Maxim Rides: The Lamborghini Aventador SV Redeems the Italian Supercar

The amped-up $490,000 flagship Aventador earns its keep on the track.
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The amped-up $490,000 flagship Aventador earns its keep on the track.

Follow Mike Guy on Twitter at @MrMikeGuy

What does a Lamborghini really signify in 2015? Is it a car built for a sybarite, someone desiring little more than 12-cylinder parade laps before a fellow audience of peacocks lined up along Ocean Drive? Perhaps.

But having driven the two most recent bulls to charge out of Lamborghini’s Sant'Agata Bolognese corral, I have to ask: who cares about the peacocks? The all-wheel-drive Huracan, which debuted in 2014 as a $237,000 replacement for the “entry-level” Gallardo, surprised performance ride devotees and may have even helped the dyspeptic automotive press to keep its meal down—easier said than done. The Huracan succeeds as a design—it looks less like a snotty 14-year-old’s bathroom sketch than the Murcielago and more like a car a real man might want to be seen in. Plus, it's fast and nimble, a combination that eluded Lamborghini’s designers for generations.

Now, there is the stunning 750-horsepower Aventador SV, or Superveloce, which means “super fucking fast.” You’d think the expectations would be as high as the $485,900 price tag (plus a gas guzzler tax, and a pound of flesh) but they aren’t, mostly because the base Aventador is notably piggish on the track compared to stars like the Ferrari 458. 



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However, the Superveloce is no pig. That extra $85,000 buys a lot: The chassis is 110 pounds lighter, and the natural-breathing 6.5-liter V-12 is tuned to add an additional 50-horsepower. (That pushes the SV's powerplant into F1 territory.) There’s also a revised valence on the nose, a deeper air diffuser on the undercarriage, and a monster fixed wing hovering above the ass-end like a carbon-fiber UFO. Together, these improvements create 170% more downforce than the base Aventador, marking this as a car meant stick to the road like paella to your ribs, not slide luridly through a haze of atomized-Pirellis.

That's fitting—and fortunate—because I'm at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the home of F1's Spanish Grand Prix. Here, Lamborghini has lined up $12 million worth of SVs for bashing around the track.

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In the paddocks, I fire up the engine. It's not a turbo, and the torque curve is loaded at the low end, which means when I toe the throttle, the Haldex four-wheel-drive system sends a fireball of power to all four Pirelli P-Zero Corsas (especially the 355-centimeter rears—the widest available). It is an exhilarating sensation, and launches to 62 mph from a standstill in 2.8 seconds. There are three drive modes to choose from—“Strada,” “Sport,” and “Corsa.” (Go ahead and Google Translate those yourself). The latter mode is designed to put down the fastest track times. 

In "Corsa," the dynamic steering system changes the wheel's responsiveness and ratio to their most aggressive settings. Fixed paddle shifters are linked to a 7-speed single-clutch, dual-shifting rod transmission (dubbed ISR) that rips off lightning-fast 50 millisecond shifts, so when I start accelerating through the gears in turn 3, the rifle-shot changes feel closer to an actual race car than anything I've driven before. The top speed, apparently, is over 217 mph.

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This isn't your average Lambo. Pirelli test driver Marco Mapelli drove it on turned a hair-raising sub-7 minute lap on Germany’s 12.9-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife—a very rare thing indeed. It's a car that's designed not to look like a bat, but to drive like it's bat-shit crazy. The steering is precise and immediate—unlike anything Lamborghini has ever produced—and when combined with a ridiculous surplus of throttle, it gives the car a jaw-clenching edginess: a wallop of oversteer, a taste of adrenaline.

The track's front straightaway is more than a half-mile long, and I'm able to open up the throttle and wind through the gears—Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!—for the first time. Just before I hit the braking point and slam on the carbon-ceramic dinner-plate brakes, I glance at the speedometer, which reads 161 mph. That's a lot. Too much. Enough to send the peacocks running for cover.