Lamborghini’s Avent-garde offering
I’m sat in the pit lane at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, home to the Spanish Grand Prix. The late-morning sun is beating down on my thinning pate. The door of my Lamborghini is wide open, as vertical as a flagpole. I’m attempting to gently extricate myself from its Spartan interior, and I can feel that my legs are weak.
Adrenaline is thundering through my bloodstream, my pulse is racing and perspiration is glistening on my forehead, starting to make its way south, down the nape of my neck. I’m having enormous difficulty computing what just happened, and as I turn to look behind at the driver behind me in the next car, I can tell in an instant he’s feeling the exact same way – it’s written in big bold letters across his beaming yet confused face.
Any Lamborghini is special, but this brutal machine, the new Aventador SV, is beyond that. It’s the most powerful, fastest and most focused road car ever made by the company that everyone knows as the really bad boy of the reprobate end of the motoring industry. And this car – a descriptor that really is inadequate – is the maddest. If it were a person, it would be legally forced to attend anger-management sessions to work out its “issues” before being allowed back into society.
SV is a moniker first attached to a Lamborghini in 1971, when it denoted the ultimate Miura. The wider track, the bulging rear, childbearing hips and the less fussy front end that managed very well without the pretty “eyelids” that surrounded the headlamps of the achingly pretty original, along with deeper dish alloy wheels and fatter tyres, turned it into what, to my eyes at least, is the sexiest-looking automobile that ever turned a wheel. It was more powerful, too, and many of the foibles that blighted the first Miuras had been ironed out. It was, and still is, the finest iteration of the first bona fide supercar.
While nobody could say with a straight face that the Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce (to give it its full nomenclature) is a thing of unspeakable beauty, it’s still the ultimate version of a supercar that has come to redefine the sector – one that has no real rivals or peers. The Aventador, in so many ways, was already at the top of the food chain. But this thing? This thing is the T-Rex. It’s the great white shark. It’s the roaring African lion. It’s the Terminator; the H-bomb.
The reason, after managing to stand up straight, I’m walking a bit strangely towards the garages (where I fully intend to order a double espresso and have a lengthy sit down) is that I was just privileged to be in the first group of just six journalists in the world to drive the SV in anger. And that’s a most appropriate word, because I feel like I’ve tapped into a seam of pure malevolent evil — and next time, I might not make it out of that scissor door alive.
I jest, because help is at hand when it comes to taming the beast. There needs to be, because, as hinted at in its full model designation, there are 750 horses flexing their sinewy muscles every time the V12 naturally aspirated masterpiece of an engine is let off its leash. There’s simply no way that amount of firepower could ever be deployed to any road surface by a mere mortal such as myself without some electronic wizardry keeping driver and automobile in one piece.
Just a few days previously, Lamborghini announced to the world that the Aventador SV, while undergoing testing of its bespoke Pirelli tyres, posted a lap time at the fearsome Nürburgring Nordschleife track of less than seven minutes. In one fell swoop, the company was able to silence its critics – people who should know better, who have accused Lamborghini of building cars driven only by those who cannot drive – by positioning itself in the pantheon of true greats. To manage a sub-seven-minute lap time of that tortuous circuit, you need to be at the top of your game – and if you believe the naysayers, have a motorsport heritage that goes back decades. Lamborghini has, to put it mildly, just told everyone where they can shove their half-baked opinions and prejudices. After just a few laps of this Spanish circuit, I get it. I fully understand what the SV is all about.
But there’s much more to come in the way of precious seat time on this track (we’ve been granted the full F1 loop today), and I know, jelly legs notwithstanding, there are deeper depths still to be plumbed. The Aventador SV would, if time permitted, take years to show its full spectrum of colours.
Superveloce (say “sooopah-veloh’chay”) translates into English as “pretty darn fast”. It’s nothing if not rapid, among the very fastest road legal cars in history. It’s also destined to be extremely rare, with only 600 being offered for sale (500 have been snapped up already, so get in quick if you fancy one). Yet that doesn’t seem to have stifled Lamborghini’s creativity when it comes to the way this thing has been engineered to differentiate itself from the “regular” Aventador.
