Lamborghinis have long held a reputation for being sporty, powerful and stylish. But for those who have been lucky enough to have driven – or even owned – one of the older models, getting around was a pretty daunting, taxing, even terrifying experience. You needed good coordination to work the wheel, gears and pedals. You could barely see outside. Visibility was sometimes so tough that you had to almost lean outside the car to be able to back up. The reward for all this was a viscerally engaging drive experience that even full-on race cars would have trouble matching or even coming near.
Then you got the newer Lamborghinis. When the Aventador first came out it was streets ahead of what came before it: safer, stronger, more powerful. Even just starting the thing up was a thrill. But it was – as with all new technology – merely a taster of what was to come. It was superb to drive, but again it took a lot out of you. And it needed particular levels of skill to be able to handle tight corners.
Then it was on to the new Lamborghini Aventador S. The new model maintains and even enhances the drop-dead gorgeous look of the line. A more aggressive nose and a longer front splitter work to improve aero efficiency as well as cooling. The front bumper has two air ducts in the side that help avoid aerodynamic interference from the front tires as well as optimise the flow to the rear radiator. Further back, an active rear wing adjusts to optimise balance, maximise airflow and even aid in cooling.
The heart of the beast is familiar. The 6.5 litre V12 puts out 740hp, though you won’t really notice the 40hp increase from the previous model in terms of top-end speed. It is more evident, though, in how the power comes in and where it is usable. The new exhaust system is 20 percent lighter than before, with an even more joyous noise coming out of the three single pipe outlets that are easily seen by those you pass – if indeed you are setting out to impress.
The transmission is a lightweight sequential manual single-clutch Independent Shifting Rod 7-speed that allows a robotised gearshift in up to 50 milliseconds. Six of the 12 cylinders are automatically deactivated by switching off one entire bank if the computers sense they are not needed, but will come back into play instantly.
Basically, the driver is able to harness the power without needing to be a Formula One racer. Yes, it is by nature well balanced, but it’s a heavy car and the old model often felt somewhat leaden. A key point on the new S is a pretty aggressive rear-wheel steering system that stabilises the car at high speeds but makes it turnable at lower speeds. This means you can point and shoot the S with more ease and precision and get the power down in a straight line more quickly.
“Many look at the Aventador S as a cosmetically altered model of its predecessor. This doesn’t do it justice”
Interestingly, the speed at which the rear moves from the friskiness of counter-steering to the stability of matching the direction of the fronts is much higher than you would expect, which is how we were able to round the tighter corners more quickly and bring out a higher exit speed. In most scenarios, and with most drivers, the rear wheel steering simply makes the car easier to drive in the city and into your parking space. The S makes things a whole lot smoother.
Driving mode choices are as you would expect, but with some Italian flair, of course. Strada, Sport and Corsa are for comfortable daily use. A sporty rear-wheel drive feel and maximum track performance help to adjust the behaviour of traction, steering and suspension. The most rear-wheel biased is the middle Sport, while Strada mixes in more front for ease of regular use and Corsa uses more front to allow you to use more grip to pull yourself out of a corner with more purpose. Then there is Ego, the customisable setting that allows you to sound rip-roaring to those outside while you can have the suspension on full soft.
On the track, the Aventador S is pleasingly intuitive. The new dynamics packages allow you to guide and point the car rather than just manhandle it on successive corners. You can actually rotate the car around a tight curve if your timing is good. It isn’t a car you want to throw about with abandon, but it will reward you if you have a firm hand and a proper line. It wants commitment from you. If you get sideways, which you will tend to do as your lap times start to shrink, it is an easily correctable exercise for the most part.
But it’s on the road and in real life where the changes will be most keenly felt. This is still not an everyday Lamborghini by any stretch of the imagination, but it no longer punishes you or makes life that much harder. Tight mountain curves are a breeze with the new rear-wheel steering and long drives are no longer jarring because of the adjustable suspension settings.
Comparing the new S to the old Aventador is almost like comparing apples to oranges. The new car feels and drives very differently. It takes orders easily and works to keep your wheels on the ground, but you do not lose the feeling of rawness and grunt that you come to expect from the raging bull. Another question is how does the S compare to the SV? You can say that the SV is more of a driver’s car but it’s really more like the old Lamborghinis. The SV is lighter and thus has slightly better power-to-weight, whereas the S has more usable torque. The new Aventador S is an amazing example of how to take the technology that is making too many modern cars bland and using it to make them experience the brand DNA in a whole new way and a whole lot more often. Lamborghini points to several key reasons why this is an improved motor. New four-wheel steering allows for enhanced lateral control and improved agility at low to mid speeds and stability at higher velocities. Lamborghini Dynamic Steering is tuned for a more natural and responsive feel to match the Lamborghini Rear-Wheel Steering that uses two separate actuators to make adjustments in five milliseconds. This means real-time angle and cornering stiffness adjustment, which is what really helps tame this spirited beast. On the down side, there’s not a lot of space for anything other than people, and while the purposeful lightness of the transmission is appreciated, we do think the next step should be a more advanced transmission.
Many look at the Aventador S as a cosmetically altered model of its predecessor. This doesn’t do it justice. The new S makes everything better, more fun and usable while still keeping, if not enhancing, the aggressive nature of the car. Now you can spend less time fighting the car and more time making the car use its power the way you want it to. It’s just a matter of fitting it into your budget.
Model AVENTADOR S
From Approx. HK$3,320,000 Engine 6.5 litre V-12
Power 740 cv at 8,400 rpm
Torque 509 lb-ft at 5,500 rpm
Transmission 7-speed ISR
Weight 1,575 kg
0-100 km/h 2.9 seconds
Top speed 350 km/h
Fuel consumption 6.25 km/l