The heavily revamped Aventador S is touted as the most comprehensive mid-life makeover in Lamborghini's history, but it is really that much of an improvement on its predecessor? We drove one around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain to find out.
The hypercar arena has become increasingly populated in recent years with the arrival of various McLarens, the Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari, but there’s a brutality to the Lamborghini Aventador that separates it from the rest – even if they’re every bit as quick, or in some cases even faster.
Yes, the Aventador is a loud, gas-guzzling and wildly impractical supercar. It’s a shock-and-awe weapon that leaves both occupants and onlookers in a dazed state as it unleashes hell with the fury that only a mighty, naturally aspirated V12 can deliver.
For all its brawny, macho charisma, though, the Aventador has some notable chinks in its armour, most notably its clunky single-clutch ISR (Independent Shifting Rod) transmission and slightly unwieldy chassis dynamics.
Cue the heavily revamped ‘S’ model, which Lambo execs tout as the most comprehensive mid-life makeover of any of its models to date. Although much of the key architecture remains the same, the key points to note are the addition of four-wheel-steering (a first for the brand), heavily revised suspension and chassis electronics, plus a new aero package that’s said to ramp up high-speed downforce by 130 per cent.
It also restores parity with its Latin archrival – Ferrari’s stonking F12 – via an uprated V12 that belts out an additional 40bhp for peak outputs of 740hp and 690Nm. The raw stats of 0-100kph in 2.9sec and v-max of 350kph are largely as before, but I guarantee that when you experience the violence of its performance from the driver’s (or passenger) seat, you won’t feel short-changed.
As luck would have it, our first taste of the vehicle is at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain, which would be fantastic in itself, except that the heavens have been chucking down the precipitation all night, leaving the track a slippery skating rink.
Unleashing the Lambo’s massive grunt in these conditions is a daunting prospect, but we gingerly trickle out onto the track anyway. When I say we, I mean a Lambo factory driver in a pace car, and three journos (each mounted up in an Aventador S of a different hue) in hot pursuit.
The pace is cautiously brisk at the start, but the seat of my pants tells me the Aventador S is a more wieldy animal than its predecessor, getting its nose tucked into corners with a great sense of immediacy. In contrast, the oldie would have required more patience and goading in these damp conditions.
The Aventador S still remains arguably the only car that you step out of both shaking and grinning like a fool at the same time.
So, the four-wheel-steer system isn’t mere hype-generating technology to provide the marketeers with fodder, I muse. The basic premise of the system is that the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts at lower speeds to effectively make the car feel shorter (and more nimble) than it actually is. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in the same direction to the fronts, effectively lengthening the wheelbase and boosting directional stability.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, you can select Strada, Sport or Corsa modes, each progressively upping the intensity and responsiveness of the engine, steering and suspension settings, but the ‘S’ adds a new ‘Ego’ mode that enables you to individually tailor each of these elements to suit your tastes.
Whichever mode you choose, it’s clear the Aventador S is a dynamically superior package to its predecessor, which always came across as an intimidating beast to tame, although less so than the even hairier Murcielago that came before it. Let’s be clear, the ‘S’ is no pansy – far from it – but its on-road manners have been refined and sharpened to make it a much more dynamically accomplished vehicle.
But don’t be under any illusions that this is the type of effortless continent crosser that a Bentley – or even a Ferrari F12 – represents. The Aventador S is always raucous (even at a steady freeway cruise in Strada mode), and each and every lump and bump in the road is transmitted through to your derriere.
The cabin might have enough space for two occupants, but that’s pretty much it. There are no cubbyholes to keep spare change, your mobile phone or even a packet of mints. As you can imagine, this is somewhat limiting.
Of course, you don’t notice these little niggles when you’re charging across a mountain pass at full noise. In this domain, the Lambo seemingly shrinks around you and hustles with the urgency of a card shark let loose in a Las Vegas casino. The shriek of the V12 at 8,000rpm and the sheer grip afforded by those sticky Pirelli P-Zero tyres (designed specifically for this car) are nothing less than exhilarating.
Who cares if the Aventador S is awkward to get in and out of, and that it offers precious little in terms of lateral or rearward visibility? Isn’t this what a supercar is supposed to be? If it were any other way, it wouldn’t be a true supercar, would it?
The Aventador S still remains arguably the only car that you step out of both shaking and grinning like a fool at the same time. We should celebrate the fact that cars such as this still exist, because it won’t always be the case as we march towards an era in which the tree-huggers and safety activists lay down the law and ensure they’re banished.