As the ferry rolls solemnly in the swell on the Irish Sea, half of a sandwich that has been shunned by a queasy passenger further along the row of seats slides gracefully down the long table in front of me as if on a rudimentary sushi bar. A moment later, it makes the return journey. The reason for enduring this mildly choppy crossing is a small sign. Or more specifically, the different meaning attached to this sign on the island we’re heading to. Usually found atop a metal pole, our sought-for emblem takes the form of a white circle with a single bold black line striking diagonally across it, top-right down to bottom-left. Where we’re going, there’s no speed limit.
Somewhere in the dark bowels below deck, sandwiched between a Nissan Primera and a small Danish camper van, is a blood-red slice of Italian aggression that really ought to have 2 Unlimited playing continually through its loudspeakers. For anyone who thinks modern Lamborghinis have gone soft, the new Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce really is a bare-knuckled uppercut of a riposte.
When the ferry anchors in the capital city of Douglas, I descend the green stairwell (that’s not just a reflection on the pallor of the other passengers’ faces) and wander over the wet metal floor towards the silent riot of angles and edges. I don’t think there’s a wilder looking car on sale today, with even the hypercar triumvirate of McLaren’s P1, and Ferrari’s 918 and LaFerrari all looking almost reserved compared to an SV. This thought is only compounded by the direct upward sweep of the two scissor doors. In the gloom, the word Aventador glows red from the wide sill, like an illuminated welcome mat.
I duck under the trailing edge of the door on my way to dropping across and down into the seat.
Despite being trimmed in leather, the carbon-fibre bucket gives a hard greeting, feeling incredibly unyielding on both spine and bones, making me shift and squirm as
I try to find a comfortable position. I end up rolling up my jumper for some lumbar support. The next thing to do is shift your feet to the left so that they are resting on the offset pedals, rather than doing battle with the wheel arch.
Ergonomically, the situation is saved by the huge range of adjustment in the steering column. If you’re tall, it allows you to put the seat back and draw the wheel out to meet you, stopping a good distance from your solar plexus.
There is a bit of a delay as the reverse Tetris that is the unloading process swings into action, but eventually, the signal for us to disembark comes with a wide sweep of a boiler-suited arm. Simply flick up the bright-red cover on the broad transmission tunnel and press the black button hidden below. The door is still up and I listen to the power-drill whir of the starter motor, which continues just long enough to make me wonder whether the mighty 552 kW V12 might not catch. Then, suddenly, the cavernous belly of the boat is filled with the huge, 6.5ℓ vvrrramm of a dozen waking cylinders.
If people weren’t looking before, they sure are now. I reach up for the red leather loop and pull the door downwards before flicking the right-hand paddle and softly squeezing down the accelerator to set the Aventador creeping slowly, like a Komodo dragon, out towards the light. Fortunately, there is a nose lift, so descending the ramp on to terra firma isn’t exactly as wincingly tentative as it may otherwise have been.
Arriving on the Isle of Man always gives me goosebumps; this time is no exception. There is just something very special about this place – it evokes the same emotions I have felt visiting the pits at Reims, France, or the roads around Pescara in Italy. You can feel the history, both good and bad.
Because it is already mid-afternoon, we decide that we may as well head straight for the mountain section of the TT course, travelling the wrong way around the circuit to save us some time. The island still has quite a bit of the race furniture visible as we drive around the course. Some of it is permanent, such as the black and white kerbing, but some has presumably been left in place since the TT, waiting for the Manx GP and Classic TT, which are run at the end of August. It gives the roads a very peculiar air, almost as if you’ve strayed on to a film set. Then the long-awaited sign appears ahead.
