September 24, 2014 @ 02:12 PM

Lamborghini Aventador - Who's the boss?

The Huracan is out and while attention is focussed on the Gallardo replacement, we take the Aventador LP 700-4 out for a drive to remember



Text: Ahmad Zulizwan
Pictures: Lamborghini KL
 
It just occurred to me that bullfighting is banned in Italy. And in Spain, the focal point of this activity (only nine countries across the world still allows bullfighting), there is already a long standing wave of support to make it illegal. So not only does Lamborghini chooses the fiercest, most aggressive fighting bulls as inspiration in naming some of their supercars, it is also based on an unlawful ‘sport’ that has long been politically, socially and morally incorrect.
 
Let me tell you one more thing that is incorrect about a Lamborghini – the pedal position. Here we are at the Sepang circuit with six Aventador coupes, all ready to paste some rubber onto the searing hot asphalt which already has a few layers of racing slicks, a lot of them from the Super Trofeo Gallardo that ran the days before. I put my right foot on a pedal which would typically be where the brakes are, and have my forefinger on the starter button. But hold on, is my foot really on the brake pedal?
 
Apparently, it is not. You see, both pedals are so offset to the middle (to accommodate the superwide 255 section front Pirellis) that essentially, you are forced to sit slightly rotated off-axis from the waist down. You face the steering wheel just fine, yet the knees are pointing inward. It’s just a minor adjustment, but to the little mount of muscle associated to the right ankle it does make a difference. By the time I drive back into the pit after four laps, the right foot feels overworked.
 
The day started much earlier as a small group of journalists from around the region trickled in for the Lamborghini Esperienza Aventador drive. A foreign writer commented to me about the reasoning for all this, after all the Aventador Coupe is already 3 years old and the Huracan – which was officially unveiled not two months before – is certainly what the world wants to know about. In a way he had a point: we want to drive the Huracan 610-4.
 
However, the Aventador will do fine for now.

 
This programme was organised in conjunction with the Super Trofeo one-make race series, an important enough event for the company to expand on. Lamborghini had the track for a couple of extra days for them to demonstrate existing and potential customers of the Aventador’s potency. It’s just the best way to sell a super sports car: the amount of grin the car induces is in direct relation to how quickly the driver will sign over the dotted line. And the Aventador LP 700-4 is able to squeeze big smiles from even the most sour of faces. Tommy Lee Jones would smile, I’m sure.
 
Things have been sweet since the Aventador was introduced. It may not have pushed sales to record high numbers (it did go close), but as the model which replaced the Murcielago it certainly did very well. During the Aventador Roadster launch in Miami last year, company Chief Executive Officer Stephan Winkelmann declared that every Aventador unit their Sant Agata factory could produce in 2013 already had an owner.
 
The Aventador is important not only in the commercial sense but also for the company’s engineering future. The Murcielago was equipped with a V12 engine block that started life at the same time company founder Ferrucio Lamborghini created the 350GT, the first ever raging bull. Naturally, it could no longer provide the necessary performance and efficiency needed by customers and regulators. A new engine was needed.
 
Credit where it is due, Lamborghini did not put more attention to the latter’s requirements and sacrifice what the former party wants. “That it would be another 12-cylinder engine was never in doubt,” would be the mantra. It is not just for pride, what the company needed to maintain was the intrinsic benefits of a big capacity naturally aspirated motor – a high-revving nature, instant reaction and emotional appeal. Their engineers dictated that up to the 5-litre mark, a V10 is optimum, as they highlighted with the Gallardo. Physical limitations dictated that anything more than the eventual 6.5 litre capacity required larger pistons together with heavier con-rods. Pass. A 6498cc engine, then.
 
The new engine needed something more. It needed to produce more horsepower and torque, yet it had to be lighter, smaller and allowed for whatever it is fitted to to have a lower centre of gravity. At 235kg the power unit generates 3bhp for every kilo of engine weight. Did we mention that it is hand-built too?
 
