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Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster | Driven

Wet autumnal roads, a 770hp Aventador drop-top and one memorable way to celebrate the Lamborghini V12's swansong

By Dan Trent / Sunday, November 10, 2019

If the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster is a dinosaur among supercars it sure as hell lives up to the billing. Big, noisy and unashamedly ferocious, the days are clearly numbered for cars like this. Best enjoy them while we can, even if the reality means departing Lamborghini's fancy new Leeds showroom in decidedly authentic grim-up-north weather in search of roads to do it justice.

Obviously, I've taken the two roof panels off and stowed them in the front luggage compartment. Obviously, I'm regretting this as rain peels up the windscreen and into my face. I grimace against the cold shower, wondering if this is an unintended consequence of the SVJ's ALA 2.0 opening the flaps in the front bumper for the active aero's low-drag setting. And whether this will actually get any more fun once we hit the hopefully quieter roads of the Yorkshire Dales. Maybe the whole supercar thing actually is better enjoyed vicariously, the realities of how much of this car I'll l get to appreciate likely to fall some way short of the expectation.

Then I give myself a stern talking to. I'm driving a Lamborghini. A proper Lamborghini, with an outrageous 770hp V12 engine, bronze coloured wheels and a massive wing on the back. Opportunities like this are to be savoured, whatever the weather.

If you're one of those sniggering at the Aventador then, sorry, we can't be friends. Of course it's over the top. Embrace the silliness. Engage Ego mode (yes, it actually has an Ego mode) and enjoy one last blast of unadulterated V12 excess. We've often said 'they won't make cars like this again' but in the SVJ's case that feels genuinely true.

Given Lamborghini is credited with inventing the mid-engined V12 supercar it's kind of appropriate it's having the last laugh. And I've enjoyed Lamborghini's sense of mischief, ensuring there's always a noisy, naturally-aspirated alternative to make the Germans sweat for their 'ring lap records. Indeed, I remember the Geneva show where the Performante time was announced and overhearing a Porsche R&D boss indiscreetly calling BS on Lamborghini's feat to a colleague, concluding with a revealing "...and anyway, it's MY f***ing Nürburgring!"

Messing with VW group politics and Porsche's sense of entitlement is obviously a noble pursuit, the added benefit of these 'ring laps being it takes the wind out of joyless supercar snobs who think Lamborghinis are all attention-seeking style over content. Cars like the Performante and SVJ prove you can have both.

Even at walking pace an Aventador is an event. Drive a Ferrari and you'll likely score 50/50 love versus hate, expressed both ways in no uncertain terms by those around you. But the SVJ seemingly punches through obnoxious and into pure theatre, cracking smiles in everyone other than the humourless F12 TdF driver I meet coming the other way in Harrogate traffic, his eyes fixed into the middle distance pretending he can't see the idiot in the Lamborghini giving him a cheery thumbs up. The SVJ's presence may have just ruined his day. But the moment has pretty much made mine.

Clearly, it's fun as performance art. But as a car? Finding the room to explore that is difficult, even as the landscape and roads open up over Blubberhouses Moor. I've got over the awful seating position, set too high in the chassis for a car of such intent. The novelty of interacting with decade-old Audi switchgear has passed. But I'm struggling to get to grips with what the SVJ is asking for as the roads open up.

It's just too much. It takes up too much road. It's got so much power, and wants to deploy it at speeds my conscience can't live with. It has absolutely no interest in going steady. And it feels really, really angry about it, scolding against a feathered throttle with truculent chunters through the mighty V12 behind me. Keeping a lid on all this is really, really difficult, demanding intense concentration and epic levels of self-control.

But this is what I want. With the honourable exception of the Ferrari F12 and the TdF - and Superfast it's spawned - too many of the 700hp-plus club these days are too easy to drive. In the SVJ you're never allowed to forget the power at your disposal, the car angrily egging you on, frustrated if you're not responding in kind.

I've set my configurable Ego mode with the softer suspension but Corsa for everything else, on the basis there's no point trying to cruise under the radar. In usual Lamborghini fashion mid-way Sport is actually the showboater's setting, with looser stability control and greater rear-bias to the power split. But Corsa gives you the locked out Dynamic Steering for more consistency at the wheel, full aggro shifts and a relatively more balanced power delivery.

