The 740bhp, 350kph SV Aventador Roadster is arguably the most lunatic Lamborghini the Middle East gas ever seen. Where better to take an uncompromising supercar than a secluded mountain road?
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“This is the most insane thing I’ve driven in years.”
This is a statement made only slightly ridiculous by the fact I’ve caught crankandpiston’s Bassam at home in his pyjamas, and that the ‘insane thing’ in question (the Lambo, not the pyjamas) was first unveiled at last year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Hardly the forefront for performance driving, and not exactly the debut we’d expected for ‘the fastest and most electrifying Lamborghini of all time’.
Saying that, I can’t say I’m overly surprised to hear this. At the base of today’s brute is a standard V12-powered Aventador, albeit one in which the dial has been turned up from 10 to ‘sweet holy crap’ courtesy of severe weight saving, an extra 49bhp on-tap, and a smorgasbord of aerodynamic revisions to produce the most hardcore version of Lambo’s flagship yet. For those cynics suggesting that the Raging Bull has ‘lost its edge’, the convertible SV Roadster waiting for me downstairs – one of only 500 made – offers a seriously strong opposing argument. If that were not enough, my heart rate is raised yet further as the m’dear colleague ‘casually’ mentions this is the closest road-going experience he’s had to the Oreca LMP2 prototype he raced a few years back in the Intercontinental Le Mans series, and is one of only a handful of cars he’s driven in which the traction control button was kept very much ON.
Dear Lord. Just what exactly have I signed up for here?
It’s a question partly answered as I traverse the labyrinth of corridors to the basement in which the SV is parked, an apt metaphor as I prepare to awaken the slumbering beast. In the gloomy bowels of the building, the metallic blue Roadster lies snugly between a Bentley Arnage and old Patrol with an askew number plate, the Aventador’s traditional sharpened bodylines now more pronounced courtesy of a fixed rear wing, a gaping rear diffuser, the upward swing of those scissor doors, and a truly massive front splitter. That should be fun over the incline out of the parking garage….
The positioning of those slashed side sills makes getting in hardly the most elegant of operations, nor does the hilariously low seating position. Though trimmed in alcantara, there’s little give in the one-piece carbon-bucket seats, and their unyielding nature means it takes a bit of squirming before I finally find a semi-comfortable seating position. The offset pedals and jutting nature of the wheel arch means I have to shift my legs closer to the transmission tunnel than expected. There is no SatNav, no radio, and significantly more carbon fibre detailing than the base model. Any sense of day-to-day driving has been ripped completely from the DNA of this ‘insane thing’, and those words suddenly come springing back as I pull one of the hanging door pulls and bring the scissor door down with a thud.
“For those cynics suggesting that the Raging Bull has ‘lost its edge’, the convertible SV Roadster waiting for me downstairs – one of only 500 made – offers a seriously strong opposing argument.”
Up till now, compounding my already frayed nerves, there’s been hardly any noise from within the bowels of the building, save the metronomic sound of my own footsteps clapping their way across the garage floor. A silence utterly shattered seconds later as I flick the red housing up over the almost laughably understated Stop/Start button and fire the V10 into life. There’s a mechanical whir as the starter motor springs into action followed by a lengthy turn-over, just long enough to make me wonder whether the engine will catch at all. When it does, a titanic VVVRRRAAMM can be heard – and felt – through both my fingertips and spine. It’s so abrupt and deep, resonating as it does through the cavernous parking structure, that it’s a few moments before my breathing returns to normal and I begin to creep, VERY gingerly towards the exit.
A hydraulic nose lift means this exercise is not quite as wincingly tentative as I expect, though it’s hardly the work of a moment. At 2030mm wide and 4835mm long, the SV is big. And I mean SERIOUSLY big: spend enough time with any car and they gradually begin to shrink around you as you grow used to the proportions. With the SV Roadster, it ain’t happening: the nose lift only works up to 50kph, and after that I can only imagine how close that enormous front splitter is skimming the asphalt; all I can see in the super slick wing mirrors are the beefed out rear wheel arches, and rear visibility is akin peering through a letterbox with cataracts. This makes the opening highway run, complete with movable chicanes, all the more stressful. And this is the easy bit: we’ve a mountain road to conquer at the end of this.
