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Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Roadster: Review

Characterful but flawed - but will its buyers really give a damn?

By Dan Prosser / Thursday, May 16, 2013

For all its theatrical styling, the

of 2005 was a flawed car for two reasons. Firstly, the decapitated body structure lacked an awful lot of torsional rigidity – β€œThe old girls flexed so much we thought the windscreens would pop out when they were driven out of the showroom,” said one senior Lamborghini figure – and secondly, the canvas roof was comical at best. It leaked like a sieve, took 20 minutes to erect, looked faintly ridiculous in situ and simply blew off at three-figure speeds.

There isn't much that looks angrier

There isn't much that looks angrier

The technical information for the Aventador Roadster suggests that those two concerns have been rectified. The new car’s torsional rigidity is actually better than that of the

, and the removable roof is now solid carbon fibre. A twin-panel item, it stows in just a couple of minutes and does a good impression of a fixed roof when in place, but when stashed in the front boot there’s only enough luggage space left over for a pair of soft leather moccasins. Overall, though, it’s a better and more practical solution than the old flying squirrel assembly.

Whipping the roof panels off also seems to visually lower the car’s overall height and exaggerate its width. In the manner of a great Lamborghini, the Roadster is sensational to behold and entirely OTT. When viewed alongside a Murcielago, though, the details do seem fussy.

Attention seeker
The cabin matches the exterior’s flamboyance ahere can be no doubt that you’re at the helm of a genuine, fearsome supercar. In common with the coupe, the basic structure is a carbon fibre monocoque – hence that much improved rigidity – and the engine is an all-new 6.5-litre V12 that’s good for 700hp at a scarcely believable 8,250rpm. The only transmission option is an automated seven-speed gearbox with four-wheel drive. The brakes are carbon ceramic, and the suspension uses a sophisticated push-rod layout.

Fast corners bring the big Lambo to life

Fast corners bring the big Lambo to life

Can a mid-engined V12 supercar ever feel at home in the city? The Roadster does little to convince us that it can, because although there is reasonable visibility fore and aft, the ride is very firm indeed and the gearbox can be downright infuriating. Upshifts are very jerky unless you lift off the throttle deliberately, and kickdown is at first dim-witted, then violent. With no creep built into the system, low-speed maneuvering is a hassle.

Clunk click, every trip
This is a Lamborghini, not a Nissan Micra, though. As you escape the city and venture onto more open roads, the ride improves dramatically as the dampers absorb bumps and compressions quite well. Switching the gearbox into its manual setting allows you to smooth out the shifts a little, but the ’box still requires much more concentration than is ideal.

Gearbox can make tight spaces a chore

Gearbox can make tight spaces a chore

The Roadster feels alive and agile the moment you tip it into a fast corner. It responds very keenly to steering inputs and remains dead flat through to the exit. The steering is well-weighted and feels very direct, but at the turn in point to medium- and high-speed corners there is a slight disconnect that can be quite alarming. As you load up the chassis through the corner the steering weight improves and it feels an awful lot better, but the wheel never drips with feel.

Instantly, the gearbox becomes the limiting factor. The shift speeds are never in question, but the jerkiness does hamper your rhythm, so you switch the car from the default Strada mode into Sport. The gearbox becomes more intuitive and the extra steering weight helps to disguise that slight aloofness on turn in, but the dampers have now been stiffened, too. That’s fine on very smooth roads, but on lumpy surfaces the Roadster is robbed of all compliance. It no longer has sufficient damping to carry speed across even moderately broken roads.

Size matters
In second and third gear corners the Roadster feels its size and weight. There’s a slight reluctance to change direction quickly and for a split second as you jump on the brakes you fear that you aren’t going to shed sufficient speed. In fact, the brakes are consistently very strong indeed, but the pedal requires a big shove and there’s little feel. Additionally, the seats don’t offer sufficient lateral support.

Prosser gets his pose on for the cameras

Prosser gets his pose on for the cameras

The whole driving experience improves dramatically on smoother, more open roads where there is limitless pleasure to be had from pouring from one corner into another. Grip into and through corners is very strong indeed with the front axle gently letting go first if you do overcook things. Traction is all but unbreakable on the road, which inspires massive confidence when the surface is greasy. The accessibility of the Roadster’s performance is also quite surprising given its scale and the fearsome reputation of its forebears.

In the right conditions, the Roadster is epic. It doesn’t have a broad spectrum of dynamic ability, though, largely because the Strada and Sport parameters for the suspension and gearbox can’t be divorced from one another. The extreme Corsa mode is best left for circuit driving.

Heart of the matter
At all times, however, the engine is bloody marvelous. Winding it out all the way to 8,250rpm takes a few attempts because it’s such a frantic experience; the volume, the shove in the back and the rate at which the horizon crashes into the front bumper. It’s such a pleasure to enjoy a big capacity, naturally aspirated engine these days. It’s both a masterpiece and the Roadster’s centerpiece.

"Jammy whatsit helpline, how can we help?"

"Jammy whatsit helpline, how can we help?"

Like the Murcielago Roadster, this new model is characterful but flawed. It would be improved greatly by a good twin-clutch gearbox and never mind the weight penalty. The umbrella chassis and transmission modes are no doubt Lamborghini’s defiantly trademark riposte to the increasingly-complicated variable modes of its rivals, but separate parameters for the gearbox and dampers would make the Roadster a more complete performance car.

With all of that being said, it’s worth noting that many of this car’s potential buyers just won’t give a damn about its weaknesses and the brutality of the gearbox will actually be part of the appeal. For them, nothing else will come close to the primal, emotional attraction of the Aventador Roadster.


LAMBORGHINI AVENTADOR LP700-4 ROADSTER
Engine:
6,498cc V12
Transmission: 7-speed automated manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 700@8,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 507@5,500rpm
0-62mph: 3.0 sec
Top speed: 217mph
Weight: 1,625kg (dry)
MPG: 17.7 (combined)
CO2: 370g/km
Price: £294,665

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