Lamborghini Aventador S: Don t leave your ego at the door
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We're driving along a main street in Valencia, Spain, in Lamborghini's Aventador S. A teenage boy is about to cross the road when he sees us; he stops and his mouth forms an "O" as we drive past.
Stunned, he doesn't even whip out his smartphone to take a photo, like other locals have done as we drive from the Ricardo Tomas circuit to our waterfront hotel.
A few hours later, over dinner, I describe the teen's reaction to Lamborghini's new CEO, former Ferrari F1 boss Stefano Domenicali, and show him a video on my smartphone of the crowd that swamped the Aventador S as we took photos on the waterfront (see facebook.com/DrivenNZ).
"That is the reaction we want," says Domenicali, "we want that 'wow' reaction when people first see the new Aventador S."
The car goes on sale in April this year with New Zealand prices yet to be announced, but in America it costs US$421,000 (NZ$580,00).
The car has a new aerodynamic design, redeveloped suspension, increased power and new driving dynamics.
The "S" is the suffix of previous enhanced Lamborghini models and the Aventador is the first product in nearly 40 to gain the "S" title.
The first Aventador was launched in 2011 and has proved a success for the company, alongside the Huracan coupe based on the platform of Lamborghini's parent company, Audi AG's R8.
The Aventador S retains its famous mid-rear 5-litre, V12 naturally aspirated engine, now with an impressive 554kW of power and 690Nm of torque.
The new super sports coupe gains a more aggressive nose and longer front splitter to redirect airflow for better aerodynamic efficiency and improved engine cooling. Two air ducts in the side of the front bumper also help cool the specially designed Pirelli tyres.
The active rear wing can move in three positions depending on speed and drive select mode, and optimises the car's improved overall balance, working with vortex generators created in the front and rear of the chassis' underside that maximise air flow as well as assisting brake cooling.
The car also gains a new driving mode over the "strada, sport, corsa" called EGO (see 'Lambo's way ahead' find out the logic behind the name), that lets you individually set the powertrain, steering and suspension.
But it's the rear of the Aventador S that is most changed, with three single exhaust outlets exiting through the rear bumper.
Lamborghini's new designer Mitja Borkert said that the inspiration board for the redesign had three elements: the exhaust pipe of the space shuttle (the new three-pipe exhaust), a venomous snake (for the front bonnet) and jet fighters (the aerodynamics).
Borkert spent 20 years with Porsche. He was responsible for the look of the second-generation Cayenne and was the name behind the design of the hugely popular Macan.
As Lamborghini moves forward with the launch this year of the super sports SUV, Urus, it makes sense that the company hires Borkert for his success with luxury off-roaders. But he has also been involved in the look of the Aventador S and the rear masterstroke of the three exhaust pipes is his idea.
The Aventador S design results in significantly enhanced aerodynamic performance.
Front downforce has been improved by more than 130 per cent over the previous Aventador coupe. When the wing is in its optimum position the overall efficiency at high downforce is improved by more than 50 per cent, and in low drag by more than 400 per cent.
Lamborghini says four elements revolutionised the Aventador S: four wheel drive, a new active suspension system, a new steering system and EGO driving mode.
The Aventador S chassis retains the rigid lightweight carbon fibre monocoque with aluminium frames that gives it a dry weight of just 1575kg.
The new four-wheel steering, adopted for the first time on a series production Lamborghini, give improved agility at low and medium speeds and more stability at high speed.
The front axle is combined with Lamborghini Dynamic Steering (LDS), tuned for a sharper turn-in and works with the Lamborghini Rear-wheel Steering (LRS) on the rear axle giving you a cornering stiffness adjustment.
At low speeds, the front wheels face in the opposite direction to the steering angle, reducing the wheelbase, and making it more agile with a reduced turning radius, ensuring higher performance in curves and making it easy to manoeuvre in town and at low speeds.
At higher speeds both front and rear wheels share the same steering angle, extending the wheelbase and providing increased stability.
This was proved during a comparison exercise on the track where we drove the previous Aventador through a cone slalom then turned into a tight right corner before manoeuvring around a circle and then back down the slalom course.
The instructors recommended a speed of 45km/h in the Aventador, and I questioned the exercise as I easily wove through the cones at 50km/h, but reaching the circle I wondered whether the super sports coupe could do the manoeuvre in one go (a colleague had to reverse during his turn in the exercise).
But doing that exercise in the Aventador S, I immediately recognised the advanced steering. I wove through the cones seamlessly at 60km/h and easily turned around on the circle. Kudos to Lamborghini for this system, that also proved worthy during a beachfront photo shoot where we had to turn the car around on the promenade and then through two trees to reach the hotel carpark.
Valencia had experienced unseasonal wet weather and snow for the first time in 44 years just a few days before the launch began, and overnight rain meant the Ricardo Tomas circuit was still damp when we began our four-session track time in the morning.
Each session was four laps, with an instructor in a lead Aventador and two or three S coupes behind, taking turns behind the instructor to give you a chance to set your own pace rather than play follow the leader.
In session one I put the Aventador S into sport mode and automatic as the track is infamous for its long, sweeping corners and tight turns. After a tight turn and then fast straight, the coupe flicked down into second gear, rather than up into fourth, slowing me down, so I changed the transmission to manual and used the steering wheel paddles to shift gears. The sound track from the exhaust is exhilarating with a crackle on the downshift, while the engine's ability on a slow, wet track was remarkable.
Sure we hit speeds of up to 260km/h only on the long straight due to the conditions but the Aventador S felt like it could hit its top speed of 355km/h without hesitation.
Driving behind the instructor on session one, I came through a corner on to a straight at 120km/h and hit a puddle, making the Aventador S skitter. I took my foot off the accelerator and the 4WD system kicked in and straightened me within milliseconds.
Impressive -- though it took a few more seconds for my heart rate to drop.
In session two I tried EGO mode: the powertrain was in sport, the steering in strada and suspension in sport. The transmission was in manual but user error saw me sit too long in fourth on a straight rather than move into fifth.
For session three I tried corsa mode, but the power steering was too stiff for my liking, making it harder to turn into corners at speed and encountering understeer.
The instructor -- who had previously praised my "aggressive driving, good work" -- tut-tutted on the walkie-talkie as he took in my poor form. "Come on, the car is better than that," he said.
And he was right. The Aventador S is better than most drivers will ever be.