Updated: Jan 16, 2020
Until this drive, I’d never driven a near-million dollar car before, let alone thrown one down the Phillip Island main straight in the rain, blasting through more than twice the legal road limit and hitting the turn one right hand sweeper with a twitch or two from the rear wheels.
Lamborghini’s Aventador S starts at $788,914, but with on-road costs and an options list running out to $160,000 - that most will tick - the magic million barrier looks flimsy. It adds a wholely unnecessary extra 29kW (39hp) to an already unneccesary 515kW (690hp) and 690Nm the ‘standard’ car’s 6.5-litre 60 degree short-stroke V12 spits out in an 8,500rpm turbine-like surge of urge.
But Lamborghini customers are not known for settling for the necessary, and the brand’s new flagship car is an exercise in pushing the envelope.
The steering system is the clearest statement of this kind of gamechanging engineering. Stability throughout the massive range of cornering speeds this car is capable of required a fresh look at the chassis. A shortwheelbase helps in wheeling the wide and super-low Lambo around city streets on the way to the broker’s office. On the other hand it makes for some gut-wrenching sidesteps at high speed during your personal track day.
The solution was to engineer a rear-wheel steering system that turns the rear wheels opposite to the front at low speed (below 130kmh) and in the same direction at high speed. The effect is a virtual shorter wheelbase when commuting and a longer one at warp speed. Tied to a torque split that now sends more grunt to the back end, drivers will enjoy a confidence that was lacking in the previous car. It’ll still bite back on the ragged edge, but won’t leave you quite as breathless and knee-trembling if you’re stupid enough to push past your skill boundaries.
Of course, this kind of performance package will never be cut loose on Australia’s public road system. Either commuting or simply driving for the thrill of it will be at a perpetual jog. Only during a track day - and that is a must - will owners realise and enjoy the stupifying speed of the Aventador S, a road-going simulation of an F1 car - with a roof and two seats.
Few cars have ever been built with such a ‘look-at-me’ profile. Echoes of the legendary Countach seep through lines of the smoother, flatter and vastly more aerodynamic exterior. Even though the supreme Ferrari 488GTB turns heads, Lamborghini’s shock and awe pearlescent greens and oranges grab your eyeballs before the Star Trek styling takes its own vice-like grip on your attention.
The Aventador is engineered to deliver the very highest level of performance available from a naturally aspirated petrol engine. No turbos, no hybrids, no exhaust noise enhancers or sound boxes. Just a giant V12 bursting with power and letting everyone within cooee know through its titanium voice pipes.
Although rain slowed the Phillip Island Lamborghini parade, I still marvelled at being held up by the Lamborghini Huracan pace car, with ‘only’ a 5.2-litre V10. The Aventador’s all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering made a mockery of the road conditions. The super-rigid carbon-fibre chassis, horizontal coils and springs, plus Lamborghini’s Dynamic Steering delivered a confidence unlike anything I have ever driven.
With so much performance on hand in WA’s tightly regulated road system, you might be asking the obvious - “Why?” But you’re probably not one of the twelve West Australians who took delivery of a Lamborghini last year. You are also unlikely to beat a path to Alf Barbagallow’s dealership doors any time soon.
And that’s just fine. Because for nearly all who read this section, the Lamborghini Aventador S is one of those unique and rare engineering masterpieces that provide a glow to the car experience most motorists will still thoroughly enjoy, by proxy, and from a distance.
For a million dollars, it’d want to.
Behind The Wheel
If you can snap out of standing slack-jawed and just soaking up the visual impact of this missile of a sports car, this is how you get it started.
Step one - get in. The cleverly moulded door handle follows the sill line from the front wheel to the rear haunches. A quick pull on the lever and the door opens upwards and forwards in a scissor action that you need to be careful with.
Duck under the door, squirm across the wide side sill by aiming your bum at the carbon-fibre seat shell, and keep your chin tucked in so you don’t headbutt the roof rail. Remember to bend your left knee underneath the steering wheel at the same time. Once most of you is in, drag your right foot on board.
When you’re behind the wheel it’s fabulous, but getting there takes a slick yoga-like contortion combined with a level of determination that will increase exponentially with age, and shape.
Step two - start it up. Foot on the brake pedal, flick the dramatic red safety cover off the start button and press. Twelve cylinders explode into life with at least three times the noise of any four-cylinder engine and many more times the fury. Aventador idles at a rapid 1000rpm with a high-pitched gravelly resonance that will wake the household and most of the neighbours.
Keep the brake pedal on and, assuming you’re in the garage, press the button marked ‘R’ at the base of the console. The car engages reverse gear and you’re ready to go.
With zero rear vision apart from the letter-box rear window, you’ve bought the reversing camera option for a mere $9600 and you make it to the street snarling angrily at anyone peaking through the venetian blinds.
Footbrake on, flick the right paddle and you’re in first gear. The throttle is touchy, particularly in the Sport and Corsa modes, and a decent prod will send you hurtling down the road with a blast of sound and hefty punch in the back. Most drivers will say, ‘wow,’ and back off immediately, in which case the gearbox will stumble a bit as it decides which gear to grab. Then at the legal speed limit the car will tool along reasonably quietly.
You have to keep in mind though, that if you floor the throttle in this car, it will grab second gear a moment before it reaches the 100kmh freeway limit.
And that’s why you simply have to have a track day.
Model: Lamborghini Aventador S
Price: $788,914 plus on-road costs and options
Engine: 6.5-litre 60-degree naturally aspirated V12
Output: 544kW (740hp) and 690Nm
Transmission: 7-speed ISR with Haldex Gen IV AWD
Acceleration: 0-100km/h, 2.9secs; 0-200km/h, 8.8 secs; 0-300km/h, 24.2secs.
Maximum Speed: 350km/h