The road is empty and straight, running out to Brandish Corner (a sweeping right-
hander from this direction). Now two quick fingertip pulls on the left-hand paddle, revs hovering, ready, waiting for the sign… I pin the throttle. All hell breaks loose. The acceleration is truly shocking, and not only from the initial punch that pushes my back violently into the seat, but also because of the sheer noise as the revs rise much quicker than I expect. The big Lambo still feels just that too. It is a brute of a car and rather intimidating in its size. It’s not one of those cars that ever really shrinks in around you. Up a gear and the rush continues, suddenly starting to feel very serious as the universe outside the shallow, aggressively raked windscreen begins blurring faster. Walls and hedges become little more than abstract streaks of grey and green in my peripheral vision.
A heavy lean on the brake pedal is reassuring, the steering gaining weight, and the nose feeling precise through the wheel and pedal as the mass is thrown forwards and the front tyres take up the bulk of the strain. Lamborghini has been criticised for its carbon-ceramic brakes in the past, but these are fantastic. Out of the tightish left-hander at Creg, I get greedy with the throttle in a corner, but the Aventador boasts barely believable traction and simply fires itself up the road with a force that feels even more shocking than the straight-line roll-on acceleration.
Three hours later, with the mountain shrouded in a thick white candy-floss, I head to the lower ground of Marine Drive. It is not a road for driving quickly, but it is spectacular. It also brings back good memories, as it was the first stage of the Manx Rally, which I was lucky enough to compete in during the 2008 season of the British Rally Championship.
I spend a couple of hours out on the clifftops and the SV certainly attracts plenty of attention. In fact, wherever I park during the two days on the island, there is always someone wanting to take a picture, asking if they might be allowed to sit in it or just keen to talk about it.
Eventually, with the weather beginning to brighten, I hop behind the Alcantara-
trimmed steering wheel and set the satnav for some faster tarmac. In terms of those restricted roads, everyone knows about the Mountain Road across Snaefell, mainly because of the TT. But that’s not all there is to the Isle of Man. There are plenty of interesting sections and one down on the south-western corner of the island is the A36, otherwise known as the Sloc Road.
It links Port Erin with Foxdale nearer the middle of the island, but so do the larger A7 and A3, so the A36 is relatively quiet. Initially, it meanders along in the guise of a narrow lane with high, grassy banks, but then it opens out into a wonderful blast through moorland. It sweeps, then climbs gradually, increasing in smoothness and pace until you’re presented with a series of irresistible long straights.
Here seems like as good a place as any to try the full racing, or Corsa, mode. My memories of this setting on the standard Aventador is of it nearly snapping my neck on the first upshift, so I’ve been a little bit wary of engaging it on the SV. Trickling along in third gear, I press the button, feel the steering weight up a little more in my hands and then press the throttle pedal all the way to the bulkhead. Before you can say ‘HANS device’, the first upchange is necessary and, of course, there’s a savage jolt as the momentary torque interruption pummels the car. It’s not quite as bad as I remember and there is still enough road to keep accelerating through all of fourth gear, so I brace myself for another.
One eye on the revs, I feel like I’m in a jousting match, seeing death thundering inexorably towards me… Past 6 000 rpm, 7 000 rpm, here we go, 8 000 rpm. BANG.I brake and change down one gear (much smoother) for a fast left, then try one more upshift, but after that, the sound of chiropractors rubbing their hands forces me to switch back to Sport mode. Even in this middle setting, the single-clutch ISR ’box isn’t seamless like a dual-clutch system, and so you’ll need to choose your moment carefully. Change up or down while the car is loaded for a corner and you should feel the weight of the engine straining to break free behind you as the shift pitches the car with the momentary loss of drive. It just means you have to proceed with a little respect and engage the thought processes you would use in a manual car, rather than treating shifts with the disdain possible in dual-clutch cars.
The faster, open corners up here on the Sloc Road really let you get under the skin of the Aventador’s front end. Initially, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the reactivity of the nose to steering inputs, perhaps the biggest single change in the SV’s character over the standard car. There’s a sense that if you simply turn in as hard as the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres allow, you’ll inevitably unsettle and possibly even unstick the big rear end. On the road, this doesn’t feel like a good idea at all. Nonetheless, as you build confidence, there’s a growing frustration as you sense by the apex of each corner that you could have carried more speed. Strangely, it’s in the faster corners that the SV feels more manageable, giving the impression that it has risen up on its toes and is happy to be played with. You get a similar feeling in an R8.
