Lam­borgh­ini Aven­ta­dor SVJ

More power, trick aero and a track-ready chas­sis

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Words Chris Chilton Pho­tog­ra­phy Char­lie Magee

‘DID YOU CHANGE the tyres?’ laughs Lam­borgh­ini de­sign boss Mitja Bork­ert as the Aven­ta­dor SVJ slews side­ways and he throws on a half turn of lock, first one way and then the other like he’s mix­ing cock­tails at a swanky ho­tel bar. ‘It feels like it’s on Pirelli Cin­tu­ratos!’ he says, re­fer­ring to the skinny, bal­loon-like CN12 rub­ber the Miura wore, as he saws at the flat-bot­tomed wheel, just man­ag­ing to keep the car off the grass. But not for long. The Aven­ta­dor is wide and heavy, and even the quick-think­ing four-wheel-drive sys­tem shut­tling torque to the front wheels can’t neu­tralise the sick­en­ing yaw of a car that seems mag­net­i­cally at­tracted to the crash bar­ri­ers.

Re­set. For­tu­nately, we’re saved the sound of a third of a mil­lion quid’s worth of hy­per­car at­tempt­ing to fuse with 30 me­tres of barely yield­ing fence. Mitja is driv­ing Lam­borgh­ini’s de­vel­op­ment sim­u­la­tor. But if he’d man­aged to snaf­fle the keys to a real Aven­ta­dor SVJ and head out on the track, which is just a few steps away, he’d have no­ticed lit­tle dif­fer­ence.

We’re 15 miles to the west of Lis­bon in Por­tu­gal, for the launch of the SVJ. The Es­to­ril cir­cuit has, un­for­tu­nately for Lam­borgh­ini, been the re­cip­i­ent of a well in­ten­tioned but dis­as­trous bit of titi­va­tion. With­out think­ing to men­tion it to Lam­borgh­ini the Es­to­ril team has re-laid the en­tire track sur­face. Blacker than the in­side of a mole’s un­der­stairs cup­board, it looks stun­ning, like the whole three-mile loop has been smoth­ered in glass. Un­for­tu­nately the sur­face hasn’t had the chance to bed in and it’s got the grip co-ef­fi­cient to match.

Teas­ing the Aven­ta­dor SVJ’s nose into Es­to­ril’s tighter cor­ners is a test of pa­tience and sen­si­tiv­ity, and even when you do get it hooked up the painful sound of rub­ber strug­gling to find pur­chase is like lis­ten­ing to ’73 Mus­tang chas­ing a sea lion round a multi-storey car park.

‘I have brought 240 sets of tyres,’ ex­plains Lam­borgh­ini’s ever-smil­ing (but less so to­day) tech­ni­cal boss, Mau­r­izio Reg­giani. ‘Not 240 tyres, but 240 sets of tyres, for five days’ driv­ing,’ he con­tin­ues. ‘And we’ll prob­a­bly fin­ish the day with the orig­i­nal sets still on the cars.’ Great news for Lambo’s

ac­coun­tants; less so for those of us here to ex­pe­ri­ence Lam­borgh­ini’s fastest, most ex­treme pro­duc­tion road car yet. Rub­bing salt in the wound is the knowl­edge that McLaren hosted the world’s me­dia here just a few weeks be­fore the work be­gan. CAR’s James Tay­lor dis­cov­ered the Senna had so much grip McLaren’s techs al­most had to chisel the tar­mac from the tyres to load the cars back into the truck. Mis­chievous minds might won­der if the Wok­ing boys hadn’t left the Es­to­ril team an unusu­ally large tip…

At £750,000 plus tax the Senna is more than dou­ble the price of the £350k (all-in) SVJ, and its 500-unit pro­duc­tion run (ver­sus 900 for the Lambo) will make it al­most twice as rare. But at heart th­ese two are cut from the same wo­ven stuff. They’re both built around a stiff car­bon struc­ture, to which are bolted alu­minium struc­tures con­tain­ing the com­pli­cated bits. They both fea­ture more aero than a Santa’s sleigh full of se­lec­tion boxes, both reach 62mph in 2.8sec and are de­signed with track use firmly in mind. And they both fea­ture names de­signed to make us come over all nos­tal­gic.

Chances are you’re fa­mil­iar with Lam­borgh­ini’s Su­per

Ve­loce tag by now. It’s been used on and off over the years to de­note Lambo’s hottest big cars, start­ing with the Miura SV, and later the Di­ablo, Mur­cielago and Aven­ta­dor SV, which lapped the Nord­schleife in 6m 59sec in 2015, mak­ing it just 2sec slower than the then champ, Porsche’s 918 hy­per­car.

