Aventador gets a new lease of life, one that’s done nothing to unstitch the essence of Lamborghini, but a lot to smooth it out.
What is it?
It’s almost six years since Lamborghini introduced the Aventador to replace the Murcielago. Six years and although we’ve had a hot one (the SV) and one with lift out roof panels (the Roadster), the LP700-4 has otherwise soldiered on while around it the supercar market has changed beyond all recognition. The Holy Trinity have been and gone, and in pretty much the same period McLaren has gone from a standing start to having a three model range with LT this, Spider that and GTR gor-blimey.
What’s been occupying Lamborghini? Well, the Huracan obviously, plus SUV dithering and a bunch of diversionary one-offs such as the Egoista and Sesto Elemento. But Lamborghini can get away with this because there’s nothing else quite like the Aventador. It’s supercar 101: looks, noise, power, drama. Don’t overthink it, just do it. Pure pageantry. Alongside Lamborghini everyone else takes themselves too seriously. Among car companies only Lamborghini looks like it’s having fun.
Oh sure, details of the new Aventador S contain all the usual stuff about new four-wheel steering systems, a 130 per cent improvement of front axle downforce and a whole new control unit to marshall inputs from all the active systems, but none of it, no matter how high-tech, overshadows the drama.
Briefly then, this is how the Aventador S shapes up. It still uses the same central carbon tub with aluminium sub-frames fore and aft. It drives all four wheels through a central Haldex clutch. The engine is the same 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12, but the valve timing and variable intakes have been altered, yielding another 40bhp (and exactly 1lb ft more torque). The power gain is also aided by a raised rev limiter (from 8,350rpm to 8,500rpm).
But, as ever, it’s the way the Aventador looks that sets the tone for the car. It’s a jaw-dropper alright. The proportions haven’t changed much, but the nose, taking cues from the SV, is more open and aggressive, channeling cooling air past fangs and splitters to vast standard-fit 400mm ceramic brakes. Air is also swept down the flanks to the intakes – extra ducts on the roof give the S a more hunkered down stance, and together with the rear arch shape gives something of the flavour of the old Countach – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The kerbweight is the same – the rear steer mechanism added 6kg (and necessitated a wholesale redesign of the rear suspension), but a new exhaust system, rounded off by three pipes exiting in a triangle, saved 6kg, so we’re all square. There’s an active rear wing and vortex generators underneath to maximise air flow and aid brake cooling.
What is it like on the road?
This is not the Aventador we know and – mostly – love. The outgoing car was a mighty thing, but it didn’t have the liveliest chassis. You were aware it was a heavy car, dominated by its engine, not something that wanted to dance to your tune. The S is a car transformed. I’d stop short of saying it’s outright playful, but the agility, the steering, the weight management, the integration of all the systems… it’s a big, big step forward.
Central to this is the new 4WS system. Everyone is fitting these now, but Lamborghini does seem to have pushed the system further than most. The rear wheel can turn up to three degrees at low speed, giving the sense that the Aventador has a 500mm shorter wheelbase.
The Aventador S retains the sequential manual ISR seven-speed gearbox. Lamborghini claims to have sharpened it up and improved it, but compared to the latest twin clutchers, it’s a dinosaur. It may be lighter and easier to package, but the shifts are either noticeably slow or head-bangingly savage. Of course you can lift-off to smooth them out, and you could argue that this is good character-building stuff. But compare it to an Audi R8 or Ferrari 488 and it feels 20 years old.
On the inside
Layout, finish and space
Yes, there’s a lot of metalwork and engine behind to get in the way, but while others can’t see in through the slatted back deck, the view out is… tolerable, actually. The door mirrors sit proud enough of the bodywork, too. But this is a wide, wide car and very low, too.
Access is just so theatrical – the doors swing up, you step over the broad sill and then lower yourself in, down and down, until Levi’s touch leather in a seat that, well, it’s OK. Lamborghini doesn’t do great seats.
The ones in the Aventador SV are basically two paving slabs. These are better, but they’re mounted too high and you don’t snuggle down into them properly and the side bolsters aren’t big enough to hold you in place.
But sitting in the Aventador S is an event in itself and, seat aside, the driving position is great. The wheel pulls way out of the dash, you pull the door down to close it, stare out through the slot, flick up the cover on the start button, feel and hear this mighty beast fire up behind and well, life feels pretty good at that moment.