It wasn’t that long ago when a Lamborghini launch consisted of showing up at the factory, downing a nuclear-strength espresso while you waited for the car to be ready (it was never ready), and then a salutary slap on the back from a test driver just before you climbed in and roared off into the hills. There was no media kit, no press conference -- just a little chaos and a lot of infectious enthusiasm.
This relaxed and brilliantly spontaneous preamble was a metaphor for the cars, too: chaotic, absurd, sometimes frustrating, but always deeply, madly loveable. Compared to the red team across town, the Lamborghini crew and the cars they created seemed to take themselves a lot less seriously. No need to pay lip service to any F1 baggage or Le Mans history, so why not just have a bit of fun and make something loud, fast, and riotously outrageous to behold?
Lamborghini isn’t that Lamborghini anymore, though. Sure, there’s still a genuine sense of fun about the team, respect for its own unique history of mad, bad wedges and styling that appeals to the 8-year-old in all of us. But the substance beneath the slashes, strakes, intakes, and wings is at an all-new level. The Audi-influenced Murcielago and Gallardo showed flashes of brilliance buried beneath some pretty apparent flaws. The Aventador moved the game on in terms of construction and execution but still wasn’t quite the finished article. But the recent Huracan is polished enough to stand toe to toe with Ferrari and McLaren and just about crazy enough to still cut it as a true blue product of Sant'Agata Bolognese.
And now this, the Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce. Just say the name out loud and tell me you don’t want one? It sounds old-school Lambo. It looks old-school Lambo dialed up to 12. But this press launch is rooted in the new era. We stay in a pristine hotel in Barcelona, the bus to Circuit de Catalunya leaves on time, we see graphs detailing downforce figures, discussing variable-ratio steering racks and magnetorheological constantly variable dampers. We hear about the factory’s expansion and how it will soon be certified carbon neutral (cue much snickering) and then we see that video. You know the one. It involves a gnarly old track in Germany, a bloke with unfeasibly large testes and a lap time of 6:59.73. Maybe this car will be the perfect marriage of Lamborghini’s gloriously nutty past and a future rooted in engineering as well as theater.
It passes the first test. When you see the Lamborghini Aventador SV, your stomach flips and your heart thumps just a little bit faster. The aero addenda might be there for genuine performance gains, but it also looks, well, cool. Then one of the instructors starts up the 6.5-liter V-12, and a big, dirty noise erupts from the four exhaust exits. I’m that 8-year-old again. But before I disappear into a gleeful monologue about the shattering noise and hilarious performance, let’s delve a little into the technical details.
The 750-4 Superveloce retains the Aventador’s basic structure and layout. It has a carbon monocoque with aluminium front and rear subframes. Weight has been shed thanks to new carbon-fiber rear fenders, lightweight seats, by stripping carpets and sound deadening materials and replacing heavy trim with simple and gorgeous carbon weave wherever possible. The result is a claimed weight savings of 110 pounds over the base Aventador, down to 3,362 pounds.
Suspension is double wishbones and pushrods with inboard springs and dampers to reduce unsprung weight. What’s new is that fixed-rate dampers are gone and replaced by magnetic units, which Lambo says offer greater body and wheel control, a wider spectrum of performance, and apparently greater ride comfort. (If you’ve ever driven an Aventador you’ll know that’s not going to be tough.) The hydraulic power steering is also replaced by Lamborghini Dynamic Steering, an electric variable ratio system we’ve seen on the Huracan and various Audis. Usually it’s pretty hideous as it can make the car feel as if it responds differently every time you turn the wheel, but the engineers claim this system is radically improved and offers more control and agility and requires less steering angle for any given corner. The SV retains the Aventador’s Haldex IV all-wheel drive system, albeit tweaked for this even more extreme application.
