ESTORIL, Portugal – Turning up at a racetrack to flog the living daylights out of a 566 kW supercar constitutes a magnificent day at the office, but it also triggers a mild degree of trepidation. Particularly as we’ve just been informed the newly laid tarmac at the Circuito do Estoril offers very little in the way of grip. There’s as yet no rubber laid down on the track, and residual oil from the fresh asphalt has seeped to the surface under the hot sun.
But, what the heck, this is no ordinary supercar. This is Lamborghini’s brand-new Aventador SVJ (Super Veloce Jota). “Super Veloce” is Italian for “Super Fast”, while Jota is Spanish for the letter ‘J’, which is a reference to ‘Appendix J’, the FIA rulebook governing the preparation of road-based race cars. Lamborghini will build just 900 SVJs (priced from R9 483 006), and an additional 63 "special editions" with individually numbered plaques. The latter number commemorates the year Lamborghini was born – 1963.
The SVJ’s big claim to fame comes via a staggering 6:44,97 lap at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, making it the fastest production car around the daunting 20,6 km circuit – eclipsing the former record of 6:47,30 set by the Porsche 911 GT2 RS a few months earlier.
Beating the GT2 RS’s lap required every aspect of the Aventador – chassis, drivetrain and aero – to be fettled. For starters, the SVJ’s mighty, free-spinning 6,5-litre V12 was reworked for better breathing via titanium intake valves, redesigned cylinder heads and reshaped intake runners. It also scores a new lightweight exhaust system with two large pipes exiting halfway up the rear facia to mimic extreme motorbikes. Apart from reducing back pressure, the other payoff with the new exhaust is a sonic signature that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. It’s bloodcurdlingly lovely.
The SVJ also gets 50% stiffer antiroll bars than the already hardcore Aventador SV, while its bespoke lightweight rims are shod with specially developed Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres. That said, an extra spend gets you the Kevlar-reinforced Trofeo R boots (as used by the Nürburgring record breaker) that can withstand the huge loads placed by a sustained thrashing on a long, fast, high-downforce circuit such as the Nordschleife.
And it’s downforce where the SVJ really makes its gains, thanks to a massive fixed rear wing, aggressive two-plane splitter, air-channelling vents in the top of the nose and winglets on the front corners that smooth the airflow down the flanks and channel more air to the radiator intakes. All these add up to an extra 40% of downforce compared with the bewinged Aventador SV.
But the real trick bit is Version 2,0 of the clever ALA (“Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva”) active aero wizardry that enabled the Huracán Performante to claim ’Ring king status in 2017. The principle is exactly the same this time around. There is a pair of ducts – opened and closed by small electric motors – at the front and rear of the car, and the job of these is to either "stall" (i.e. cancel out) the downforce of the front splitter and rear wing or allow air to flow as normal across these to generate maximum downforce.
So, on the straights the ducts stall the aero addenda for a speed-enhancing low-drag setup, but the instant you hit the brakes it reverts to high-downforce mode to stabilise the car. The pièce de résistance is "aero vectoring", which stalls the outside half of the rear wing when cornering. Meanwhile, maximum downforce is applied to inner half, helping the car turn into the bend. It’s the same principle as torque vectoring, just using airflow rather than braking the inside wheels.
All great in theory, but what does the Aventador SVJ actually feel like out in the real world? In a word: gobsmacking. It’s a wonderfully playful and entertaining brute that devours straights and virtually defies physics with its ability to carry enormous cornering speeds, even on a super-slippery Circuito do Estoril.
A big part of the Lambo’s appeal is down to that epic V12. Which other engine offers so much grunt down low, yet sings its way to 8 700 r/min with such joyful ease? The addition of the free-flow exhaust to the SVJ has made it an even more sonorous motor (especially in Corsa mode), with a banshee-like wail in the upper half of its rev band and flame-spitting visual drama.
But what really separates the SVJ from past Aventadors is the confidence with which you can work up to its (or your own) limits. Even with that big lump of a V12 at the back, the car has wonderful balance, and there’s a newfound adjustability that certainly wasn’t there in the past. Dived into a corner too hot? No problem, a little lift of the throttle or light dab on the brakes instantly gets the nose tucked in.
The massive carbon-ceramic stoppers are progressive and offer good pedal feel, inspiring confidence to stand on them as late as possible even at the end of the pit straight at Estoril … with the speedo reading in excess of 280 km/h. The car squirms noticeably under full retardation, but there’s never a nagging concern that the V12-laden rear end will overtake the rest of the car.
Limitations? The Aventador SVJ is by no means flawless. The ISR gearbox might be hugely improved, but it’s still not a patch on the latest-gen dual-clutch ’boxes offered in its Ferrari/Porsche/McLaren rivals. And the cabin is still compromised in the extreme. Anyone over 1,8 metres will find their headroom restricted, while the fixed-back seats in the SVJ are fine for a brief thrash around a racetrack, but they’d be backache material after a few hours on the road. Rear and lateral visibility were hardly good in the original Aventador, but the SVJ’s massive wing pretty much nullifies whatever view existed out back.
On the plus side, Lamborghini’s engineers have extracted every last iota of dynamic potential out of the Aventador for the SVJ. It’s a fitting swansong, sending the model off with panache before an all-new replacement arrives in two years or so. A true Raging Bull great.
Author: Gautam Sharma