This is Lamborghini’s flagship supercar, after all, a machine that commands respect and is not meant to be easy to drive
This is just a car, I keep telling myself as I wait for the traffic light across the junction to jump from red to green. I’m watching it like a hawk, as a hundred eyeballs and half as many cellphone cameras are on me. I don’t know how many exactly, because I dare not look, but the hooting, wolf whistles and general sense of mild pandemonium breaking out all around suggests many. The number-one rule of supercars is to never engage. Whatever you do, never make eye contact, never react to the ‘hey, nice car,’ remarks, and do not cave to the universal petrolhead signal, the pumping-hand gesture that means ‘give it some!’ Cave to that peer pressure and best believe photographic evidence of your seemingly wild soirée in a million-billion-rand wedge of exotica will be swirling around the internet before you get back to the safety of the dealership. Nope, this is just another car.
Except, of course, it so isn’t! This is the 544 kW/690 Nm Aventador S. In good old-fashioned horsepower terms, that’s 740. So the free-breathing 6.5-litre V12 produces more power than torque, with near identical power and torque curve traces up to 5 500 rpm – if you know your engineering, you’ll appreciate what a rare and beautiful occurrence that is. And don’t be put off by the open-top roadster bit either, because the Aventador’s carbon-fibre monocoque is so light (just 147 kg) and so strong, it loses nothing in the way of rigidity like, say, when someone chops the roof off a BMW 1 Series. If anything, going al fresco helps ease some of the claustrophobia inherent to the slant-roofed coupé, alleviating its dark cabin with slitty windows. Going open air also allows you to hear the V12 that much better, a haunting bombast that’s like Merrie Melodies performed with chainsaws. Unfortunately, it also deletes the glass engine cover in favour of something from the Batman summer collection, and removing the fiddly roof is quite a finger-busting exercise.
Inside the cabin, my body is trying to make friends with the narrow bucket seat and windscreen A-pillars that would be flat if it were any more slanted, while the window line points straight at my forehead. My brain is like one giant adrenaline pump as sweaty palms fuse at nine and three to the steering wheel. I take in the hypermodern dashboard with its completely over-the-top styling cues, and while I know deep down it’s all just Audi bits, the angular centre stack with red starter-switch cover and TFT display in the instrument binnacle couldn’t look more radical if it tried. Despite the pantomime tailoring, the cabin is more premium and better nailed together than I expected, if a little bewildering to absorb in such a short space of time. At the centre of this experience is the digital display with its rev counter and oversized gear indicator staring you square in the face. Good thing Lamborghini offers the largest paddle shifters ever fitted to a steering wheel to get those digits swinging at warp speed.
Away from the prying eyes of 021 supercar spotters, I open her up and must come to terms with just how stunningly fast she is. After the Superveloce broke the 7-minute barrier at the Nürburgring in 2015, and the SVJ went quicker still, just recently posting a 6 min 44 sec lap, the big beast’s performance credibility received a giant shot in the arm. Suffice it to say, you cannot be this damn quick without spending serious time and money on development. The straight-line part is par for the course: 0–100 km/h in 2.9 sec and a top speed of 349 km/h. But it’s the purity of the throttle response that’s should-I-be-writing-my-epitaph fast. Revs rise with a blood-curdling savagery only a handful of people on Earth will ever experience. Independent shift rod (ISR) transmission is a sequential, single-clutch affair, and the cog swaps are equally brutal in Corsa mode, as in call-your-chiro harsh. It’s meant to shift like a racing car, and that it most certainly does, because it is in fact a gearbox from an F2 racing car.
Sticky 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros up front and 21-inch tyres at the rear ensure all that violent power is put to good use. All marshalled by the Anima driver control switch, offering four modes: Strada, Sport, Corsa and Ego, the latter being Italian for ‘individual’. Classic Italian. These tweak the obedience of the four-wheel drive, four-wheel steer, torque vectoring, adaptive dampers, throttle response, power-assisted steering and traction control. If it sounds like a recipe for distraction, like a sideshow Italian maître d’ occupying you while your entrées are being prepared, it absolutely is. The truth is, it often reacts clumsily and unnaturally in a bend, so you’re better off with electronic assistance in your eleventy-million-billion rand supercar, even if that means it isn’t the purest, most interactive drive in the world.
This is Lamborghini’s flagship, after all; it’s a machine that commands respect and is not meant to be easy to drive. And yet, even at ludicrous speeds, it isn’t nervous. It’s assured and confidence-inspiring, with the scare factor backed off to 8/10ths, let’s say. The sound spikes gloriously as you chase peak power high into the revs before snapping off another whiplash gearshift. In the corners, she clings harder to the tarmac than a toddler to their mother’s hand. There’s so much grip, you don’t know whether to vomit or grimace as your internal organs play dodgems
with the G-force. This beast is lethal!
When I alight from an all-too-brief drive, it’s abundantly clear that chief among its talents is its tolerance of ham-fisted drivers while still spitting out colossal speeds. Modern-day Lamborghinis needn’t only take an emotional approach – they can win the numbers game outright, too.