All good stuff, but what about the engine? Revisions to the variable valve timing and variable intake system ensure the dry-sumped, 6.5-liter V-12 is mightier than ever and it now revs to 8,500 rpm. Maximum power is 740 hp at 8,400 rpm and 509 lb-ft at 5,500 rpm. Lamborghini claims a 0-62 mph time of around 2.8 seconds, 0-124 mph in 8.6 seconds and 0-186 mph in 24 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 217 mph plus “a little tolerance,” and it’ll hit that number even in the highest of the three downforce settings available for the SV’s massive rear wing. So configured the SV produces roughly 480 pounds of downforce at 174 mph thanks to a new front splitter, optimized underbody panel, a funky new rear diffuser, and that big carbon plank. The lightweight seven-speed single clutch with dual shifting rod gearbox remains.
Our first taste of the car is exclusively on track and behind a pace car that appears to be on a qualifying lap, so the subtleties of ride quality, low rev response, and the finesse of the controls at low speeds will have to wait. But instantly the Lamborghini Aventador SV feels like a very different animal than the standard Aventador. Faster? Absolutely. But then again we’re in to the law of diminishing returns here. More importantly that SV feels lighter, more agile, and much more in tune with the driver’s inputs.
The standard Lamborghini Aventador is by no means inert (although early cars did understeer too much), but the SV takes the Lambo flagship to new heights. Turn-in response is much faster, and the front-end can live with the speed of that Dynamic Steering and hold its line beautifully. That creates an immediacy that runs through the whole experience: Lift off the throttle mid-corner and the V-12 behind starts to swing wide. It feels edgy at first, but soon you learn that it’s not about to spin you off into the Mediterranean. Instead, it’s ensuring you scribe the neatest, fastest line around any given corner. Once it’s taken this mildly tail-led stance you can really get into the torque and find a nice neutral phase mid-corner and a deliciously thrilling wiggle of oversteer as you exit out over the curbs.
There are three driving modes that configure steering, damping, drivetrain response, the ESC settings and the all-wheel drive system’s behavior. Forgive us for bypassing the softest Strada setting and heading straight to Sport and then Corsa. The latter offers brutal, almost painful gearshift speed (50-milliseconds and a haymaker engagement) unless you’re right on the limiter when it is much smoother. So why not have this quality on every shift? The SV’s all-wheel-drive system sends more power to the front wheels more quickly in order to cut lap times. Even so, you drive the SV on the outside rear tire as soon as the nose has bitten and you can feel the tail edging wide ever so slightly all the time. It’s a fantastic sensation -- at once teetering on the edge and offering eye-popping traction.
Throttle response is unbelievably sharp, too. In fact, in Corsa the accelerator can at times feel a bit like an on/off switch, but with practice you tune in to its immediacy and can play that big engine any way you like. It is an incredible engine too, serving up massive mid-range torque and a rush towards the limiter that is simply furious. It remains the beating heart of the car and the central tenet of the experience. However, this new agility and keenness to react accurately to the driver’s demands means that the chassis plays a hell of a supporting role. The brakes -- 15.7-inch front and 15-inch rear ceramic rotors -- cope well with the onslaught. The initial pedal feel is a little soft, but in terms of stopping power they’re tremendous and only exhibit a slight lengthening of the pedal after a series of fast, four-lap stints.
There really is substance behind the razzmatazz with the SV, and it feels transformed from the standard car. There’s greater precision, more grip, and a feeling of genuine nimbleness -- on a wide F1-spec track, at least. Even the previously deeply hateful Dynamic Steering works very well in this environment and feels much more natural than ever before. What’s more pleasing to me is that the old Lamborghini magic is still there. Very little can create the all-enveloping, sensory overload delivered by the Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce, and nothing has quite the same mix of brutal response, thunderous noise, and that odd feeling of relief when you’ve finished your time behind the wheel and survived despite trying to exploit all it has to give. It has an engineered sheen of civility, but the SV is still a proper monster at heart.
When I nip into the gleaming hospitality area set up in a pit garage, Lamborghini’s research and development director Maurizio Reggiani is grabbing one of those nuclear-strength espressos. “What do you think?” he asks with a broad smile. “It’s insane,” I reply. He gives me slap on the back and laughs. Long live the new, old, timeless Lamborghini.
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