Patrick_y test drives the Lamborghini Aventador at Pebble Beach. A long review and follows as the Lamborghini Aventador really digs its hoofs into Patrick_y's memories of other cars he's driven while at Pebble Beach.
I have been attending the Pebble Beach Concours since my teenage years (which I like to remind myself wasn’t that long ago). During the many years that I’ve been attending Pebble Beach Concours, I’ve had the great pleasure of test-driving many different types of automobiles, including some extremely special high performance automobiles.
But year after year, I often reflect on the many wonderful automobiles and I ask myself, which ones would I actually buy (if I had the funds)? Which ones - brand-prestige aside - were the best built, fine-tuned, and refined automobiles? Often times, I was stating to myself it was not the ultra-rare brands, but the mass-market brands such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz AMG that produced the best cars that actually drove and performed better than some of the ultra-expensive and ultra-exotic cars. I attributed this to the fact that these car companies are actually much larger, have larger R&D departments, have much larger budgets, and have much larger manpower and thus resulting in a superior product.
Well, this year turned out to be different. Thanks to a friend, I was invited to attend a Lamborghini test drive of the very new Aventador sports car. This is the first time I’ve ever driven a Lamborghini and I was admittedly excited, but going back to my original statement in the previous paragraph, I didn’t have high expectations because Lamborghini is a small company with a small R&D department. I was offered the Aventador model in either the coupe or roadster format. The resulting experience that I was about to experience will haunt me for decades…
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but one thing I really like is the utilitarian aesthetic of military aircraft. I find the design purposeful and beautiful. The Lamborghini Aventador definitely stirs my soul when it comes to its angular jet-fighter look. If I ever specified an Aventador, I would definitely specify the vehicle in matte black or potentially a matte battleship-grey to match military fighter planes. The design is modern, yet will be a loveable future classic. I truly find the Aventador to be one of the most beautiful cars in current existence.
Stepping into the Aventador’s cockpit, you’re taken into world that is highly functional, yet beautifully designed without being overdone (certain cars have overly ornate interior where it starts to become more puffery than anything else). I feel the scissor-style door is well positioned and with a tiny amount of practice I could perform the ingress/egress maneuvers with ease and grace and without creating wear on the seat bolsters (yes, I’m OCD when it comes to wear on seat bolsters).
The instrument cluster is very unique, highly functional, and despite being an LCD screen, this wasn’t distracting to me at all compared to normal analogue gauges. But the one thing that did annoy me was the large amount of Audi switchgear for the navigation and the climate control.
The overall layout is efficient and with the exception of the climate control and navigation system and radio, is all very intuitive and learned very quickly (I had a hard time with the air conditioning system). The most important buttons are the; Stop/Start button, for turning on and off the car; “STRADA SPORT CORSA” mode buttons, which determine the ferociousness of the transmission, suspension tuning, and throttle mapping of the car; two very discreet transmission buttons labeled “M” and “R” that put the transmission in reverse and in forward position; and a very important nose lift button, that raises the car’s front nose by a few inches to help you enter driveways and to go off-roading.
The rest of the interior is purposeful, functional, and exciting. Trimmed in top quality leather. I found the interior to be beautiful, not lacking in any way, and faultless in terms of workmanship and quality. This is not always the case, as I once found a very expensive British sports car that had a beautiful interior, but I noticed some pieces were held together with double-sided tape (this car was a customer car, not a prototype). The Aventador’s interior continues the same personality as its exterior and the design cohesion is perfect. Murcielago owners are probably jealous of the Aventador’s exterior good looks, but they’ll absolutely turn green with the interior of the Aventador, because the difference between the interior is an even larger difference than the exterior.
Admittedly, driving the Aventador for only an hour doesn’t give you the whole experience of the car in every possible condition. I’ve driven many cars for relatively short periods of time and like cooking, if one uses fine ingredients in the right quantities and doesn’t ruin the preparation and cooking process, the results are somewhat generally superb. This review is not written to suggest PuristSPro members to go out and procure an Aventador, if you’re fortunate enough to be considering one, please don’t consider this review a one stop shop for your homework and research.
It’s difficult to imagine 700 horsepower, it’s a quantity that’s not only generous but able to be felt in a rather control-able way due to the fact that the car features an AWD system. However, unlike most AWD systems, the steering feel doesn’t suffer from any vague feeling due in part to the drive effect on the front wheels. Notice we’re discussing the steering before we discuss the engine power.
