(At the Circuit de Catalunya, Spain)
Let's talk numbers, shall we? To be specific, let's talk the Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 Superveloce's numbers, the kind of numbers that really get a gearhead's motor running. Like horsepower; the new SV has 750 of those, 50 more than before. Weight? This latest range-topping Lambo has 50 less kilograms of that and when it comes to avoirdupois, less is always more. Acceleration? Boy, oh boy, does this thing accelerate. Zero-to-100 kilometers an hour in less than 2.8 seconds, zero-to-200 in a scant 5.8 more, and the top speed is somewhere on the silly side of 350 km/h. Wow!
But that's not the number that should grab you by the short and curlies. Nope, the extra special number I want to bring to your attention is 6:59.73. That's the new LP750's lap time around Germany's famed Nurburgring and, even in supercar world, that's frighteningly fast. The only truly street-worthy car to record a faster lap is Porsche's 918 and it needed a V8, two electric motors and Porsche's boy-racer Weissach competition package to dip below the seven minute mark.
On a lesser racetrack like the Circuit de Catalunya, all this newfound rapidity means surprise lurks around every corner. Braking for every hairpin is another am-I-ever-going-fast moment, every straightaway, no matter how short, a reason to hold your breath. You brace yourself against the seat and still the g-forces toss you about. You move the seat as far forward as you can and it's still hard to reach the paddle-shifters once the tach swings past 7,000 rpm. Indeed, no matter how much you prepare yourself for the V12's Holy-Mother-of-God acceleration, damned if it doesn't surprise you every time you catch third gear at 8,500 rpm.
But what makes the Aventador stand out amongst supercars - indeed, why it's my favorite supercar - is that surprise doesn't turn into catastrophe. In fact, like all the best cars - super or not - the big Lambo has a way of making you a better driver than you really are. Where other mid-engined supercars punish you severely when your enthusiasm gets the better of your talent, the big Lambo, frightening speed or no, is a big old let's-talk-it-out Teddy Bear when the proverbial hits the fan. Ham-handed mashes of throttle and over-enthusiastic wrenchings of steering wheel are forgiven with equal grace; if you're going to do something stupid in a 750 horsepower supercar, do it in an Aventador.
The reason for that controllability, says Maurizio Reggiani, is the LP750's new computer-controlled Haldex all wheel drive system. Oh, things like the new Magneto Rheological Suspension, Lamborghini's variable-ratio LDS power steering and a 170% increase in aerodynamic down force certainly help. But being able to determine which wheel gets exactly how much torque, says Lamborghini's chief engineer, is not only why the 750 is so comparatively easy to drive but also the reason that the Superveloce is an incredible 25 seconds faster round the ‘Ring than the current LP700. "The SV not only takes into account how fast you're going, but how fast you're turning the steering wheel," says Regianni.
There are a few surprises, however. Lamborghini, decided, for instance, to direct more power (up to 90 percent) to the rear wheels in its street-oriented "Sport" mode than in the 750's track-ready "Corsa" selection (80 percent). The reasoning, admits Regianni, can be initially counter-intuitive though Lamborghini's reasoning, once explained, makes sense once you get past personal prejudice. At the limits of traction on a racetrack, the company contends, no one, not even race car drivers, really want 750 horses with tail-wagging tendencies. All I know is that I trust Lamborghini's torque management implicitly; never have the untalented been able to go so fast with so little drama.
At least in the chassis department. Back in the engine bay, the Superveloce is all about the drama. Unlike the soul-sucking turbo engines - even Ferrari is succumbing to their fuel-conserving allure - currently in vogue in the supercar world, Lamborghini is sticking resolutely to its naturally-aspirated twelve-cylinder guns. Indeed, it's doubling down, the SV's 6.5 liter version of the Lambo's iconic 60 degree V12 now producing maximum power at 8,400. Somehow meeting noise regulations, it sounds more barking than ever. In the SV, the hounds are let completely loose, all that rapid-fire internal combusting as close as we mortals will ever get to know what supercar-ing was like when Ferruccio Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari ruled the world.
Indeed, what makes the LP750 so great is how deftly Lamborghini doles out the spectacle. Impassioned the SV may be, but the drama is meted out in sensible portions. The symphonic engine, because it elicits no penalty, is wound tight as can be. But the chassis, where drama has potentially metal - and bone! - busting consequences is tailored for ruthless efficiency. Sense meets sensibility in one sultry (US$485,900) Italian supercar package.
Pros: excellent all wheel drive, superb front end grip, incredible motor
Cons: still a bit of understeer, costs almost half a million American dollars
Rivals: Porsche 918, McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari
Engine: 6.5L V12, 725 hp @ 8,400 rpm, 690 Nm @ 5500 rpm
Transmission: 7 speed paddle-shifted manual
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 2.8 sec, 16 L /100 km, top speed: 350+ kph
Chassis: 1,525 kg