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2018 Lamborghini Aventador S
Lambo teaches its biggest bull to dance.
The Italian in the driver’s seat could have fallen from the pages of a men’s fashion magazine. Perfectly tailored suit, meticulously cropped hair, runway gaze everywhere he looks. As he races through Valencia, Spain, he turns another roundabout into a shallow chicane, powers down the straight, and grabs the next gear with fingers wrapped in a leather driving glove. Avicii’s sugary club pop plinks out the soundtrack to a scene so stereotypically Italian—so perfectly Lamborghini.
Except that our driver is hustling a diesel Audi A7. This is just the shuttle from the airport to the hotel.
It’s a fitting warm-up to a car that also is quintessentially Italian. Powered by equal parts emotion and stonking V-12, the Aventador S’s flaws animate its persona just as much as its best qualities. That’s nothing new. The 2017 Lamborghini Aventador S essentially amounts to a mid-cycle refresh of the Aventador LP700-4 that it replaces this spring at a starting price of $424,845. Still, this update is much more than just fascias and interior features. As we lapped Circuit Ricardo Tormo and attacked the writhing roads southwest of the city, Avicii’s infective rhythms continued to bounce through our brain, because Lambo’s biggest bull has learned to dance.
Rear SteerThe newfound dexterity stems from a rear-wheel steering system that can nudge the rear wheels up to 1.5 degrees in the opposite direction of the fronts during low-speed maneuvers. It chops the amount of steering input required from the driver, a fact that’s especially prominent in hairpin curves and in parking-lot maneuvers, where it makes the difference between rolling your wrists and crossing your arms. The rear steering also makes the car slightly more neutral, although it doesn’t eliminate the Aventador’s natural proclivity for understeer. With all-wheel drive and stickier, redesigned Pirelli P Zero rubber, the big Lambo resists power-on oversteer, but lift off the throttle at the cornering limit and the Aventador slowly rotates into a drift. It all adds up to an Aventador that is more sensitive and better attuned to the driver’s inputs. The rear end wriggles under hard braking, the steering issues more immediate commands, and the throttle wants to be tickled just so through the corners.
Within a roughly 15-mph window around the 80-mph mark, the rear wheels transition to steering in phase with the fronts—up to 3.0 degrees—to enhance stability. Lamborghini claims the hardware adds just 13 pounds and that the additional mass is entirely offset by weight savings elsewhere. An actively variable steering ratio (for the front wheels) and magnetorheological dampers are standard. This marks Lambo’s first use of supplier BWI’s third-generation magnetorheological dampers that split the older design’s single electromagnetic coil into two smaller coils for faster reaction times. Strada, Sport, and Corsa driving modes are joined by the new Ego setting, a customizable position in which the powertrain, steering, suspension, and stability-control modes can be individually configured. None of those modes would be described as a “comfort” setting. Every crack, bump, and pebble that perturbs the short-travel, pushrod suspension reminds you that you’re driving an unapologetic brute.
So does the 6.5-liter V-12, now turned up another 39 horsepower to 730. The added power comes from tuning tweaks to the variable-valve-timing system and the variable intake manifold, plus another 150 rpm at the top end. At speeds up to 8500 rpm, the 12-cylinder sings through a retuned exhaust that wails louder at full wood and cracks harder on overrun. When they’re not spitting flames, the exhaust pipes provide a periscope’s peep into the cherry glow of a V-12 run hard.
The Aventador’s Achilles’ heel remains the automated manual transmission that delivers painfully long pauses between the violent lurches that accompany every upshift. Lamborghini might have included a dual-clutch automatic gearbox as part of this update, except that there’s no room for a wider transmission. Even though the Aventador is roughly as wide as a garbage truck, the narrow tunnel between driver and passenger where the transmission is housed limits Lamborghini’s options. The irony that it was a bad Ferrari clutch that prompted Ferruccio Lamborghini to start this very car company seems lost on those in Sant’Agata.
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