Through a fast right, I turn hard enough to feel the front tyres scrub a fraction up to the apex. It’s very subtle and there’s no need to snap the throttle shut: just wait a moment for the corner to open, get on the power and feel the balance shift rearwards as the huge power is sluiced predominantly towards the rear wheels. When you get it right, you can really feel the load building on the outside rear tyre under acceleration, sometimes even edging it fractionally wide of the line scribed by the fronts. It’s never enough to need corrective lock and doesn’t feel like it might snap away from you as it would with a rear-wheel-drive car. It’s just this beautiful sensation of driving hard but hunkered down on the limit of grip while 690 Nm is deployed to the road.
After a while spent on this quiet corner of the island, we head back to Douglas for some super-unleaded. I’ve been told that the petrol station next to the McDonald’s has the best fuel, so I take the opportunity to also indulge in the culinary equivalent of 90-octane unleaded. While we’re munching on a couple of burgers, we recount the tale of the most famous cattle grid in rallying. If you’ve never seen it, Ari Vatanen, flat-out in an Opel Manta 400, had a huge dose of oversteer coming out of a long left in the Tholt-e-Will stage of the 1983 Manx Rally. This wouldn’t have been a problem, but the car was heading right for a cattle grid. Again not a problem, except that the grid is defined by two yellow concrete gateposts and, in its oversteering state, the Manta was wider than the gap.
‘Ohhhh…’ says co-driver Terry Harryman as they approach the grid. ‘Dear God,’ he concludes as Vatanen only just winds off the opposite lock in time to slip through the gap. It’s the definition of a heart-in-mouth moment and it’s there to relive on YouTube.
It’s a shame you can’t pick and choose the different bits of the SV’s three driving modes, as I think the steering is at its most natural in the more relaxed Strada setting, although everything else (dampers, ESP, exhaust, gear change) feels just fine in the middle Sport setting. I let a gap build in the trickle of traffic and then head out for the Gooseneck. The SV still feels big through the tight uphill right-hander, but I’ve got far more confidence now and feel happy throwing it hard into the corner and then getting on the power early. Before we know it, we’re at the low, white walls of Guthrie’s and threading the red wedge through the chicane before running out on to the Mountain Mile.
It may not sound like much given that the SV is capable of 350 km/h, but doing 240 km/h en route to the 28th milestone of the TT course is something that will live with me for a long time. Then it’s hard on the brakes, past Mountain Box and into Verandah, a sequence of three corners that you can take with a constant lock, the car drifting across the width of its lane as each apex comes and goes.
The setting sun is seemingly igniting the clouds to my right, the sky a patchwork of fiery, floating cotton wool. Past Bungalow, up Hailwood’s Rise, then a trailing throttle through Duke’s Bends, where I know there will be translucent blue flame sporadically jetting from the quartet of hot exhausts. The noise is utterly addictive. Loud and angry as only twelve naturally aspirated cylinders can be, it is quite probably the greatest soundtrack on sale today.
In a world where the outer limits of many supercars are becoming more accessible, the SV remains a very intimidating – but thrilling – proposition.
Engine: V12, 6 498 cc
Power: 552 kW @ 8 400 rpm
Torque: 690 Nm @ 5 500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic gearbox
Suspension: Front and rear horizontal magneto-rheological damper with push-rod system
Brakes: Dual hydraulic circuit system with vacuum brake booster; front and rear CCB, ventilated discs, carbon-ceramic discs
Wheels: ESP/ ABS, front 9”JX20” H2 ET32.2, rear 13”JX21” H2 ET 66.7
Weight: 1 525 kg
Performance: 0–100 km/h in 2.8 sec
Top speed: +350 km/h