But this is the first time Lam­borgh­ini has re­vis­ited the SVJ name it ap­plied to a tiny num­ber of highly spe­cialised Mi­uras in the early ’70s. The story starts with Lam­borgh­ini’s Kiwi-born en­gi­neer, Bob Wal­lace, who wanted to take the Miura rac­ing. A for­mer race me­chanic, he be­gan mod­i­fy­ing one of the then new Miura Ss in line with the FIA’s ap­pen­dix J reg­u­la­tions, cre­at­ing the Miura Jota. Wider arches were riv­eted to the steel body, the en­gine was tuned to pro­duce a claimed 440bhp, and at the front there was a rac­ing fuel filler in the bon­net and a chin spoiler de­signed to curb the Miura’s ten­dency to lift its nose at speed like a Vic­to­rian toff strid­ing through a street full of peas­ants.

But Fer­ruc­cio Lam­borgh­ini – who, old-timer Lambo en­gi­neers have told me, could barely drive, let alone put in a hot lap – wasn’t in­ter­ested in rac­ing, pre­fer­ring to con­cen­trate4

on sell­ing the new Miura SV road car and pre­par­ing for its Coun­tach suc­ces­sor. The one-off Jota was sold (and, un­for­tu­nately, later writ­ten off). But word got out about the myth­i­cal would-be racer and cus­tomers be­gan re­quest­ing some­thing sim­i­lar. Never one to refuse a blank cheque, Lam­borgh­ini obliged, build­ing be­tween five and seven (de­pend­ing who you ask) Mi­uras to SVJ spec. Each car re­tained the full road-car in­te­rior but re­ceived sus­pen­sion mods, cru­cial body­work tweaks and clas­sic tun­ing to lib­er­ate a few more horses from the nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated V12.

That en­gine, orig­i­nally de­signed by Giotto Biz­zarrini for the front-en­gined 350GT in 1963, died with the Mur­cielago in 2011. But some things don’t change. There are still 12 cylin­ders. Still zero tur­bos. That makes the Aven­ta­dor a rare beast. You can count on the fin­gers of a Simp­son hand the num­ber of Eu­ro­pean sports car mak­ers still crank­ing out nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated V12s, and once Aston’s Rapide has switched to EV power Homer could have an ac­ci­dent with a band saw and he’d still be able to list them.

By the end of Es­to­ril’s 985-me­tre straight with the kitty lit­ter ap­proach­ing rapidly be­tween the ele­phant’s-leg A-pil­lars we’re pulling an in­di­cated 173mph and I’m feel­ing slightly yel­low my­self. Mod­i­fied cylin­der heads with ti­ta­nium in­take valves and new port run­ners have helped lift power to 760bhp, com­pared with 740bhp for the old SV and 730bhp for the still-cur­rent Aven­ta­dor S. There’s a lighter fly­wheel and 8700rpm red­line. If it wasn’t for the need to turn right af­ter the start-fin­ish line you could wind the SVJ out to 217mph. If it weren’t for tur­bocharg­ers ev­ery su­per­car would still sound this spec­tac­u­lar.

Turbo’d su­per­cars try to kid you that vol­ume is enough. Lam­borgh­ini re­minds us it isn’t. Pushed to call it I’d say Fer­rari’s V12 sounds even bet­ter, but this is still one of the best noises on sale to­day. And that sound adds so much to the ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery time you stretch out your right leg, you barely care that you can go quicker, and for less cash, in other cars. Helped by its four-wheel-drive sys­tem the Aven­ta­dor can reach 124mph from rest in 8.6sec. McLaren’s £209k 720S, with only two wheels earn­ing their keep, does it in 7.8. The Senna, which is pack­ing an­other 29bhp over the SVJ and weighs 327kg less, cleaves an­other sec­ond off that.

Nei­ther sounds any­thing like as ex­cit­ing, but with their slick dual-clutch trans­mis­sions flit­ting be­tween ra­tios as ef­fort­lessly as an Os­car nom­i­nee work­ing the crowd at a Hol­ly­wood party, both re­mind that the SVJ’s clunky se­quen­tial gear­box (no dual-clutch here) is as retro as that name. On track the auto mode is un­bear­ably pon­der­ous. Switch­ing to man­ual is a must. Switch to Corsa mode and you’ve got no4

choice. It’s man­ual or go home. As with lesser Aven­ta­dors you still get the choice of Strada or Sport driv­ing modes, though un­like on the S the in­stru­ment graph­ics re­main mostly un­changed with each press of the but­ton. Since we didn’t get to do any road driv­ing we skipped straight to Corsa, which is pun­ish­ing in ev­ery sense. Gears slam home bru­tally and the steer­ing feels oner­ously weighty. But stung by whinges (from press, not pun­ters) about the vari­able-ra­tio steer­ing sys­tem, Lam­borgh­ini has fixed the steer­ing ra­tio in Corsa for more con­sis­tency.

The tyres might be strug­gling for grip, but the steer­ing cer­tainly doesn’t strug­gle to let you know about it. The feel and re­sponse are both ex­cel­lent; the trac­tion too. And as the day wears on and the track dries out, it gets even bet­ter. There’s more bite from the front tyres, more clue to what it must feel like in ideal con­di­tions. But not enough to get the full SVJ ex­pe­ri­ence, to get a feel for ex­actly how the new four-wheel­steer sys­tem in­her­ited from the Aven­ta­dor S re­ally works, to ap­pre­ci­ate the ac­tive aero that can chan­nel downforce left and right across the rear spoiler, or to get com­fort­able with the way the rear can move when you bar­rel hot into a cor­ner on a trail­ing throt­tle and climb onto the hugely pow­er­ful brakes.