Steering on so many cars is so difficult to perfect. Sometimes steering can be too heavy and not communicative, too light and yet communicative, too slow of a ratio, and some steering wheels feel artificial altogether. Not all the brands do it perfectly either nor consistently within their model ranges. Some brands also have odd combinations, for instance Audi (Lamborghini’s parent company) has a heavy steering feel but paired with a slightly slow steering ratio on one of its highest performance vehicles. Giving that Audi a very relaxed GT feel, but preventing it from being driven very quickly on windy roads.
Going back to the Aventador’s steering, it’s a very good unit that telepathically connects you with the car and the road. And compared with the Aston Martin Vanquish, a potential competitor, the Aventador outshines the Aston Martin in nearly every category but especially in steering and acceleration.
How many cars, even cars in this caliber are equipped with a push-rod suspension? Just to give you an idea of how special push-rod suspension is… Imagine a normal car’s suspension to be equivalent to sliding brake calipers; a coil-over suspension to be equivalent to a fixed caliper set-up; and a push-rod suspension is analogous to a carbon ceramic brake rotor with a fixed caliper set up. There is no better ingredient. But just because you use the best ingredients doesn’t mean you can be less careful with the preparation and cooking. For instance, somehow Spyker’s C8 push-rod suspension equipped car didn’t handle that well, probably due to the addition of conflicting ingredients and undercooking.
The suspension is firm, but supple. The car has three personality modes; Strada, Sport, and Corsa, all of which affect the damping of the valved oil-based suspension. I drove the car most often in Strada mode and found the suspension firm, but not overly firm, and combined with the reasonably smooth Northern Californian roads of Carmel it felt comfortable. The roads unfortunately didn’t get too curvy so a full work-out of the suspension was not experienced. But to see those muscles flexed, it’s a reminder of what the Aventador is likely capable of.
ENGINE & EXHAUST
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the car is the 6.5 liter 12-chambered heart within the Aventador that produces 700 horsepower. This is still a manufacture movement – meaning that it was produced by Lamborghini, for Lamborghini, and is not commercially utilized in any other volume product within the corporate umbrella. The use of an exclusive engine is impressive because they could’ve used the smoother, more modern, and already superb and reliable W12 engine that the corporate umbrella makes for the VW Phaeton, Audi A8, and Bentley Continental. But due to dimensional, weight, historical concerns, and (most importantly) emotional concerns, the engineers decided on a nearly bespoke engine for the Aventador. As we get further and further into the 21st century, we will likely see less and less 12-cylinder engines as governments create and enforce greener laws and car company environmental lobbyists shift their bill-able hours to save V8 engines from extinction. Save the 12-chambered Bulls! Preserve them for the future!
The thrust and torque of this engine is impressive, yet comfortable and easily controlled due in part to the electronic (as opposed to viscous) AWD system. All in all, you get a surprisingly tame and easy to drive car that doesn’t feel unpredictable and unmanageable. Imagine having a pet tiger for a car; one that’s capable of ripping your head off, but tame enough to be controlled. No, not a slowed-down tranquilized tiger, a fully functional tiger that’s just obedient to its driver.
Side-note: considering the Aventador is named after a famous bull, perhaps we should be using bull in lieu of Tigers. Hmm, going off on a tangent here, what will Apple do when they run out of OS X cats? Bears? Can’t use bulls, due to the company here already using them.
The end result is mutually beneficial; the driver with varying experience can have a high amount of fun in relative safety, plus the bull decreases the likelihood of allowing the driver to injure himself. It’s become a safer rodeo despite the bigger and stronger bull. Lamborghini purists will likely state that the macho-ism of driving a Lamborghini is disappearing, but considering the fact that the car returns its driver with even better lap times, a results-oriented manager still wouldn’t complain about this employee’s performance.
Keep in mind how much motorsports have changed. 40 years ago, Formula 1 drivers had a substantial chance of crashing and losing life and limb in every Grand Prix weekend. We remember Niki Lauda’s explosive accident that nearly cost him his life at the infamous Nurburgring. Things like this don’t happen anymore. Does this mean that Lamborghini purists should think less of Formula 1? Perhaps. But the rest of the world would say it brings the best out of the drivers, as more and more drivers are willing to push the limit because death is not standing in the way…
In comparison with the Aston Martin Vanquish, the Aventador is loud but still with a great sound. The Aventador does seem more quiet than the Vanquish when the cars are being driven normally, probably because the Aventador’s sound is less distinctive than that of the Vanquish in the lower RPMs. The Vanquish still has the better sound with a deeper and more masculine character, but the Aventador’s higher pitched whine is a certain delight to the ears. Analogous perhaps to a sense of Italian urgency vs. British refinement. This is quite possibly the only thing the Aventador loses to the Vanquish, but otherwise, consider the Vanquish nearly vanquished when compared to the Aventador in the individual subjects.