Mercifully the traffic, even at this absurd time in the morning, begins to thin out, and rather than darting glances in the wing mirrors, I can actually start to enjoy the drive. Of sorts. The engine noise is a symphony, limited noise insulation in the cabin allowing the V10 roar to emanate unmuffled. But while part of me is happy to keep this on repeat shuffle, the already exhausted part of my psyche needs something a little less rancorous: time for my headphones – again, no radio – and some Sam Smith.
“There’s a mechanical whir as the starter motor springs into action followed by a lengthy turn-over, just long enough to make me wonder whether the engine will catch at all. When it does, a titanic VVVRRRAAMM can be heard – and felt – through both my fingertips and spine.”
I’m still squirming though. Standing 6′ 2″ and with, ahem, ample proportions, I grant you I’m not the ideal stature for an Aventador. Nor, with a super-sporty suspension setup and ‘no holds barred’ approach to performance, could I reasonably expect a civilised ride quality. Even so, with the aggressively raked windscreen and the fixed seats, I’m forced to slink very far down into the bucket: fortunately there’s plenty of adjustability at the steering column to make this work. After 50 minutes of shifting, my back is already starting to feel the strain: I end up pulling over at a petrol station – good Lord, quarter tank gone already – to lodge a jacket between my shoulder blades for some semblance of lumbar support, much to the bemusement of the crankandpiston photography team following in our long term Cadillac. Up to this point, and with Bassam’s words still ringing in my ears alongside that thunderous V10 pitch, I’ve been stroking the Aventador along rather than standing on everything. As well as having 740bhp, this particular model is a marketing demo in the area for only a few weeks, hence the Italian number plate: should the front end meet a crash barrier, severe blood loss will be the least of half a million problems to contend with.
Slowly the monotonous highway run starts to dissipate into more winding stretches, desert landscape and town centres making way for rising outcrops of rocky terrain, and the knot of tension in the base of my spine fades away as we hit the start of our mountain route. No more excuses. No more stroking along. Time to see what the fastest and most electrifying Lamborghini of all time can really do.
Two quick flicks of my left hand, an immediate rise in engine note and rpm level as the road straightens out, and I gun it.
“The acceleration knocks the breath from my lungs, such is the violence of the delivery.”
The acceleration knocks the breath from my lungs, such is the violence of the delivery. It’s shocking, the initial jerk back into the bucket seat accompanied by rampant, unceasing pull from that V10 towards 8000rpm and above, the rising engine note and the blur of brownish-red as the mountains scream by almost dream-like. A flick of the right hand and a shockwave works its way down my arm as another gear is violently slotted home, the figures on the digital readout just outside my peripheral vision merely a blur now. No doubt the numbers they reveal would be barely credible.
Fortunately, as the first corner barrels into view as if by telekinesis, the carbon-ceramic brakes offer superb stopping power and just enough travel in the pedal to ensure both the bucket seat and I don’t hurtle through the windscreen when the anchors are thrown out. But the violence of this monster is such that I have to pull over, get my bearings. This suits the photography crew fine, as they set up several static shots and enjoy a not-so-quiet chuckle at my automotive PTSD.
Twenty minutes and a couple of spearmint chewing gums later, I’m ready to try again. In the interim, the photographers have removed the quick release roof panels, which add just 6kg to the slightly beefier kerb weight, though the use of lightweight materials and limited strengthening required for the carbon fibre monocoque mean the Roadster is only 50kg more than the hardtop. You might fully expect loading the roof panels of an Italian supercar into the boot to be a teeth-gnashing experience, but fortunately Lamborghini surprises us once again. Time to alight.
With the roof now gone, I’m able to sit much higher in the seat, and though that does mean the edge of the windscreen slices my view in two, I can at least see above it into the upcoming corners. It also means I can see over both shoulders, offsetting the need to rely on the tiny wing mirrors. Still my approach onto the road is ginger. I’m all too aware of the awaiting violence.
“When hunkered down on turn-in, the front end almost darts its way through the apex, the response so quick that for a second I’m caught out completely.”
Again and again, out of the corners, the power is such that I can barely fathom how the chassis can withstand such an onslaught without pretzelling itself. And yet, as we enter the corners, the barely tenable speeds do little to upset quite superb amount of traction as the front nose digs itself into the apex. And this is still in tooling-about-town Strada mode.
