Valencia, SPAIN—“You’ve got a big… ego.” This line introduced the new Aventador S in Lamborghini’s own promo video, which features, among other things: men in tight suits; women in tight dresses; loud engine noises; tire smoke; drifting; a mansion; apocalyptic scenery; and moody looks.
If there’s one thing Lamborghini isn’t, it’s subtle.
“If you have a big ego, you’re superficial, an exhibitionist, you only live for the spotlight: this is what they think,” the video goes on.
At least Lamborghini knows its target market. A neon wedge that’s as wide as a truck and as loud as a jet-fighter screaming overhead is not an ideal vehicle for shrinking violets, the timid, or, indeed, those who appreciate subtlety. The Aventador is a supercar, and by God, it’s going to act like one.
Many improvements and upgrades have turned the Aventador into the refreshed Aventador S, but none – thankfully – have changed the fact this is a red-blooded V12 scissor-door supercar.
It looks like an F-117 stealth fighter, angular and mean, but it is not stealthy. Far from it. Nobody buys a Lamborghini in silver or black. It’s always yellow, orange, red, neon—anything to accentuate the dramatic scale and proportion. The doors are pushed right up against the front wheels and there’s a whole lot of car behind them: mostly scoops and vents and intakes. Stand next to it and the roof is barely at your waist.
The S model – which now replaces the “standard” Aventador in the lineup – is distinguished by a new front bumper with little fangs reminiscent of shark fins; a new three-pipe centre-mounted exhaust; a new adaptive rear spoiler; and a set of utterly gorgeous centre-lock rims, among other things. All the styling changes are for a purpose: they give the car 130-percent more downforce, making it more stable at speed.
You don’t get into an Aventador so much as you fold into it, like origami. There’s a little button hidden below a crease under the window. Press it and the door magically swings upward. But the opening it creates is comically small. Put one leg in, drop your butt into the seat, duck your head and brace for impact, just in case.
Once in the car, it’s relatively civilized. There’s lots of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel. The central switchgear is taken from Lamborghini’s parent company, Audi, but it works well.
Anyone around six feet or over will have to lean the seat far back to avoid having their head against the roof. The rakish windshield stretches far out in front, while the intrusive A-pillars and low roof block the view of everything other than the road ahead.
The Aventador is the successor to a long line of wedge-shaped supercars from Sant’Agata. Similarly, the updated Aventador S is the successor to a long line of even-faster supercars. There was the Miura S in 1968; the Islero S in 1969; the Urraco S in 1972; and the Countach S in 1978. Each one got a little extra power – visual and mechanical – whether they needed it or not. The formula is the same here.
Horsepower is up 40 ponies to 730 bhp, although the increase is mainly in the upper reaches of the rev range. The redline has been raised to a stratospheric 8,500 rpm. This motor sings, and it is still the best thing about this car by far.
Other mechanical improvements are all about taming the Aventador’s intimidating handling. The biggest change is the addition of rear-wheel steering, which is this year’s must-have tech for supercars. It makes a vehicle both more nimble and more stable. The Ohlins dampers have been changed out for magnetorheological adjustable units, and the Pirelli P Zero tires are stickier.
Oh, and the car’s louder now, too, because of a new exhaust. It sounds as epic as it looks.
It’s utterly overwhelming in the beginning. The speed, the noise, the G-forces this thing is capable of: it takes a couple laps to recalibrate your brain.
The old Aventador felt heavy; it didn’t want to turn and usually wanted to understeer. The rear-wheel steering on the S has fixed all those problems for the most part. You can feel it mid-corner on fast sections, as the car almost crabs sideways, the front and rear wheels turning in the same direction. It makes the car feel more stable. It pretty much banishes understeer, too.
Flinging 730 horsepower of mid-engined supercar over a long lefthand crest at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain is still a muscle-clenching experience, though. In a slower car this bit of the track would be a straight. In the Lambo you can always feel that big V12 behind you, like a pendulum. If you chicken out and lift – or worse, brake – the car certainly will spin. You’ve got to commit, keep your foot down. Braking hard into the next corner from the giggle-inducing speeds this car is capable of, things get a bit squirrely, too.
There’s a new customizable drive mode – called “Ego,” of course – which allows you to set powertrain, suspension, and steering settings independently. With the powertrain setting you can fine tune how much power goes to the rear versus front wheels. Sport mode was my favourite, sending 90 percent to the rear and making the car feel the most playful. Easy oversteer on corner exit is available if you provoke it.
Complaints? Well, the gearbox is still the same seven-speed automated manual. In traffic it’s comically slow, rocking you back and forth as it swaps gears. On a track, it’s best used in manual mode. Upshifts are like being sucker-punched in the back. Each one makes a whip-crack like a gunshot. The ’box feels a tad outdated, but you can’t deny it’s effective.
Accelerating from zero to 100 km/h takes just 2.9 seconds; zero-to-200 takes 8.8.
Stepping out of the car after my last four flat-out laps, my hands were shaking from the adrenaline. Did I just do that? Driving an Aventador S takes all of your skill and concentration. But unlike the old version, it rewards you, works with you. It’s still a beast, but a tamable one now.
The Lamborghini Aventador S is priced at $463,775 in Canada. To start. It’s the only pure mid-engine V12 supercar in production – we’re not counting the multi-million-dollar V12-hybrid LaFerrari, which is sold out – so you don’t have much choice here.
The Aventador S is Lamborghini’s new flagship. It is a worthy successor to all the mighty V12 Lambos that have come before it, a true supercar: superlatively fast, loud, low, and thrilling. There’s nothing else quite like it.
Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.