There is always a surreal feeling when approaching a car such as the Aventador; for something so powerful and, for the most of us, a subject of our utopian future, it does not physically intimidate the way it should. The coupe stands at just 1136mm with a body that effectively hides its 2030mm width (making it lower and wider than the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta which similarly sports a V12). It is strangely big and small at the same time. Like a proper Lamborghini, almost everything you need to do with it requires a sense of gravitas. It starts with the scissor doors of course. Be careful, it swings up and slightly out so may just knock into you; or worse, get scratched by your belt buckle (or the lady friend’s purse).
 
I bag a right-hand drive car (some of them are LHDs) in Arancio Argos colour – Lambo speak for orange. It’s not a very difficult cabin to drop into – the sill is narrow while the roof is accommodating. In fact, the seat is so sculpted that once there, all you really need to do is adjust your seating position. It is absolutely imperative to get the seating position right if only because of the off-set pedals. We’re not about to go on a leisurely drive around the block, after all.
 
This is not my first time in the Aventador and it seems that whenever you seat in the driver’s seat without an instructor or chaperone as passenger, an instructor will quickly find its way to you, kneeling beside the door most likely asking whether if you have any questions for him. Nothing? Well, he will likely continue with either of these sentences:

 
“Do you know what the buttons do?” – No sir, that’s impossible. There are two dozen of them on the dashboard alone it seems, and that’s hard to comprehend in a car this expensive.
 
“Please do not turn off the electronic systems” – Okay, but what exactly have they told you about me?
 
“Do you know how to get the car into gear? To neutral?” – Yes I do. It is an important question to remind you that Lamborghini does things their own way. There is no ‘Drive’ slot per se, in fact there is no gear stalk; just pull on the upshift paddle. Neutral gear is accessed by tugging the down- and upshift paddles together.
 
The Aventador may look flashy but once inside you will feel that it is all business. Not to say it’s cramped here yet somehow the driver’s torso is locked into place as how the seat in a GT-class racer would. Too bad I don’t get enough time to absorb what all the buttons do however, much like previous experiences in the Aventador, then. We’re told of the important bits – namely to change between Strada, Sport and Corsa. I press the engine start button before there’s a half-second of silence before the crank spins and catches on. Twelve cylinders start to move with an all new firing order, truly leaving the Bizzarrini-designed V12 era as not a foot behind my left shoulder 690Nm of torque is waiting to be unleashed. There’s two groups of two cars, with each group led by an instructor in his own Lambo.
 
They are not mucking about today and I see the two Aventadors in front squat on the massive 335 section rear tyres as soon as they enter the track. “This will be a good day”, I listen myself saying.
 
The 7-speed ISR (Independent Shifting Rods) gearbox provides, as the manufacturer describes it, the world’s most emotional gear shift. I would describe it as being physically aggressive. For the first lap the car is still in fully automatic Strada (Street) mode, but the full throttle upshift from third to fourth is slightly unsettling the car as it powers through Turn 3. The all-wheel drive flinches noticeably, nothing more than that thankfully. In hindsight, I should have put more faith in its traction.
 
It grips very well, however the Aventador will remind you of its mass. Lamborghini has gone great lengths in ejecting weight, indeed it is lighter by 75kg compared to the Murcielago and with a dry weight of 1575kg the LP 700-4 Coupe still creates massive lateral loads. For that, it still has a tinge of mid-corner understeer at the limit. A subtle lift would correct this, except that at this point the throttle is as volatile as a honey badger on heat. Every millimetre of change in throttle pressure gets a reaction from the engine, making the rear wiggle. Nothing else require right pedal accuracy more than mid-ship cars, more so with speeds the Aventador can dish out.
 
A chance to test the acceleration power comes at the main straight. No fancy launch control (Lamborghini calls it Thrust mode) which in the Aventador is done simply by going to Corsa and switching off the ESC; instead like a traffic light sprint by stepping on the throttle. It starts off calm enough, it jumps forward a little and bogs down, as if the electronics and powertrain are figuring out what you want them to do. Then from second gear onwards your spine is compressed to the thin-yet-adequately-padded seats as the gearbox grab my shift points with an attitude. I see 7000rpm – BAM! Into third. Another swing into 7200rpm and I tug the paddle for fourth – BAM. Another long inhale for the 12 cylinders to detonate, it roars and… brake!
 
