DRIVEN: LAMBORGHINI AVENTADOR
Larger than life and twice as noisy - the latest Lambo unleashed
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 it’s a 22nd century machine – with a brand new 6.5-litre V12 engine that’s 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 it’s listed as £201,900 plus local taxes, which means £242,280 if you’re 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 ‘plus local taxes.’
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 driver’s 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).
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; ‘there’s 690bhp back there, Eugene, so careful with that axe, my friend.’
Select ‘strada’ 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 car’s more impressive features as the roads get less dreadful.
The punch in your kidneys is genuinely violent when the Aventador takes off, but it’s the sound coming from the exhaust as the V12 howls up through 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000 – literally as fast as you can read that – and then slams into its limiter at 8500rpm; that’s what really gets you. That’s what delights/scares/astonishes and essentially violates you, all at the same time.
What you’ll also discover between those two roads is just how beautifully judged the Aventador’s 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.
I’m not sure I’ve driven a big mid-engined car that feels more planted than this over a not-so-brilliantly surfaced road. And in the end that’s what’s so perplexingly impressive about the Aventador; it’s so much better sorted dynamically than its predecessor, the dear old Murcielago, you almost wouldn’t 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).
At its core it remains a very big, very loud, very mad mid-engined Lamborghini. Which is just how it should be. If they’d 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, it’s marvellous. With a very large capital F.