2012 Lamborghini Aventador – check.
Access to the track at Monticello Motor Club – check.
End of days torrential rainstorm – err…check?
There’s a reason many shows and magazines test cars in southern California, and this is it. When you have just one day alone with a $393,695 supercar that has a top speed of 217 mph you don’t want Mother Nature spoiling the fun. But she’s alive and well in the Northeast.
Good thing then that this is no ordinary Lamborghini, but the most technologically advanced car the company has ever made. All-wheel-drive was the key to survival in the conditions that we faced, but merely the icing on a many-layered cake.
The clean-sheet Aventador is built around a lightweight carbon fiber tub that Lamborghini designed with help from Boeing. Aluminum subframes bolted to the front and rear of it carry the bits that make the Aventador go, including the all-new 690 hp 6.5-liter V12 engine and a racecar-style pushrod suspension featuring horizontal shocks and springs attached to the center of the car. We’re told they’re there for optimal weight distribution, but more likely because it looks so cool.
All of this wonderful stuff is draped in bodywork that, in white, gives the classic Lamborghini wedge a skeletal look. Enormous side air intakes are flanked by sharp, slender elements top and bottom, while the jagged façade apes the open jaws of a vampire’s skull.
No car on the road today can command a scene like this one. The Ferrari 458 Italia may be the vehicular equivalent of Giselle Bundchen, and the Bugatti Veyron a 21st Century tribute to Art Nouveau, but parked next to the Aventador they are simply rolling stock.
Besides, neither of them have scissors doors.
Enter the frameless ones on the Aventador -- still not a whole lot of fun to do -- and you’ll find an interior that is much roomier and more ergonomic than big Lambos of the past. The cabin design is more understated than the exterior, but incorporates a fighter plane-inspired center console that stands out from the rest of its leather-upholstered, tailored-in-Milan duds. A few toggles, a couple of knobs and some buttons offer the kind of intuitive simplicity one needs when driving a car at the speeds that this one is capable of.
Despite having what appears to be a traditional analog tachometer front and center, it and the rest of the instrument cluster is fully digital. So it’s a bit of a surprise that the infotainment system is one of sister company Audi’s tired old units and not the latest version seen in the new A6, a car that costs about a tenth of what this one does. If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, I’m not. Unlike cupholders, which the Aventador graciously does without, the ability to seek out new roads far from civilization is very handy in a car like this, and it should be done with as much style as possible.
The start button is protected by a red cover, as if it is responsible for arming missiles or something deadly…which it sort of is. Flip it open, press the button and the engine comes to life with a superfluous rev as if clearing its throat.
The Aventador’s seven-speed robotized manual transmission offers three modes: Strada, Sport and Corsa. The last one is Italian for “track,” so you’ll want to choose that now.
You can count the number of true production cars that can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than three seconds on one hand without using your thumb, and this is one of them. Even in the middle of a downpour, the grip afforded by the Aventador’s all-wheel drive system is indomitable and the car takes off like a projectile fired by a railgun, without even a suggestion of wheelspin.
Stay on it, run the engine near its lofty 8,250 rpm redline, pull the large right shift paddle and feel the shockwave that is an angry Aventador changing gears. Lamborghini chose a single-clutch transmission instead of one of the seamless double-clutch units popular today because they involve the word “seamless.” Violenza is the appropriate term here.
Shifts take just 50 milliseconds, but the afterglow lasts much longer than that…like a week. Sadly, when you’re off the racing circuit and trundling around town on the club circuit the transmission lurches quite a bit.
Hey, I’m trying to look smooth here!
Back on the track approaching turn one, you work through the endorphin rush brought on by the 12-part aria behind your head and slam hard on the carbon ceramic brakes. The pedal is softer than you might expect, but press through it and the stopping power on the other side is immense.
Crank the wheel and the all-wheel-drive system does its thing to fight the slick surface and keep all 3470 pounds of exotic material heading where you want it. Steering is direct, and the car neutral through whatever curveballs the evil gods of blacktop throw at it. At this point, grins are aplenty.
Even before you reach the threshold of the stability control system, the Aventador is astonishingly easy to control for something with a larger footprint than many family cars. When the electronic aids do join in, they don’t announce themselves with a flourish, just slip through the back door and unobtrusively go to work.
Faster down the straight and the rear wing emerges from the trailing edge of the car, indicating good things to come. But with puddles ahead deeper than the sidewalls of the 20-series Pirelli P-Zeros behind, thoughts of mortality and personal debt act as an effective governor.
Thankfully, this is one of the rare cars today that feels fast even when it isn’t going fast. Every bit of the road is communicated to the driver, and a couple of downshifts turns up the volume on demand. The stereo has no rear speakers. It doesn’t need them.
The Aventador speaks for itself.
2012 Lamborghini Aventador
Base Price: $393,695
Type: 2-door, 2-seat all-wheel-drive coupe
Engine: 6.5L V12
Power: 690 hp, 509 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
MPG: 11 city/17 hwy∂