Nothing is perfect, but the idea that a brand-new, 690-hp, $393,695 car that can go 217 miles per hour needs improvement is kind of ridiculous.
Nevertheless, that’s been the case with the Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 since it was brand-new in 2012.
Oh, it was always mind-bogglingly quick, glorious to listen to and astonishing to see, but the mid-engine flagship also had a clunky gearbox, a brittle ride and handling that was numb, at best. It may have been a supercar, but like all superheroes, it was flawed.
That didn’t stop too many well-to-dos from buying it. The superficial stuff still counts for a lot. But even Lamborghini admitted it could do better, and now it has – with a re-engineered, mid-engine two-door rechristened the Aventador S. It keeps all the good stuff – including the carbon fiber passenger cell, 6.5-liter V12 and alien attack ship styling – while it addresses the issues that have surely kept you up at night all these years.
It now has computer-controlled magnetorheological shock absorbers that befit a flagship. They soften or stiffen the suspension as needed, so it doesn’t feel like you’re pulling up to the club in a shopping cart anymore. (For most customers, that’s probably good enough.)
A bigger change is the addition of all-wheel-steering that uses actuators to steer the rear wheels in concert with the fronts, making the car nimbler and more stable.
Lamborghini isn’t the first to employ this technology, but it’s gone about it with its signature dramatic flair. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn up to 3 degrees in the opposite direction of the fronts – much more than any other all-wheel-steer car. It has the virtual effect of shrinking the wheelbase, which means it’s more eager to turn. The wheels move back and forth so much in this mode that they look broken.
Go faster, and the rear wheels start to turn in sync with the fronts – but only up to 1.5 degrees, which makes the Aventador S feel like it’s longer than it actually is, and less likely to spin into oblivion at triple-digit speeds.
There’s also a new front steering system with a variable ratio that constantly changes how far you have to turn the wheel and how heavy it feels, depending on how fast you’re driving and what mode (Strada, Sport, Corsa or the customizable EGO) is dialed in. The rear wing moves up and down, too.
If it sounds like there’s an ambitious amount of electro-mechanical juggling going on, there is. But the Aventador S is so good at it that it could win “Italia’s Got Talent.”
You have to be moving to enjoy it, though, and the massive naturally-aspirated V12 now has 730 hp to do that with. Launch control sends as much of the 507 lb-ft of torque through the Aventador S’ 10-inch-wide front and 14-inch-wide rear tires as it can, and gets the first quarter mile out of the way in 10.7 seconds, according to Lamborghini’s stopwatch.
And the faster you go, the quicker it feels. Once you get all those horses running, the Aventador S simply starts erasing distance. Being nearsighted is an issue behind the wheel of this car, because whatever blurry thing you’re trying to see down the road will soon be in your lap. If that happens to be a turn, get ready to grin.
I got to try the Aventador S at Pocono Raceway. Not on the high-speed oval, unfortunately, but on one of its flat, twisty infield road courses. The old understeering LP700-4 would’ve spent the entire time trying to mow the grass on the outside of the curves, but this one was more eager to hunt for apexes.
Paced by 2010 NASCAR rookie of the year Kevin Conway, who unexpectedly switched to racing Lamborghinis for a living, I drove it faster than I probably would have solo and found that it’s very happy to live on the edge. There’s nothing screwy at all about all that stuff happening between your hands and the tires.
The Aventador S feels connected, predictable and very light on its feet. I’d driven the $450,000 Ford GT, which is practically a race car, on a similar track just a few weeks earlier, and the much heavier Lamborghini wasn’t any less fun. Faced with a long drive home, it has the luxurious edge.
The price is now $417,000, but that extra 23 grand is money well spent. Yes, those numbers are as absurd to me as they are to 99.9 percent of you, but if you knock off a zero to put things in perspective, $2,300 would be a small amount to pay for change of this magnitude on a $39,000 car.
The only thing that left me wanting was that gearbox, a single-clutch, seven-speed robotized manual that’s starting to feel ancient but has been smoothed out a little. I like to think they didn’t completely fix it for the same reason some artists and artisans intentionally put mistakes in their work: Nothing can be perfect.
But the Aventador S is ridiculously good.
2017 Lamborghini Aventador S
Base price: $417,000
Type: 2-door, all-wheel-drive coupe
Engine: 6.5L V12
Power: 730 hp/507 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
MPG: 11 city/18 hwy