The Aventador is the long awaited replacement for Lamborghini’s legendary Murcielago, and quite some monster it is, too, boasting a vaguely comical 690bhp from its all-new V12 engine and a top speed of 217mph.
In many ways, and despite its cutting edge technology, it’s actually an old school kind of a car. Lamborghini refers to it as a ‘super sports car’ claiming that it “redefines the market with its brutal power, outstanding lightweight engineering and phenomenal handling precision”.In the end, though, it’s still a big old bruiser of a machine, with a monumentally large V12 engine in its guts – and an exhaust note to make your heart explode. Same as it ever was from Sant'Agata, in other words.
What’s different this time around is what lies beneath the typically extrovert exterior. Gone is the manual gearbox, no more is the legendary Bizzarrini V12 engine. Instead the Aventador is powered by a brand new 60 degree 6498cc V12 that’s mated, like it or not, to a seven-speed paddle shift gearbox. And at its core sits a no-expense-spared carbonfibre monocoque – hence the impressive claimed 1575kg ‘dry’ kerbweight – with single-seater style pushrod suspension at each corner.
Its brakes are similarly state of the art, and feature carbon ceramic discs with six-piston callipers at the front, four at the rear. Even its body parts are fashioned mostly from carbonfibre (although the bonnet, bumpers and doors are made from aluminium). What we’re talking about, in other words, is a car that may look and sound like a traditional raging bull but one that’s very much at the leading edge of things technically.
What’s it like?
Outrageous is the word that keeps on popping into one’s mind when attempting to describe what this car is actually like. As with the Murcielago, the doors open upwards to reveal a cabin that initially seems a very long way away, the high-backed driver’s seat nestling just inches above the ground.
But when you climb inside the similarities between old and new come to an abrupt end. The interior of the Aventador is every bit as new and revolutionary as its engine, gearbox or suspension. And, mostly, it works as good as it looks.
Whether the new digitised instruments will receive universal approval will remain a talking point for years to come, you suspect, but the basic ergonomics inside are hugely better than in the Murcielago. Not only is the driving position much better organised, with pedals that are no longer angled in towards the centre of the car, there’s also more room for your head and elbows plus better visibility in all directions.
And yet it still feels unequivocally like a Lamborghini inside this car, especially when you discover the start button beneath its bright red cover within the centre console, and then summon the courage to give it a prod. Do so and you’ll hear a familiarly charismatic scream from the starter motor, followed by a quite outrageous eruption of revs when the engine fires. As if climbing into a bright red Lamborghini via one of its vast scissor-doors isn’t somehow theatrical enough on its own.
Even at five miles an hour this car sounds and feels fantastically alive beneath your backside. To begin with the steering seems lighter and a lot less cumbersome than you remember, the ride massively more refined (than in a Murcielago). The entire car, in fact, feels more mature than you were expecting given the history.
But the big news, inevitably, concerns the performance, and I can tell you here and now that it is astonishing – to the extent that you do not just climb aboard this car and nail its throttle to the floor at the first sign of a decent road. You build up to that moment, slowly, and discover other things about this incredible car en route.
Like how explosive its throttle response is, even at 4000rpm, and how switching between its various drive modes (strada, sport and corsa) alters not just the gearchange speed and severity but the crispness of the engine mapping as well. Which, as you’ll eventually discover later, will allow you to do things on the throttle in this car that you’d never even dreamed of doing in a Murcielago.
And then there’s the gearshift itself, which Lamborghini claims is 40 per cent swifter than a Gallardo Superlegerra’s, making it “one of the world’s fastest ever automated gearboxes”.
It’s not a dual clutch system but it does pre-select ratios, so the effect is almost the same – in theory. In practice, however, it’s a long way from swapping ratios as quickly or as smoothly as a Ferrari 458 or McLaren MP4-12C. As ever, Lamborghini has engineered the shifts to feel as dramatic as possible. In corsa mode you get a mighty thump in the back on upshifts and a huge burst of revs on downshifts. Which is great when you’re in the mood for it but not always 100 per cent desirable.
Having said that, it’s difficult NOT to be in the mood for it when you’ve got 690bhp of V12 thundering away behind your head, plus one of the best balanced mid-engined chassis’ in existence through which to deploy it. And when you do finally let rip in the Aventador, the most surprising discovery is that it’s nowhere near as terrifying as you thought it might be.
The acceleration and the noise are monstrous in every way, and the brakes nigh-on race car powerful when you really lean on them, but there’s a fundamental composure to the driving experience that makes the Aventador seem unusually friendly for a big, hairy Lambo.
The steering is so light yet so precise, the handling balance so well resolved, you can take huge liberties with this car without feeling like you’re on the verge of an accident. So long as you respect just how rapidly it accelerates, in fact, it’s actually a pretty easy thing to drive hard. Much more so than the ‘will it, won’t it’ Murcielago ever was.
Should I buy one?
If you’ve got a spare £201,900 plus local taxes to spend on a toy (so make that just under £250k), and are sufficiently extrovert in life generally, it’s hard not to recommend the Aventador with a great big cheesy thumbs up.
One caveat, though. If you’re looking for the full ‘on the edge of oblivion’ driving experience that the Murcielago once offered, you may be somewhat shocked to discover how refined and resolved the Aventador is to drive. For most of the time, that’s a big step forwards. Make of that what you will.Steve Sutcliffe
Price: £201,900 (plus local taxes); 0-62mph: 2.9sec; Top speed: 217mph; Economy: 16.4mpg; CO2: 398g/km; Kerb weight: 1620kg (est, 1575kg dry); Engine: V12, 6498cc, petrol; Power: 690bhp at 8250rpm; Torque: 508lb ft at 5550rpm; Gearbox: 7-speed automated manual