Lamborghini’s Aventador S is probably the last of its kind. It stands as the last mid-engined V12 supercar from established manufacturers.
It’s a throwback to the past with its impractical body, tight cabin and those crazy doors. The coupe is also packed with up-to-date technology like pushrod pepension, carbon-ceramic brakes and heavy lashings of carbon fibre.
Low and sleek, the Aventador S looks like nothing else on the road.
The Aventador S is one of the wildest road-going Lamborghinis ever. Mid-engined V12 Lamborghinis have captivated the eight year old in us all for over half a century. The tradition stretches right back to the Miura (1966-1973) but everybody remembers the angular, alien-like Countach of the eighties.
Launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 2011, Lamborghini had twelve orders on the books even before the salon opened. Replacing the Murciélago, the Aventador sported a 6.5-litre 700hp V12. As is traditional at Sant’Agata, the car’s name came from a particularly distinguished fighting bull.
Over the first six years of its life, the Aventador sold over 5000 units alongside the wildly popular V10-powered Gallardo and now the devastatingly good Huracan. The Aventador easily outsold its unpronounceable predecessor, which just ticked over the 4000 mark.
Along the way the platform has sprouted wild special editions such as the Veneno and 2016’s tremendous Centenario.
Over the years, power grew from 700hp (521kW) for the “base car” (if you could call it that), to 720hp (531kW) for a couple of special editions. The Super Veloce Coupe and Roadster (2014 and 2015) peaked at a massive 750hp (552kW).
Much of the Aventador S spec comes from those Super Veloce cars, but in series production. Officially known as at the Aventador LP-740-4 S, most of us refer to it as the Aventador S.
Let’s break down that mouthful – L for Longitudinal, P for Posterior (where the engine is mounted), 740hp is self-explanatory and the -4 denotes all-wheel drive.
Launched in 2016, the S has already attained cult status. And for our first video, we got to drive it.
2017 Lamborghini Aventador S
The Aventador S is completely nuts. It is so low that you can barely poke a foot under the front splitter. Climbing in is like negotiating a submarine hatch and once you’re in, it’s snug. Headroom is marginal for me and I’m not even six feet (182cm) tall. Those mad scissor doors, always in our hearts as quintessentially Lamborghini, lift and lower easily. They’re almost practical given the gigantic width.
A fat-bossed steering wheel is wrapped in lovely, tactile Alcantara where your hands rest at a quarter-to-three. The interior isn’t exactly roomy and nor is it super-modern. Things have moved extremely quickly since 2011, but the digital dash saves the Aventador some embarrassment. The switchgear is pretty good and very clearly related to a B8 Audi A4. That’s perfectly fine, if a bit old. The starter button lurks under a red cover – flip it up and press start.
Lamborghini’s 6.5-litre V12 is only the second all-new V12 to come out of Sant’Agata. The first was the 350GT’s, so it was a long time between drinks. Getting the green light for such an extravagant engine must have been the subject of many hours of discussion, with lots of hand-wringing at Audi board meetings.
It’s an extraordinary engine. Amazingly, it doesn’t share a single part with any engine in the rest of the VW Group. Here in the Aventador LP 740-4 S it produces 740 metric horsepower (544kW, 730bhp) and 690Nm (509ft lb).
Codenamed L539, the angle between the cylinder banks is 60 degrees and it revs to a stratospheric 8250rpm. With a dry sump and all-alloy construction, it sits low in the chassis and ahead of the gearbox.
Yes, that gearbox. Forgetting that the Aventador is a curious car to start with, the single-clutch ISR (independent shift rod) transmission is a curiosity itself. BMW, Maserati and Ferrari have long-since abandoned this clunky style of semi-automated gearbox in favour of twin-clutch setups. Porsche had already released its twin-clutch gearbox, the PDK, two years earlier.
The ISR has seven forward gears and Lamborghini claims the fastest shift takes 50 milliseconds, 10ms slower than a 2011 F1 car (and probably a 2017). Lighter than a twin-clutch unit, it was the same transmission as the Murciélago’s. So it’s not only lighter in weight but also lighter on the R&D budget. The final excuse was that the transmission tunnel is too narrow to fit a dual-clutch unit. Despite the Aventador’s width resembling that of a 747’s wingspan, the wide sills push the passengers inboard, robbing available space for a gearbox.
Amusingly, Fiat and Citroën persist with single-clutch transmissions in dinky hatchbacks and they’re predictably awful.
The gearbox drives all four wheels through a new Haldex electronic all-wheel drive system and the three driving modes decide the basic torque split. Always rear-biased, Strada (Street) gives you 60/40, Sport 90/10 and Corsa (Race) 80/20. Of course, the split changes depending on the conditions.
0-100km/h (0-62mph) arrives in a startlingly quick 2.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 351km/h (217mph).
The Aventador S is heavily-based on the SuperVeloce (SV) special editions. Power drops from 750hp to 740hp but the S picks up the magnetic pushrod suspension (yes, I got that wrong on the video), which at the rear is installed over the top of the gearbox. And it looks tremendous.
Remember the Honda Prelude and Mazda MX-6? The S scores that very 1990s Japanese feature of four-wheel steering. It’s a proper system, which turns the rears in the opposite direction to the fronts (up to 1.5 degrees) to improve manouverability at low speed and switches to turning them in the same direction as the fronts (up to three degrees) for high-speed cornering stability. When you get used to it, you realise just how much you can get away with and you can’t get that silly grin off your face.
The 20-inch front wheels and 21-inch rears are wrapped in massive Pirelli P-Zero rubber and the brakes are carbon ceramic monsters.
Slow driving in the Aventador S is a proper chore. There is no other way around it. Even though I’m not very tall, my cranium bounced off the roof on big bumps. And that’s a relative term. Riding barely five inches off the ground and running very stiff springs and magnetic suspension, even in Strada mode you feel every single grain of sand or dirt on the road underneath you. Up to about 70km/h (40mph-ish), it’s bouncy, clunky and with that single-clutch gearbox, a little bit embarrassing.
That engine, though. Pin the throttle and it screams. Forget Strada mode, Sport is where you will live in this car. Spitting blue flame and roaring and cackling like a crazed uncle high on crystal meth at Christmas, the Aventador S must be the most theatrical car on the road.
The V12 bellow comes out through a retuned exhaust and it’s glorious. People can hear you coming blocks away such is the sheer size of the sound. When you’re hurling it down your favourite road, that sound grows to fill valleys, escaping through the trees, shimmering across rivers and dams. This thing is like the oncoming storm.
One of the great joys of the car – apart from manhandling it down a country road – are the huge alloy gearshift paddles. Fixed to the column, they make a lovely sound both in their actuation and the enormous racket from an upshift or downshift. You’ll work these things shiny if you live in a city with lots of tunnels.
It’s properly wide, though, meaning you need to be careful – once you work out the width, you can throw it around with huge abandon. While the all-wheel drive prevents you from breaking free under hard acceleration, the chassis will dance under hard braking and if you tip it in hard enough, it will slide.
If you’re less brave, it will understeer ever-so-slightly, more for safety than through lack of application from engineers. The size and weight of that V12 could easily fling you into the weeds if you were to go without the electronics.
Nothing this side of a race car will excite you the way the Aventador can. It’s a flawed, silly car but it’s also the last of its kind. You can’t help but love it.
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Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.