the ESC’S anger­man­age­ment sys­tem floods the rep­til­ian brain with enough calm­ing nar­cotics to keep it from buck­ing in protest.

The turn-in is ul­tra sharp as the big su­per­car piv­ots on its axis and the rear swings round. It’s a dis­con­cert­ing feel­ing, es­pe­cially through The Esses, where the rear-wheel steer­ing gives the back-end a dis­tinctly floaty feel­ing; like it’s about to slap you across the back of the head with ir­recov­er­able over­steer. Only, it doesn’t. In­stead, the big Aven­ta­dor swivels its hips and slith­ers left and right, snaking through the cor­ners with a prac­tised and dis­tinctly preda­tory dis­po­si­tion.

At pace, Mi­ne­shaft’s sweep­ing de­scent is all about trust­ing your car. Or, in this case, one’s T-rex. Thank­fully, mine seems to have caught the scent of its nest and, with only to­ken snaps at my flanks through Chee­tah and Ingwe cor­ners, heads obe­di­ently into the pits.

So, yes, Lam­borgh­ini may have ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered one or two nods to ci­vil­ity into its big, anachro­nis­tic su­per­car but you’d be un­wise to ig­nore the strat­egy of ex­treme cau­tion pi­o­neered by our own ances­tors. It may now be more ag­ile and per­haps in­spire a lit­tle more con­fi­dence … but what a clever hunt­ing tac­tic that is. Be lulled into un­shack­ling its re­straints and you have a glo­ri­ous mav­er­ick of a su­per­car con­tin­u­ing to forge a lone path down an aban­doned evo­lu­tion­ary branch that we will all be sorry to see wither. It re­mains a car to spawn posters above kids’ beds and make their fathers want to hide be­neath their own.

from top right Ac­tive rear wing pops up depend­ing on speed and the se­lected drive mode; there are four drive-mode op­tions sited above the red starter but­ton: strada (nor­mal), sport, corsa (track) and ego (which al­lows you to tai­lor your pow­er­train, steer­ing and sus­pen­sion set­tings); the elec­tric rear win­dow in­vites in the beat of the V12 pow­er­plant.

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