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Wednesday 4th May 2011


DRIVEN: LAMBORGHINI AVENTADOR

Larger than life and twice as noisy - the latest Lambo unleashed


Ferruccio Lamborghini would have approved of the Aventador, you suspect. For starters itís named after a particularly famous Spanish fighting bull Ė as so many Lamborghinis were under his watch. Second, with its carbon fibre monocoque, 690bhp V12 engine and fully on-board pushrod suspension, it is bound to put one right up Ferrari. And thatís what Ferruccio would have enjoyed most about his companyís latest and greatest creation.


Heíd also have liked the way it looks. Which is to say; big, ballsy, slightly frightening perhaps, and very definitely NOT like any Ferrari. From every angle, in fact, the Aventador could be mistaken for nothing other than a Lamborghini.

The difference this time around, though, is that what lies beneath the comically extrovert skin is very much at the cutting edge of things technically. So although the Aventador continues the theme of the big, hairy Lambo on the outside, on the inside itís a 22nd century machine Ė with a brand new 6.5-litre V12 engine thatís mated to a seven-speed, single clutch paddle shift gearbox whether you like it or not, plus carbon ceramic brakes, like them or not.

The price? In the UK itís listed as £201,900 plus local taxes, which means £242,280 if youíre happy to pay VAT at the full 20 per cent. You could, alternatively, register your Aventador in a country where less VAT applies and then craftily bring it back to the UK, which is what many owners do, hence the reason Lamborghini itself quotes the price as Ďplus local taxes.í


And for this you get a car that, as weíll see, doesnít just look dramatic but which is dramatic Ė impossibly so in most dimensions on the road Ė and which can hit 62mph in 2.9sec on the track before topping out at 217mph.

Even as you walk up to the Aventador, the nerves begin to squirm in the bottom of your stomach; it really is that kind of car. And when you thumb the door handle, releasing a vast scissor door towards the sky, and then peer inside, the intimidation factor goes up a gear again. The high backed driverís seat looks miles away, nestling down on the floor, and the new centre console appears festooned with switches, only some of which are recognisable from the Audi stable (and are actually none the worse for that).


And once youíre ensconced behind the wheel, several thoughts rapidly occur. One, how much better the driving position is compared with the Murcielagoís. Two, how clear the new digitised instruments look, even if they do seem a bit juvenile visually. Three, how much visibility there is all round. Four, and as a result of the above, how much less claustrophobic it seems in here, sitting behind this new steering wheel (than it was in the Murcielago).

So then you find and prod the starter button that sits dead centre in the console, and discover that you are greeted by a fantastic, perhaps slightly ridiculous burst of revs once the engine catches. Like it or not the V12 waps itself right round to nearly 4000rpm on start up. If nothing else it focuses the mind, reminds you precisely what sort of car you are driving, and whispers metaphorically; Ďthereís 690bhp back there, Eugene, so careful with that axe, my friend.í


Select first and move away and more thoughts flood the mind. The throttle response is just right; not to manic, not too mushy; and the weighting of the pedal itself is approximately 150,000 times better than of old. The steering, too, is eerily light to begin with yet the accuracy and feel of the system is sweetly judged, and thereís not so much of a hint of shake through the steering column, a long time affliction of the Murcielago.

Select Ďstradaí from the three drive modes (there is also sport and corsa) with manual gear shifting, and initially the gearbox seems slow to react, so immediately you select sport and it seems more in tune with your own rhythms. The ride is firm to the point of irritation on this roughest of roads the test route starts on, but later it will smooth out and the ride will become one of the carís more impressive features as the roads get less dreadful.


The first proper straight appears in the windscreen and, for half a second you savour the moment, relishing the calm before the storm. And then you flick the left hand gear paddle to select second, pause for another half second, then weld the accelerator to the floor. And from that moment everything changes. There is so much noise, so much pure energy released from just behind your right ear, itís all you can do to keep your eyes focused on the road ahead.

The punch in your kidneys is genuinely violent when the Aventador takes off, but itís the sound coming from the exhaust as the V12 howls up through 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000 Ė literally as fast as you can read that Ė and then slams into its limiter at 8500rpm; thatís what really gets you. Thatís what delights/scares/astonishes and essentially violates you, all at the same time.


And when you flick the right paddle at full throttle and thereís a huge thump from behind as the next gear goes in (they designed it to feel as dramatic as possible at full noise during upshifts in corsa mode), the sense of acceleration seems every bit as vicious, even in third. And itís not a whole lot less in fifth, as youíll discover later, on a different stretch of road.

What youíll also discover between those two roads is just how beautifully judged the Aventadorís chassis is; how incisive its turn in is, how little inertia it suffers from when you fire it towards the apex of a third gear, off camber right hander; and how well it stops when you get it wrong and need to rub off another 10mph before committing to the next bend.


And how much traction there is on the exit of corners, thatís a proper mind-bender actually. Even on rough roads and in second gear the Aventador, thanks largely to its Haldex 4WD system, will just about take full throttle Ė with only a flicker from its TC light indicating that the 335 rear tyres are beginning to lose their battle. Considering thereís 690bhp and 508lb ft trying to wrestle its way out on to the road below, this is extraordinary for any car, let alone one that weighs a mere 1575kg dry.

Iím not sure Iíve driven a big mid-engined car that feels more planted than this over a not-so-brilliantly surfaced road. And in the end thatís whatís so perplexingly impressive about the Aventador; itís so much better sorted dynamically than its predecessor, the dear old Murcielago, you almost wouldnít credit them from the same company (even if the Murcielago remains the more characterful of the pair in certain respects, visually being one of them IMO).


Is it up there with the new McLaren? Not sure, not quite perhaps because the McLaren does things that arenít, you suspect, scientifically possible. But in a way Iím glad the Aventador doesnít go down that route.

At its core it remains a very big, very loud, very mad mid-engined Lamborghini. Which is just how it should be. If theyíd made it any more capable dynamically, after all, too much of that madness would have been eradicated, and the Aventador might have misplaced its mojo as a result.

As it is, though, itís marvellous. With a very large capital F.







Author: sutters