KYALAMI, Gauteng – We drive Lamborghini's apex predator, the Aventador S Roadster, in its natural environment … at the race track.
So this is the latest version of the Aventador, is it?
Indeed, it is. Along with a mild facelift last year, the Aventador gained 30 more kilowatts and an “S” at the end of its name. This, of course, is the convertible version … if one could use that term to describe a removable roof that’s no more than two tray-sized lightweight carbon-fibre panels.
To be honest, I’m not usually much of a convertible fan (I'll always opt for a performance car with a proper roof), but think I prefer this Roadster’s design to that of the coupé...
I agree. It looks even more aggressive than the hard top ... and downright reptilian. I know the bull is the animal associated with the brand, but given those angular body panels, extra air scoops on the roof, and fang-like air splitters on the front bumper, this surely has more in common with a bloodthirstier branch of the evolutionary tree that predates those grass-eating mammals by millennia.
And this really is something of a throwback. It’s one that proudly carries the DNA of its mid-engined, V12 ancestors – from the Countach to the Diablo and Murciélago. As supercars have become more approachable, with engine capacity and cylinders making way for whistling turbos and whining electric motors, the Aventador has stood out like a big, angry dinosaur hatched from the same clutch that spawned Godzilla. These were never cars one could pootle down to the shops in – a trait both it and its handlers were only too proud of.
Oh, stop being so dramatic. Everyone is trying to make their supercars more 'driveable'. Surely Lamborghini has also tried to tone down this Mesozoic Era mojo?
Well, it tried. Along with the bump in power, the car now also has four-wheel steering to complement its AWD system, along with a reprogrammed suspension apparently designed to make for more assured handling.
But it hasn’t really worked?
Not even slightly.
It didn’t take more than a couple of laps round Kyalami to confirm the big Lambo has retained all the squinty eyed cunning of its ancestors. Electric prods may now be the means of control, but goading it through Kyalami’s 14 corners and two straights made it perfectly clear this was a beast merely biding its time, waiting patiently to punish any lapse in concentration with a neat row of needle-sharp teeth marks.
Not that it doesn’t caution you right up front, though. There are enough visual clues both inside and out that clearly communicate exactly what you’re signing up for here. From the overlapping glass scales that reveal a huge 12-chamber heart pulsing within a carbon-fibre harness, to scissor doors that seem more inclined to sever a limb than welcome you within, there’s no doubt what you’re about to poke in the chest once you push the starter button.
It has different driving modes though, doesn’t it? Surely there is one that’s relatively docile?
It does come with strada (normal), sport, corsa (track) and ego modes – the latter allows you to tailor your powertrain, steering and suspension settings. And yes, initially, it did seem relatively docile.
Exiting Kyalami’s pits on a sighting lap – despite being in corsa mode – and keeping the revs between 3 000 and 5 000 r/min makes for a car that feels entirely manageable. The seven-speed transmission’s sequential manual ISR swaps cogs relatively smoothly, the steering feels plenty accurate and the rear-wheel steering arrangement helps persuade the heavy rear to obediently follow the front round tight corners.
Lap two onwards, though, was a different story. From 6 000 to the 8 400 r/min redline, the engine note turns into a howl, gear changes hit you in the small of the back like a tail-clubbed Ankylosaurus and, wh…
Did you Google that?
I did … and, what a moment ago was the distant end of the main straight, is now suddenly a sweeping left-hander requiring my urgent attention. The brakes, thankfully, are mighty and the ESC’s anger management system floods the reptilian brain with enough calming narcotics to keep it from bucking in protest.
The turn-in now becomes ultra-sharp as the big supercar pivots on its axis and the rear swings round. It’s a disconcerting feeling, especially through The Esses, where the rear-wheel steering gives the backend a distinctly floaty feeling; like it’s about to slap you across the back of the head with irrecoverable oversteer. Only it doesn’t. Instead, the big Aventador swivels its hips and slithers left and right, snaking through the corners with a practiced and distinctly predatory disposition.
Very poetic. I meant to ask earlier – convertibles are usually heavier, exhibit more flex and are slower than their coupé siblings. Same apply here?
The Roadster is 50 kg heavier than the coupé, but they have the same top speed and if you’re able to tell the difference between the 2,9 seconds it takes the coupé to hit 100 km/h and the 3,0 seconds it takes the Roadster, then you’re someone with way too much time on your hands. Given the Aventador’s exceptionally rigid carbon-fibre tub – and certainly with those roof panels in place – there was zero perceptible flex in the body.
So, yes, Lamborghini may have genetically engineered one or two nods to civility into its big anachronistic supercar, but you’d be unwise to ignore the strategy of extreme caution pioneered by our own ancestors. It may now be more agile and perhaps inspire a little more confidence … but don’t be fooled into unshackling its restraints.
This remains a glorious maverick of a supercar that, when driven in anger, will snap at your flanks and do its level best to confirm just why human beings have long been grateful the era of the dinosaurs never coincided with their own...