The reactivity of the nose, I’ll admit, is taking some getting used to. The sheer amount of grip available from the Pirelli P Zero Corsas means, when hunkered down on turn-in, the front end almost darts its way through the apex, the response so quick that for a second I’m caught out completely. I’ve been assured, though I’ve not experienced this myself, that the steering is the single biggest change over the standard Aventador. A faster steering rack and greater downforce at the front makes the brute a much more lithe entity, encouraging me to start leaning on the front end more and more. There is a thought that keeps running through my head as I do so: were I to turn in as hard as the Pirellis will allow, surely it’s only a matter of time before the back end snaps away.
I’m not about to put this to the test, but there’s a sense, with every tight apex, that more speed could be carried in were it not for this nagging cloud of doubt. Ironically, it’s through the faster corners that the ability of the four-wheel drive system begins to play its hand, power and traction alike being sluiced to the rear wheels, offering greater poise as a result. I can really start to feel the tyres loading up as I feed that enormous power bank back in and 509lb ft is deployed to the road.
As we continue the climb, every so often my peripheral vision picks up the clouds beginning to circle the mountain range, the undercurrent VVVVRAAAAAWWWW of the V10 echoing about the valley below. It’s an explosive rumble that could ruffle several hundred toupees more than 20km away, and I’m almost sorry there’s nobody else in the local vicinity to hear it. Or so I think. As I approach a tight hairpin and drop a couple of gears, I’m met on the exit by a tour bus – inexplicably – on this winding stretch of road, its occupants already with iPhones in-hand to photograph the Italian blue blur as its whizzes by.
So far I’ve been wary of the full-metal Corsa mode, though curiosity eventually gets the better of me, and I flick the switch.
Sure enough, the steering weights up yet further and throttle response is made even more savage, a note I make as my neck snaps back against the bulkhead when I jump on the loud pedal. There’s a savage jolt with each upshift, and a a rampant turn of speed as I keep the throttle pinned as long as I dare. It’s not very long – those canyon walls have started to close in around me – and even though the downshifts are much smoother, the unhinged nature of Corsa means it’s not long before I switch back to the comparative safety of Sport mode. Just in time too it seems, for Sam Smith has just reminded me ‘for you…I have to risk it all’. The canyon walls retreat a little.
“There’s a savage jolt with each upshift, and a rampant turn of speed as I keep the throttle pinned as long as I dare. It’s not very long – those canyon walls have started to close in around me.”
Even here though, and unlike a dual clutch system, the ISR transmission is less than seamless. I’m having to concentrate more keenly on the shift times – I can feel the Lambo beginning to pitch with the lateral momentum through some of the higher speed corners when I shift too early – and in many ways, the care and attention required is similar to the timing required for a manual gearbox. And just as rewarding. It’s not long before the bull has mauled its way to the top of the mountain.
It’s only after I clamber out that I realise just how quickly my heart is beating: it may have been the busload of my adoring public, but I rather doubt it. The clouds have grown heavier as I look out across the valley beneath, the V10 soundtrack still ringing in my ear and the knot in my back now digging at me. I want to continue the drive. I want to stand and mull the SV Roadster in all its glory. I want to sit with my head between my knees for a few moments, contemplate life, and tell my nearest and dearest I love them while I still can. It’s left me floored.
Even despite the ferocity of both those gear changes, the truly unhinged nature of that acceleration, the rapid changes of direction possible through both the well-weighted steering and the super grippy Pirellis, it’s not the SV’s vigour through the tighter corners that stays with me. It’s the drama of the drive, the speeds required to truly bring it alive, and the potential that lies beneath that metallic blue bodywork now ticking itself cool. It’s in equal parts daunting and engaging, terrifying and encouraging. Utterly, and completely, insane.
Engine V12, 6498cc
Power 740bhp @ 8400rpm
Torque 509lb ft @ 5500rpm
Transmission Seven-speed ISR, rear-wheel drive
Front suspension Horizontal magneto-rheological dampers with push-rod system
Rear suspension Horizontal magneto-rheological dampers with push-rod system
Brakes Carbo-ceramic, 400 x 38mm (front), 380 x 38mm (rear)
Wheels 9 J x 20in (front), 13 J x 21in (rear)
Tyres 255/30 ZR20 (front), 355/25 ZR21 (rear), Pirelli P-ZERO Corsa
Weight (dry) 1575kg
Top speed 350kph
Basic price $490,000