For starters, it’s 50kg lighter, thanks to more liberal use of carbon fibre in its construction. The CF tub remains, but the cabin is now almost entirely bereft of trim, with no carpets and precious little in the way of luxury. The specially designed seats are manually adjustable and fixed back, meaning adjustment is limited to fore and aft, and the whole vibe is one of no-nonsense, sensory overload. Especially once the 6.5L V12 behind you is ignited.
The numbers at play here are intimidating, even if the mad looks aren’t enough to cause sleep loss. A new exhaust system has liberated more power (50hp more, to be exact) and the SV pumps 750hp to all its wheels via a seven-speed, single-clutch robotic manual gearbox and a new Haldex four-wheel-drive system. Maximum speed is electronically limited, but it’s still quoted as more than 350kph, while the 0-to-100kph sprint takes 2.8 seconds. Keep on it, and the SV will hit 200kph in another 5.8 seconds, while 300kph will flash up on the bright-yellow TFT display 15.4 seconds later. Make no mistake, this is one of the world’s least compromised performers.
It’s the way this car delivers its hit, though, that takes the breath away. As I’m beckoned back into the next car for the next few lap sessions, my willingness to experiment with the SV’s adjustability reaps huge dividends. The gearbox, says Lamborghini, has remained a comparatively agricultural robotised manual to save weight and because it delivers a particularly brutal hammer blow when you’re shifting in “Corsa” (“Race”) mode. They’re right, too, because Corsa, which could be renamed “Fury”, is initially almost too much to deal with when I’m attacking this F1 circuit. Like a lightning bolt has just delivered its death-dealing voltage to the SV’s entire structure, it’s incredibly physical – shocking, even. But unlike the standard Aventador, the gearbox offers a degree of refinement its maker says is the result of changes that will be offered across the range within a few months. Keep the revs high in Corsa mode and the changes are smoother, while, thankfully, in normal “Strada” (“Road”) mode, there’s much less of a jolt.
The steering is also quicker than before, making the SV feel more nimble than the standard Aventador, which seems to become difficult to trust the faster it’s driven. The suspension, too, combines magnetic damping with a race-inspired pushrod set-up, reducing diving under hard braking and all but eliminating body roll in tight corners – again, something that makes the normal car feel unwieldy at times when you least want it to. It feels incredibly well resolved and more than different enough to warrant its higher price tag.
Another thing worth noting is that the huge, three-stage adjustable rear carbon wing is not there simply for show. Beautifully integrated into a newly designed rear section, together with the effects of diffusers and the sharply aggressive new nose section, it generates 170 per cent more downforce than a normal Aventador. The net result is a car that feels utterly composed, no matter how quickly it’s driven, and that has been possibly my greatest surprise with the SV. It’s this composure that encourages me to attack corners faster, braking later than I might otherwise, all of which makes the experience even more of an emotional rush.
Brake-pedal travel is more excessive than I expected, too, and the retardation of the carbon ceramic stoppers is more progressive – less digital – than before, which makes for a less frantic experience on an unfamiliar track. While cornering at speed, there’s barely any detectable understeer or scrub from the front tyres, but at the same time, the rear feels totally planted – this is a machine that will hold on for dear life to whatever road surface it’s being hammered on. Switch off the electronic stability control and yes, it will step out of line, but there’s more than enough play while in Corsa or Sport modes to keep all but the most psychotic drivers entertained.
If the Aventador stands alone in supercardom without natural peers, the SV does so even more starkly. You might think of it in the same terms as a Pagani rather than any current Ferrari, but its Dh1.8 million price tag makes it a comparative bargain. If you’re sufficiently well heeled and want one of the most extreme road cars ever to set tyre on tarmac, that outlay will be worth it, because not only is this the wildest car ever to emerge from Sant’Agata Bolognese, but it could well claim to be the best. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go and lie down in a darkened corner somewhere and calm down. What a machine this thing is.
Published: May 28, 2015 04:00 AM