Lamborghini Aventador LP740-4 S Roadster
We drive the latest version of Lamborghini’s big, brawny supercar around Kyalami
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.