Lamborghini flagship, the Aventador, is a mean looking & sounding machine. But is its bite as fierce as its bark? We head to the Sepang F1 circuit in Malaysia to find out…
Ferrucio Lamborghini didn’t really believe in the adage, ‘Racing improves the breed.’ He was more interested in creating the fastest possible cars for the road – and he did that very well indeed. But Lamborghini now has a department known as ‘Squadra Corse,’ which literally translates to ‘Racing Team.’ So, not only do they have their own one-make racing championship – the Super Trofeo Series – for their well-heeled and hot-shooed clients, but they’ve also developed an even more hard-core version of the Gallardo to take part in GT3 racing.
The Gallardo, however, has been replaced by the brand new Huracan. And so the racer must follow. The Gallardo will take a bow at the world finals of the Super Trofeo Series later this year. Essentially, the top drivers of the Trofeo Cup from the US, Europe, and Asia will converge at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia to compete for top honours.
Now, the Sepang International Circuit is one of the first Herman Tilke F1 circuits in the world – and it’s a good one! This fast, 5.5 kilometre circuit outside Kuala Lumpur held its first F1 race in 1999, and I’ve wanted to visit the track pretty much ever since. But it’s eluded me all these years – until now! You see, Lamborghini has already started accepting orders for the Huracan. And the orders are coming thick and fast. But it doesn’t hurt to continue to showcase the car to existing and potential customers. And what better way to do that than to invite these good folk to an international race circuit to drive none other than the flagship – the Aventador LP 700-4. Of course, a stationary Huracan was prominently present as well.
Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to make it on the list. Naturally, that wasn’t because I could conceivably write a check for one – the hope is, though, that one of you can however. And so I set of for KL on a trip that would require less than 24 hours on foreign turf. After all, the car is quick – so it should have an itinerary to match. How quick you say – the car that is? Well, 0 to 100km/h in just 2.9 seconds. A top speed of 350km/h. And, in Corsa mode, its single clutch 7-speed automated-manual gearbox takes just 50 milliseconds to swap cogs – that’s almost F1-quick. Need I mention that it also has a carbon fibre tub that weighs just 147 kilos. It also has inboard pushrod suspension to reduce unsprung weight, and it’s 6.5 litre naturally aspirated V12 produces 700 horses, which are channelled to all four wheels – hence the name LP 700-4. ‘LP,’ by the way, stands for ‘Longitudinale Posteriore,’ which means that it has a longitudinally mounted mid-rear engine layout.
Needless to say, both engine and machine are very impressive indeed – as we found out when we tested a lethal looking matte black Aventador at the Dubai Autodrome a couple of years ago. First things first – Audi ownership certainly hasn’t dulled the impression that this car makes when you set eyes on it. It really is one of the most extraordinary automotive shapes to have ever seen the light of day. It manages to look quite graceful and completely outlandish at the same time. Let’s just say that it looks every bit the Lamborghini, and if you can look one in the face without quivering just a little then you’re a bigger man than I.
What I found out the last time I drove it on the track was that it’s actually a lamb in wolves clothing – in that it’s an immensely drivable supercar. Yes, it looks intimidating – it’s fierce, low and wide. Of course, it makes an ear splitting noise. Did I say noise? What I meant is that it creates music on the same level as another Italian great – Pavarotti. With 700 horses, you can bet it’s fast – very, very fast. And yet, since it has four-wheel drive, the power is imminently usable. But I was about to find out just how usable. See, the Dubai Autodrome is quite a tight and technical track – and we weren’t using the full circuit. At Sepang, we had access to the full 5.5 kilometres however, which consists of two massive straights as well.
This is one of the few anti-clockwise tracks on the F1 calendar. It starts with a long run up to the first tight right-hander. The track then immediately sweeps the other way, as the road drops away from you. This is followed by a series of fast, flowing corners, and then the aforementioned long straights. It’s a great circuit, and the perfect venue in which to truly put an Aventador through its paces – an ideal bullring in this case then!
As you would only expect, there’s a lot of drama when you get into an Aventador. First, you slide your way past the scissor door and over the wide sill. Once in, it fits like a glove. The centre console cascades towards you, and is home to a red flap that you have to lift to hit the start-stop button – a bit like your favourite jet fighter. The digital instrument cluster ahead of you then comes alive – mostly masquerading as an analogue tach. Pull the massive lever on the right to select first gear, and you’re off with a ferocity that’s matched only by the shrill exhaust note. We start off in ‘Strada,’ which is ‘Street’ in Italian – so street mode then – and it’s actually quite compliant. The gearshifts are a little lazy though, and are quite symptomatic of the automated manual – which is either brutally fast or annoyingly clumsy. And this is probably why most supercars, like the Huracan, are switching to dual-clutch transmissions – despite them being heavier and more complex.
The gearbox aside, the Aventador is simply perfect. The steering, even in Strada, is inch perfect. It’s such a welcome change compared with the electro-mechanical systems that have become the norm. This one actually provides genuine feedback from the road. And there’s plenty of it too, even though we’re on a racetrack with a surface as smooth as they come.
Strada’s all well and good, but I switch it into Sport almost immediately and the car stiffens up nicely. But, I am driving an Aventador on an F1 track – so Corsa is really the only way to go. Corsa it is then. But the first time I flick the paddle on the right to change up, it feels like Big Foot has jumped out of the weeds and conjured up the courage and skill to kick this fast-moving Lambo in the boot. I had forgotten just how brutal the shifts were in Corsa – but they’re also lightening fast and ensure that you lose no forward momentum whatsoever. And if you want to spare your spine this shock with each pull of the paddle, all you have to do is lift momentarily when you go to change gears.
To be honest with you, I’m really glad that the Aventador requires the driver to actually engage in the driving experience a little. Too many supercars of today are just too easy to drive – too nonchalant. So is this in fact, but it still requires a little respect. You certainly have to give deference to the power – it’s awe-inspiring. The grip is enough to make you pull a neck muscle, and the brakes are simply sensational. The carbon ceramics had been doing track duty for hours in tropical weather and didn’t complain even once. In fact, nothing in the car demanded any attention at all – except the driving experience that is. And that’s the beauty of a modern Lamborghini. It is every bit the flagship – it’s worthy of being framed on a teenagers’ wall – but its beauty is more than skin deep. It’s sexy, but not temperamental. It’s a beautifully engineered drivers’ car – a truly great drivers’ car.
I hate having to return Lamborghinis after just a few laps. But just like that my tryst with this legendary fighting bull was over. I’m not entirely sure who prevailed, but what I do know is that this raging bull will certainly live to fight another day. Amen!