Full disclosure: the Lamborghini Aventador S Roaster can be an absolute pain. At points, really infuriating. It’s wide enough to make an 812 feel like a Toyota GT86. It must be easier to see out of a trench. First gear is the only one that doesn’t break every law in the land. The roof must be stowed in a very precise, colour-by-numbers fashion that’s best explained on video. With the panels in situ you’d be lucky to get a bag of Lavazza beans in the front. With the panels on, head room is limited. It can’t hold radio reception. The interior displays look about as contemporary as a Blackberry. The auto mode is rubbish. Need any more?
Fear not, Lamborghini fans, there’s plenty of good things to say about the S Roaster, too, but its idiosyncrasies do raise an interesting thought: namely, how much hassle do we want with our supercars? No doubt the Aventador is easier to live with than a Murcielago, in the same way that that was more approachable than a Diablo, but the current car still intimidates like nothing else in its own era. Which, in the perverse world of fast car fascination, is part of what makes it memorable. There’s a sense that this car’s replacement will be more accommodating still - because it has to be - but whether buyers actually want that from their mid-engined, V12 Lamborghini remains to be seen. Surely a bit of hassle is what you buy into? Or could it be simply pining for a bygone age that actual owners were glad to move on from? Look how popular the original Huracan, criticised at launch for being a bit meek, has proved. A point to ponder, perhaps.
To this Aventador S Roadster, which is a new model – despite no doubt being lost in the Jota hype. Launched at the Frankfurt show towards the end of last year, it incorporates the same upgrades as the coupe – four-wheel steer, 40 more horsepower over the discontinued LP700-4, revisions to the ESC, four-wheel drive and magnetic dampers, plus 130 per cent more downforce. It weighs 1,575kg dry, makes 740hp at 8,400rpm, will go on to 217mph and costs £251,642. Even in a world of McLaren Sennas and the like, the Aventador is most certainly A Proper Supercar.
Feels like one, too. Because while the updates for this S are significant, much of what made the Aventador so special before is retained. It looks a million dollars (and could therefore be considered a bargain, right?), the width that makes you wince and a stance that mandates a nose lift working wonders for the overall aesthetic. It’s just so dramatic, yet without resorting to anything truly wild – see the lack of fixed spoilers, dive planes or absurd diffusers. There is one of the latter, of course – because you can’t magic 130 per cent more downforce out of nowhere – but there are definitely sillier ones around.
The engine remains truly, truly majestic as well. It contributes significantly to that sense of fear, too, snorting, gnashing and screaming behind and above your head – there really is no escape. But of course, once you’re a bit more settled, you’ll never, ever want to escape. This 6.5 is pure V12 ecstasy, perhaps not as savage in its appetite for revs as an 812 but so muscular, so razor sharp and so orgasmic to listen to that it’s almost inconsequential. To feel 740hp – that’s twice a 911 Carrera, don’t forget – build and build thorough a vast, searing rev range is one of the great joys on four wheels.
Then comes the gearchange.
The Independent Shifting Rod (ISR) automated manual gearbox is also unchanged for this Aventador, and isn’t exactly flawless. To be polite. Truth be told the dual-clutch options that were available at the launch of the Aventador were better than this, and conventional automatics have been for a while too. There’s a reason why every other manufacturer has abandoned them, for the simple fact that automated manuals offer the worst of both worlds: the jerkiness of a manual, with the missing interaction of an automatic. The key here is to take control of the Lamborghini’s transmission: always use the manual mode (to control the lurch), and always lift on upchanges (to minimise the lurch), and you can make progress just fine. There’s something oddly satisfying about having to collaborate with an automatic gearbox, in fact, to learn its ways and adapt your style, but there’s no escaping the fact that tech has moved on.
It’s so far, so Aventador then: amazing to look at and be around, fabulous engine, rather poor transmission. What is distinctly un-Aventador is the way this S drives, to the point it makes you wonder why it took Lamborghini so long. Be under no illusion: this is still a car that prioritises grip over feel, speed over satisfaction and neutrality over naughtiness. Yet it’s also a car that’s significantly more agile, more eager and more entertaining than a standard Aventador Roadster, which could prove rather obdurate dynamically. There was potential in there, clouded by a pessimistic set up and frustratingly locked in drive modes.
Not anymore. The four-wheel steer works wonders for making the driver feel comfortable with the Aventador’s considerable heft, the impression now being one of a slinky mid-engine sports car rather than a stubborn old heffalump. Even at road speeds the S feels more rear driven than it ever has, again aiding that sense of sports car authenticity and further distancing itself from LP700-4 with which it ostensibly shares so much. You never entirely escape the fact that it’s an 1,800kg car with a huge V12 in the middle, though this version does a far more convincing (and enjoyable) job than the standard Aventador ever has.
It gets better, too. While an individual mode is nothing new for fast cars, the Lamborghini’s ‘Ego’ option seems all the more significant because its effect is so profound. No longer must the driver endure He-Man steering and a ride more belligerent than a Twitter troll to access that V12 in its finest fury. Just select Corsa for powertrain, Strada for steering and Sport for suspension (because, while Strada is fine, it sometimes allows a bit more movement than you might like). Simples. It’s a pretty rigid roadster as well, further enhancing the sense of this being a Lambo not just for show-offs.
And even if the end result is still not the most tactile, immersive, or engaging driving experience around, it’s still far better than it was and, crucially, a drop-top V12 Lambo you can actively enjoy driving. Which is about as fabulous as it sounds. As with the Huracan Performante Spyder, the fact that the Aventador S is not quite the very finest driver’s car around matters considerably less when the roof is gone. As it often is, increased access to such magnificent engines is worth the penalty.
Therefore despite all the foibles, despite the fact it feels too large for Britain and despite the gearbox, the S Roadster is a car of real talent, and one that’s hard to resist enjoying with juvenile infatuation. The Aventador has always been a car designed to appeal to your inner child, thanks to its wild engine and incredible looks, but with the S the big Lambo finally delivers on a supercar experience enjoyable for grown-ups too. Bravo.
LAMBORGHINI AVENTADOR S LP740-4
Engine: 6,498cc V12
Transmission: 7-speed ISR (Independent Shifting Rods) automated manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 740@8,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 509@5,500rpm
Top speed: 217mph
Weight: 1,575kg (dry)
MPG: 16.7 (NEDC combined)
Price: £251,462 (as standard)