Forget the odd name, Aventador (Ah-vent-ah-door). Dismiss the price, just under $400,000. Only a deposit placed a long time ago would score one of the first 800 produced anyhow.
Focus instead on this: It’s the best Lamborghini ever made.
The Aventador’s exoticism hits you in the solar plexus, a kung-fu chop of coolness. It’s a Hot Wheels toy out of pricy carbon fiber, with scissor doors and a triple-bladed snout aimed at knees and shins. This supercar goes all the way up to 11.
Lamborghinis are supposed to be outlandish fantasy machines, which too often means that the thrill of the drive itself is overpromised. All flash and no blast.
Witness the most beautiful Lambo, the 1960s Miura. When I once asked legendary Lamborghini test driver Valentino Balboni about the car, he told me in heavily accented English, “Very pretty, but it didn’t drive so well. Poor balance.”
The Aventador replaces the Murcielago flagship, which arrived in 2001 with its own exotic doors, all-wheel-drive and mid-mounted V-12 engine. Over the next decade the car got much better to drive, but it will never go into the handling hall of fame. Bruce Wayne crashed his in the last Batman movie, “The Dark Knight.”
The Aventador LP700-4 is a contender. Executives say that unlike previous flagships, handling was the designer’s first priority, not top speed. Since the Aventador is capable of 217 miles per hour, that’s saying something.
The specifications are staggering. The mid-engine, 6.5-liter, V-12 powerplant puts out 691 horsepower and 509 pound-feet of torque. Married to the all-wheel-drive system, it rockets to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. And folks say $400,000 doesn’t buy anything cool these days.
I got the Aventador on a racetrack. Just machine vs asphalt. No speed traps or traffic lights to intervene.
Trying not to brain myself on the doors, I slipped inside. Big car, tight seats. Unlike Lambos of yore, the air conditioner works and it has a navigation system courtesy of Ingolstadt, Germany-based sister company Audi AG.
Never mind all that. Start it up. That sound behind you is like a battery of 12-gauge shotguns firing in tandem. Call it the V-12 salute.
Pulling onto the track, I immediately moved from Strada (street) to Sport mode, but hesitated to put it on the full-blown, rear-wagging Corsa setting. When I did, after about eight laps, I wondered why I’d waited so long. (Answer: Fear.)
The Aventador is not designed to kill you. Some enthusiasts may complain about that, saying a 691-hp flagship should be permanently terrifying, but those people have mostly spent the past 20 years in wheelchairs after hurtling their purple 1990 Diablos off highway onramps.
Rather the Aventador displays a remarkable level of self preservation. Tires will shriek and brakes will groan and the driver’s adrenaline will spike, but truly mess up a corner and the electronic stability controls will quickly muscle in, straightening the car and decreasing speed. It might send your lap times into the gutter, but it’ll keep your supercar out of the actual drain.
Older Lamborghinis are horrendous in sharp slow corners. Come in too fast, turn the wheel and you’d continue going straight, pushing forward like a two-ton snow plow. That problem is fixed.
Slow the Aventador down a bit, exhibit a little patience, and it gamely slings through turns, with the all-wheel-drive pulling it back up to speed ludicrously fast. It moves arguably faster than your brain in fact. Oh, I’m at the next corner already?
Faster and faster I went around, and the mega-sized Pirelli tires got hot and increasingly slidey, but even this was no impediment to fun. I have looked fear in the eye and its name is no longer Lamborghini.
How many of these cars will end up on the racetrack rather than the nightclub VIP parking lot is up for debate. The first batch of 800 or so will be split among Asia, Europe and North America, so if you’re looking for rarity, your wish is granted.
And except for the absolute lack of rear vision, it drives just fine on the street. For jaunts between mansions, the seven-speed automated manual transmission works well enough to keep you from homicidal impulses in traffic jams.
A supercar for sure. But it’s the forward-thinking design that propels me to christen it the best Lambo ever. The Aventador’s designer, Filippo Perini, also penned the Alfa-Romeo 8C Competizione -- to my mind the most gorgeous car in the last decade.
If the Alfa’s signature is fulsome curves, the Aventador’s is a radical use of negative space to create deep side scoops and the startling shape of the rear bumpers. By carving away rather than adding, Aventador looks unique and compelling.
Many an aesthete has taken digs at Lamborghini, and no question the designs are more Versace than Valentino. The Aventador dials down the Miami bombast for a bit of Miami Art Basel. This is a fantasy which delivers.
The 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 at a Glance
Engine: 6.5-liter V-12 with 691 horsepower and 509 pound-
feet of torque.
Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual.
Speed: 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds.
Gas mileage per gallon: 11 city, 17 highway.
Price as tested: Estimated $410,000.
Best features: Exoticism married to superior handling.
Worst features: Rarity and price; you’re not likely to even
see one on the street, let alone own.
Target buyer: Sheiks, playboys, Bruce Wayne.
(Jason H. Harper writes about autos for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)