It’s not a long stretch, from the start of the pit wall to the end. Still, the digitally rendered dashboard readout shows 180km/h, thereabouts. Fun, of course. But it’s the full lap dance which I’m more interested in.
 
It starts soon after and everyone has more confidence with the car now. I let the car dance a bit through Turn 3 but I am still not getting chummy with its razor sharp throttle so might as well start off with Sport. The response gets even more incisive but that’s about it other than how the power is assigned, more on this later. It does not make the suspension harder, not that it needs to. This thing corners virtually flat; in an odd way it’s like driving a kart, then – you don’t feel much weight transfer but there is enough for you to work with. Just keep in mind that the amount of physical forces at play here are immense.

 
As for the suspension, the Ohlin dampers are all passive units to explain why changing to Corsa does not make the chassis harder. The car is eerily good at the faster corners with superb front end accuracy. Like I said, you feel the car’s mass when attacking a corner but in relative to its yaw character, it might as well be an Exige or Cayman. This is the carbon tub and pushrod system earning its pay – particularly for the latter. While the dampers are passive, it does offer a hydraulic lifting function to raise the front end up by 40mm, useful to clear speed bumps for instance. No such nonsense out on track, of course.
 
It’s a matter of preference but my stint with Corsa on was less satisfying than the supposedly less aggressive Sport mode. Let us add here that the Drive Select System also alters steering, engine mapping, stability control tolerance and the centre Haldex differential. In Corsa up to 80 per cent of available torque is delivered to the rear wheels, the remaining to the front tyres. However, Sport ensures 90 per cent goes to the rear, essentially turning the Aventador Coupe into a truer rear-wheel drive. The more progressive spread of torque is appreciated too. Having said that, it depends on your style of driving; if you want a more on-off type of throttle sensitivity with the least amount of ESC, Corsa’s the way to go.
 
The steering is very consistent with feel; and is accurate yet doesn’t keep the driver too busy in keeping the car straight. It is a bit vague on the dead-centre so at fast switchbacks I tend to notice that moment of ambiguity as the direction changes. Still, on the smooth track surface there really is nothing to trouble the steering.
 
Drawbacks? Nothing more than the ones already mentioned here: the throttle leaves little room for error as any accidental twitch shifts the car’s balance; full throttle upshift is unapologetically brutal (although that’s only for first to second) and despite it being lighter than the Murcielago it replaces, keeping 1575kg stick on Sepang’s Turn 5, 6 and 7 is still a handful. And while unavoidable, the off-set pedals are simply frustrating.
 
But really, the Aventador LP 700-4 is a monster for all the right reasons. It’s the sound – and it does not matter if you are privileged enough to hear 7500rpm while inside the cabin, or hear the car go by at 250km/h, it just never gets to be vanilla. It’s the design and the way that engine cover is merely an awning, as if that engine is at a café dining al fresco; who would have thought of using glass as an engine cover? The way the Ohlins lie horizontally at the back; with the twin double wishbones, pushrod and bellcrank however all hidden behind the skin.
 
It’s all just a flirting game really and Italian car makers are masters at it.
 
 
Specifications
Price
POA
Engine
Mid-engine V12, 6498cc 48v, 700bhp @ 8250rpm, 690Nm @ 5500rpm
Transmission
7-speed ISR automated manual, all-wheel drive
Kerb weight
1575kg
Weight to power ratio
2.25kg/bhp
0-100kmh
2.9 seconds
Top speed
350km/h
Fuel consumption
17.2l/100km (claimed, combined)
Suspension
Front and rear horizontal mono-tube damper with push-rod system
Length/width/height
4780/2030/1136mm

Rating 5
 

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