Lam­borgh­ini has killed the S’s safer, sta­bil­is­ing un­der­steer by open­ing the cen­tre clutch to cut drive to the front wheels in those sit­u­a­tions. This gives the SVJ a much more dy­namic, edgier feel than the S, and makes it harder for the av­er­age driver to get the most out of it. But it gives it a depth of char­ac­ter. This isn’t the kind of car that gives up all its se­crets in the first few min­utes.

Even if the sur­face had been per­fect, the car would have felt dif­fer­ent to the ’Ring record car. That time was set us­ing the op­tional Tro­feo R rub­ber, whereas we’re run­ning the stan­dard Pirelli P Zero Cor­sas. Think syrup ver­sus trea­cle. Sticky, but not stick­i­est.

An en­gi­neer tells me the Tro­feo is worth about 10sec on a lap at the Nür­bur­gring. For the first half of the lap, their per­for­mance is sim­i­lar, but be­yond that point the Tro­feo R main­tains its per­for­mance while the Corsa be­gins to fade. That the SVJ is the cur­rent Nür­bur­gring champ gives both the Aven­ta­dor and Lam­borgh­ini cred­i­bil­ity. But Nord­schleife records seem to tum­ble so reg­u­larly that by 2020 it’s rea­son­able to as­sume some hy­per­car will ac­tu­ally be able to cross the fin­ish line be­fore it’s even set off. And if, as seems likely, McLaren dis­man­tles the SVJ’s record like a tod­dler stum­bling into a half-prepped game of Domino Rally, what will that mean for the SVJ?

For all the fo­cus on lap times, there’s more to the SVJ than num­bers. It’s about the ab­surd emo­tional con­nec­tion a man can make with a ma­chine. The SVJ is a big, bad car­i­ca­ture of a car that’s as much about cruis­ing round Knights­bridge as it is help­ing owner set a new PB at the ’Ring. (‘Just did a nine-fifty seven, brah. See you at the Pis­ten­klause!’)

It’s about look­ing the part in a way the Senna doesn’t, about giv­ing the fin­ger to forced in­duc­tion and turbo lag and so what if its 542g/km CO2 out­put makes it so filthy the of­fi­cial Lam­borgh­ini car cover ought to be a grubby rain­coat?

That fig­ure will fall when Lam­borgh­ini re­places this car with a new-gen­er­a­tion su­per­car, hy­bridised to keep the nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated V12 alive, and with a much-needed twin-clutch trans­mis­sion. Un­til that ar­rives the best-driv­ing Lam­borgh­ini you can cur­rently buy is the smaller, cheaper Hu­ra­can Per­for­mante. But it doesn’t stop us want­ing this one any less.

CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRI­GADEThe SVJ might be 20 times heav­ier than a HondaTo­day scooter, but it’s also 200 times more pow­er­ful…

40% MORE DOWNFORCE Aven­ta­dor SVJ bor­rows ALA airlow tech­nol­ogy from Hu­ra­can Per­for­mante, with ac­tive laps front and rear. Rear wing draws air through base of cen­tre py­lon, then pushes it out along the wing’s un­der­side. Flaps work to pro­vide more downforce to the in­side wheel dur­ing cor­ner­ing. Downforce is im­proved by 40per cent front and rear. MORE VENTS THAN SUR­FACE Like all Aven­ta­dors, SVJ is built around a strong car­bonibre cen­tral struc­ture. Subframes are alu­minium, as are bon­net, front wings and doors. En­gine cover is car­bonibre. It’s the most-vented Lambo body ever. Weight is the same (1525kg, dry) as the old SV, but 327kg more thanMcLaren Senna. EN­GINE: NOW WITH 760BHP V12 sticks with the same 6.5-litre ca­pac­ity but gets shorter in­take run­ners, lower-fric­tion in­ter­nals and a lighter ly­wheel. Power climbs 20bhp over the old SV’s to 760bhp, but the big news is the torque. The 513lb ft doesn’t ar­rive un­til 6750rpm, but the curve is much fat­ter in the mid-range.’RING READY CHAS­SISSVJ adopts four-wheel-steer tech­nol­ogy from Aven­ta­dor S, while roll bars are 50 per cent sti˜er than old SV’s and damp­ing force is up 15 per cent. Vari­able-ra­tio dy­namic steer­ing is stan­dard, but the ra­tio is ixed in Corsa mode. Stock rub­ber is a be­spoke com­pound Pirelli P Zero Corsa, but Pirelli’s road-le­gal (but very track-fo­cused) Tro­feo R is an op­tion worth 10sec at the Nord­schleife.

Tacho is the only dial that mat­ters in al­can­taratrimmed cabin

High-mounted ex­hausts and ac­tive aero are in­spired by the Hu­ra­can Per­for­mante. V12 is pure Aven­ta­dor

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