Internet wisdom will tell you Aventadors are understeering dogs, intended to push on before their ham-fisted owners do anything too silly. Through the SV's addition of a variable rack and the arrival of rear-wheel steering on the S the balance has tipped towards a sharper turn-in and more assertive sense of throttle adjustability, though. As I discover, with a bit of a pucker through a fast left-hander on the tops somewhere. The slide is mild, clearly telegraphed and easily caught long before it becomes problematic. But it's a useful reminder that you deploy 770hp and 531lb ft through P Zero Corsas on a wet road with caution. Again, I'm fine with this. It damn well ought to make you thoughtful.

And, god, the noise. It's intense enough you feel like your head is resting between the cylinder banks, the gnashing of valves, sniffs of fuel being injected into the cylinders, clunks of the transmission and epic bellow of the superbike-like exhausts every bit as thrilling as you'd hope. Peak power doesn't come until just 200rpm short of the 8,700rpm redline, the pace at two thirds of that already beyond what feels comfortable. Clammy palms await further exploration, a committed upshift dropping you bang into the angriest bit of the powerband to unleash yet another explosion of rampant acceleration. Ooh it's good.

Even at a fraction of its ability levels the SVJ demands full application, the rate with which it builds revs and speed always a little beyond what feels sensible. I'd be happy with a bit more brake pedal but the fact it's set for using my left foot is satisfying, less for trailing them into the corners but more for the ability to pick up the throttle earlier as the four-wheel steering encourages.

People have criticised the single clutch automated manual for being at least a decade out of date for a car of this type but, frankly, the need to work with it rather than mindlessly flick paddles is a win in my book. Executing a clean shift demands precise timing and quick coordination of hands and feet, the ugly pause in the power delivery and ensuing lurch your reprimand for getting it wrong. Again, a sense of consequence for your actions not present in more polished rivals. Fine by me.

I'd not usually opt for the open version of a track-orientated machine like the SVJ. But I'm happy to leave the roof panels stowed, satisfied the open roof isn't messing with the aero balance too badly at these speeds. The Roadster is 50kg heavier than the more purist coupe but doubles as a hardtop with the panels in place so the perceived credibility compromise is less than it otherwise might be. Given the choice I'd probably still have the coupe. But as the skies darken and brooding clouds loom over the hilltops, the experience of driving this car open to the air adds a level of intensity.

Pitiful headlight range cools the boots somewhat, likewise the tight and twisty nature of the roads. The pushrod suspension helps tip the ratio more toward sprung than unsprung weight, helping the set-up feel surprisingly supple. It's out of answers through one violent direction change though, the Aventador's bulk overwhelming the dampers with a violent and unsettling corkscrew motion. When the nose then bottoms out through a compression I decide it's time to up the damping to a more supportive mode and here the SVJ feels more contained. Relatively. Because it's still way, way too much car for the road, leaving me feeling like Wile E. Coyote astride an out-of-control Acme rocket, eyes bulging in terror.

This mini Yorkshire roadtrip was supposed to be an opportunity to experience the full Lamborghini range, Huracan and Urus included. I've only got eyes for one car though, good fortune and my onward travel plans meaning I end up tasked with driving it back across the now pitch-black moors to safe overnight accommodation at the new dealership. I back it into the immaculate workshop, cooling fans whirring noisily, a layer of winter grime all over it and the adrenaline slowly subsiding. The experience has been noisy, at moments terrifying, never less than life-affirming and, to an extent, poignant. I've not even tasted a fraction of what this car is capable of. But it's more than most ever will. And equips me with a story to bore the hell out of any poor soul sharing an autonomous electric pod with me when cars like this are but a distant memory.

6,498cc V12
Transmission: 7-speed Independent Shifting Rods single-clutch automated manual, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 770@8,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 531@6,750rpm
0-62mph: 2.9sec
Top speed: 217mph
Weight: 1,575kg (dry)
MPG: Like it matters
CO2: 486g/km
Price: £387,987 before options

Photos: Lamborghini/Charlie Magee

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