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» » Lamborghini Aventador Is One Mean Beast (Video)
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From its jagged leading edge and faceted air intakes to the terraced-glass engine louvers and improbably angled tail, the Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 is one menacing machine.

Its sharply creased body melds a series of striking sculptural shapes that bring to mind the venerable Countach and wicked Diablo. Beneath those angled creases lie all manner of bleeding-edge technology confirming the car’s malicious intentions, including a carbon-fiber monocoque weighing just 325 pounds, Formula 1–inspired push-rod suspension and an ungodly powerful V-12 engine. How quickly the late, great Murcielago has become a low-slung relic.

Lamborghini’s new flagship is, in a word, nuts. Nothing else describes a 690-horsepower projectile that shoots from zero to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds. YetLamborghini has managed to build a 217-mph machine with surprisingly approachable handling.

Don’t get me wrong. The Aventador is still one mean beast. But it’s a mean beast you can control, if not quite tame.

Like an Airplane Cockpit


The rumble of a single Aventador is enough to quicken your pulse, but the otherworldly fleet of Lambos idling at the Vallelunga circuit just outside Rome was downright daunting, even for a seasoned scribe who has piloted all kinds of automotive exotica, including the Bugatti Veyron. An unfamiliar track and looming storm clouds added to the tension: Would the Aventador’s bite be as piercing as its bark?

Opening the scissor door — de rigueur on a Lamborghini flagship — reveals a sparse, leather-lined cabin dominated by a center console slapped with enough buttons to resemble an airplane cockpit. There are no proper gauges: Instrumentation consists of colorful TFT screens that render simulations of an analog speedo or tachometer. Plastic door handles of dubious fit and aluminum-like bits cede a tactile advantage to the deliciously detailed — and equally quick —McLaren MP4-12C.


But the Lamborghini cabin manages to bring a sense of occasion to the driving experience. Appropriately, the keyless ignition system mimics a missile launcher: A small hinged shield flips open to expose a red engine-start button. Pushing it wakes the 6.5-liter V-12, which surges to nearly 3,000 rpm with an immersive roar before settling into an even idle. The sound is an eye (and ear) opening reminder of the awesome 12-cylinder power plant resting inches behind the cabin firewall.

Aggressive Engine


The symphony of internal combustion isn’t quite as loud as you might expect, but drop the windows or watch a stampede of Aventadors charge by, and a more sonorous and aggressive engine note asserts itself. After blipping the mill six or eight times, you may notice the sweep of the virtual tachometer isn’t quite as fluid as the simulated needle in the Lexus LFA supercar. But then who stares at the tach while easing out of pit lane with three other Aventadors?

The front straight at Vallelunga is lengthy enough to achieve treacherous speeds before coming upon a gentle right kink. The Aventador handles it easily. Three drive modes — strada, sport or corsa — can be selected with buttons on the transmission tunnel. Each provides increasingly aggressive throttle response and differential behavior, while decreasing the steering assist and traction control. Strada, Italian for road, is the most intrusive of the three. It makes the driving experience more approachable with lighter steering, smoother shifting and early electronic intervention.


Well-Mannered Restraint

Switch to corsa, Italian for race, before tossing the Aventador into a turn, and the engine feels livelier, as more torque is apportioned through a Haldex coupling to the chunky Pirellis behind you. Though there’s a bit of understeer at turn-in, holding the line diverts more power to the rear wheels, yielding throttle-induced oversteer and nicely kicking out the tail. Approaching the edge of this car’s limits requires fighter-pilot focus — especially when the V-12 is shrieking at 7,000 rpm and lurching the car forward as the rear end loosens, all while you’re struggling to keep out of the gravel. But the Aventador’s tractability makes the task less scary than you might imagine.


I didn’t venture to turn off the Aventador’s stability-control nanny, but handling proved remarkably tractable, sliding with confidence-inspiring progression, well-mannered restraint and barely perceptible body roll. Although less of a handful than you’d think, the Aventador’s more feral aspects come to the fore when the accelerator is mashed to the floor and the V-12 roars past 6,000 rpm toward its peak power at 8,250 rpm.

Rapid Response


For the truly skilled (or especially stupid), burying the accelerator pedal in corsa mode and tugging the paddle shifter triggers a violent lunge forward. It slams you back into the supportive leather seat like a punch to the kidney. The seven-speed automated manual gearbox switches cogs in as little as 50 milliseconds — nearly comparable to a Formula 1 car — and the engine’s main computer makes no fewer than half-a-billion computations per second.

Insistent Forward Motion


All that frantic computing governs everything from the torque distribution of the all-wheel-drive system to the level of traction-control intervention. Typical among cars of this caliber, a launch-control system enables maximum acceleration: In corsa mode, mash the gas and brake pedals to the floor until the engine hits 5,500 rpm, then let off the brake. Lamborghini officials discouraged us from engaging launch control, but suffice it to say that hard acceleration in the Aventador offers a rush of insistent forward motion that makes it nearly impossible to move your head forward. The sensation is accompanied by the synchronous shriek of one dozen angry cylinders.

Approaching 140 mph on Vallelunga’s back straight requires some fortitude, but you’re in good hands as you approach the sharp right-hander; massive carbon ceramic brakes are poised at all four corners, ready to scrub off speed with alacrity. Repeated deceleration reveals that the brakes, in fact, work even better when warmed up, as evidenced by weight transfer that lightens up the car’s tail. Pull into pit lane, and a slight charred smell is the only clue to their extreme stopping capabilites.


Darth Vader Looks

Some may consider the Aventador’s surprisingly well-mannered behavior a letdown in light of its Darth Vader looks and legendary ancestry. And you can argue the jaw-dropping silhouette and $387,000 price should include a more haunting exhaust note and heightened driver involvement at the car’s ludicrously high limits.


But such complaints miss the point: As the needle on its computer-generated tachometer sweeps toward redline, the Aventador shoots forward and attacks turns in a gorgeously swift motion that eclipses its overachieving predecessor, the Murcielago. This is no small feat, and to experience it first-hand is to make one hell of a case for the audacious new flagship from Sant’Agata.



Appropriately operatic footage of a pair of Aventadors roaming Rome

 
A pair of aventadors play at Bracciano Lake, Italy.
All photos and videos: Lamborghini

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