The Lamborghini Aventador S is the most expensive vehicle to pass through our mitten-clad hands for a driving evaluation. And its custodians did not let us forget it. Since Sunday Times Motoring hit the printing press in September 2015, most products from the loftiest premier league brands have graced these pages. The finest from the likes of Porsche, McLaren, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari. But nary a thing with the raging bull emblem on its nose.
And you might understand why, after listening to me elaborate on the procedure one undertakes to procure one for testing purposes. It is like applying for a home loan. Or a Schengen Visa. But probably more painful. Lamborghini will ask for a blood sample and the names of your parents. They might even ask you to list your top three Luther Vandross tracks in ascending order. That would be tricky.
Having successfully jumped through these flaming hoops, the South African distributor for the manufacturer availed its first press unit for closer inspection. Yes, dear readers, this is something of an exclusive. A scoop, you might say. No other South African motoring title had its way with the model you see before you – virginal at the time of driving, with under 500km on the odometer.
But wait. Anyone with a working internet connection will know that the Aventador is, technically, sort of… old. Hotter versions like the SV were bred since the car was birthed in 2011. You would have read about this particular S version by now, too. Many have billed it is a last blast for the patriarch of the contemporary Lamborghini range. And that is exactly what it is: an encore that also (we are told) addresses some of the gripes leveled at the outgoing vehicle.
Aside from cynicism and moaning about bureaucracy, one must agree that the Aventador is a spectacular piece of machinery. A fascinating technical achievement. A bastion for the raw and enchanting characters of supercars from yesteryear. Perhaps a little anachronistic in a landscape of hybrid and electric performance offerings. But totally unashamed to be that.
It is one of those out-and-out fantasy cars; fodder for childhood daydreams and wistful flights of fancy. The starter button (red) is concealed by a small plastic flap – just one of the aviation-inspired cues to be found.
Obviously, that Kenny Loggins song from Top Gun was playing on the mental jukebox upon firing-up the Aventador. Johannesburg roads are a bit of a danger zone, so the link is not totally unfounded.
This is a big car and negotiating through traffic is done gingerly, constantly aware of its length and girth. A nose-up setting averts any unwanted grazes to the frontal area of the car when traversing speed humps.
Good thing, because you would not want to injure the intricate bodywork of the big bull. Throw in all manner of hyperbolic clichés about how good this thing looks. How they managed to give it such an aggressive, exaggerated appearance without the result being cartoonish is something to behold. Countless details had our lensman Waldo Swiegers mesmerised: angular shapes, sharp pleats, obscure ducts – every inch of the Aventador S induces awe. Eagle-eyed Lamborghini aficionados may spot a throwback to the revered Countach in the rear wheel arches.
On the inside, eagle-eyed Audi aficionados will spot shared items such as the (previous generation) Multi Media Interface (MMI) in addition to a bunch of switchgear from the parts bin. Nothing wrong with that, because everyone – us includes – praises the German manufacturer for its interior décor skills.
Of course, the cabin of the Aventador S is far more bespoke, with customers having an endless assortment of trim bits and hides to pick from. The interior reeks of leather, success and bravado. And if your pheromones betray you, there might be a scent of fear in there too.
Those numbers are impressive, as they would be for something of this nature. The 6.5-litre, V12 aft produces 34kW more in the Aventador S. Total output is 544kW and 690Nm of torque. Lamborghini claims a sprint time of 2.9 seconds. Yet it still complies with the latest Euro emissions standards. Maybe take that with a pinch of salt – remember which automotive monolith owns Lamborghini. Cylinder-deactivation is part of the mix, however, adding credence to its green claims.
But as you know, machines of this ilk are about sensations, not technical minutiae. And if the untamed bellow of an Italian V12 fails to get the endorphins going, something must be wrong. That sound inspires poetry and lyrical waxing which we unfortunately do not have the space for. But know that it is profoundly awesome: all hoarse at low speeds before reaching a menacing crescendo when the taps are fully opened.
Expect a tummy full of butterflies and sweat on the palms. The Aventador S is decidedly animalistic about the way it delivers its thrills. With the right pedal fully depressed, it rockets toward the horizon in a frighteningly quick manner. You and your passenger become an exuberant and stylish 1575kg missile.
We decided to be judicious with the throttle until fully acquainting ourselves with the scope of performance potential this machine offers. Helping you negotiate the arsenal of firepower is a set of driving modes: Strada, Sport, Corsa and Ego. Strada and Corsa are the most important ones, really. The former is described as the “Going to the shops” choice while the latter reduces electronic intervention and facilitates a… livelier experience. Ego allows one to pick-and-mix configurations: you could have the most intense drivetrain setting with a more comfortable suspension setup, for example.
The seven-speed transmission purports to swap cogs in as little as 50 milliseconds. Lamborghini forewent dual-clutch trickery for weight-saving purposes, opting to use their independent shifting rod system instead. And you can really feel those shifts – like a rod smacking you in the posterior. Apparently, this was intentional. Power is applied to all corners and four-wheel steering creates a witchcraft-like effect in reducing turning effort around corners.
Brutal, fast and flamboyant: the Aventador S is most certainly a supercar in the truest sense of the word. We get it, the whole Lamborghini philosophy. Offerings such as this may not be the most refined, usable and forgiving in the category. But it satisfies the most fundamental tenet of the genre – it makes you feel like you are nine years old again. It re-ignites your faith in all those happy, hopeful Dr. Seuss truisms. Dreams come true sometimes. – Brenwin Naidu (Pics: Waldo Swiegers)
Fast Facts: Lamborghini Aventador S
Engine: 6498cc V12
Power: 544kW at 8400rpm
Torque: 690Nm at 5500rpm
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 2.9-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 350km/h (claimed)
Price: From R7 488 000