I often think car transmissions are the unsung heroes of all cars. So much emphasis is given to the engine that the transmission is often forgotten. For instance, drive a Smart ForTwo and it’s actually not a bad car, I’ve accumulated a couple thousand miles on them as rentals. The Smart handles well, the unassisted steering has fantastic feel, the brakes are usable; but that transmission fills me in awe on how awful it is.
Unlike its closest competitor, the Ferrari F12, that uses a double clutch transmission (a la Porsche GT3 and Mercedes Benz SLS), the Lamborghini uses a single-clutch automated manual transmission. The dinosaur of the bunch is the Aston Martin Vanquish which uses a traditional torque converter automatic. The single clutch is enjoyable and quick to response. My biggest fault with the transmission lies on the paddles themselves. The paddles controlling the transmission are beautiful in design but connected to the steering column. The problem is the pulling feel of the transmission paddles, the haptics, leaves something to be desired. Also, as you pull either paddle, you’ll notice the plastic surround on the steering wheel column move and creak ever so slightly. Some improvements with the haptic feel one gets when pulling the paddle could make this car even closer to perfection. I have a car where the turn signal stalk has the most delicious click and feel with fine-tuned haptics, and I find that I enjoy the car noticeably more because of it!
The transmission is incredibly fast. Lamborghini claims a shift time of 60 ms. I don’t doubt it. Ironically, it’s still quite smooth and quite comfortable. In all three modes; Strada, Sport, and Corsa, the shifts were executed in a manner appropriate at high RPMs. At low RPMs for normal driving, the shifts were only perfectly smooth in the Strada mode. Before I got into the Aventador for the first time, I heard from a Lamborghini purist that the transmission wasn’t very well tuned in the earlier models; and I’m pleased to state that this was not the case on the more recent example I drove.
The whole experience, the way the Aventador makes you feel, etc. is nothing short of amazing. But at the same time, it’s a combination of quality ingredients that are well integrated together. No, they’re not feeding you beluga and top shelf whiskey; they’re pairing it correctly and they’re getting miraculous results.
This test isn’t perfect because I’m not living with the car on a day-to-day basis. Many will say that Lamborghini Aventador is a wide car and therefore a little more difficult to drive/pilot on windy roads. Enzo Ferrari, Feruccio Lamborghin’s rival, had the oddest feeling about wide cars, claiming that less wide cars were better because the weight transfer was more direct and predictably felt. Driving a car for only an hour doesn’t give you a whole experience of how the car will be in your garage, in your neighborhood, in a normal setting. For instance, normal life in the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe is actually quite difficult; a lot of problems arise when arriving at a parking lot and you have to open those thick rear-mounted door in an already tight parking space with a bigger than normal car. But I honestly don’t see any problems with the Aventador except for the too-low-nose, crazy driveways in hilly San Francisco, sky-high insurance costs, and normal debris and pot-holes on the roads. True experience will tell you what you can predict.
Perhaps another big part of this car is the fact that it’s a proof that a small car company like Lamborghini can make a wonderful car. As I stated earlier, I have the belief that it takes a large R&D team to make a great car. Citing the fact that I wasn’t impressed with neither of the Aston Martins I ever drove. Well, apparently, Lamborghini does it with top-shelf ingredients and a lot of passion.
Loan me a military flight suit, an IWC Top Gun Doppel-chrono watch, aviator sunglasses, and a Lamborghini Aventador. But be careful, I may just keep on flying forever. But don’t worry, I’ll check back in on PuristSPro to let you know what it’s like to live with.
Power A+ With honors in power application through AWD system.
Handling B+ A little wide for true handling, but superb nonetheless
Suspension A Fantastic ingredients contribute to fantastic suspension
Comfort B+ Very good for this level of car.
Aesthetics A+ One of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever seen
Heritage A If the air conditioner didn’t work, it’d be historically accurate.
Build Quality A No major faults noted, a long reliable service life is anticipated.
Price/Performance C The very high price is a painful pill to swallow. Law of diminishing marginal returns per dollar spent.
Overall Feeling A+ The way this car makes you feel is nothing short of amazing.
Price/Overall Feeling B The feeling is amazing. The car is everything you want it to be. It’s an accessory, it’s a performer, it’s a companion, and it’s a work of art.