This is the 2013 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster. For almost £300k, you get a 691bhp V12, 217mph performance, and the most head-turning looks of any car this side of a Pagani Huayra. But is it a true driver's car underneath the pantomime. Read on for the definitve CAR verdict.
Can the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster justify its huge £300k price tag?
You could argue it's a bargain. The Aventador Roadster costs a quarter of the price being asked for other top-tier supercars, like the Pagani Huayra, Koenigsegg Agera R and Bugatti Veyron. And I’m struggling to think of a reason why you’d buy the coupe instead. There’s the outrageous £41,665 price premium of course, but that’s unlikely to bother buyers at this level. Choose the Roadster and you’re getting a car that does everything the coupe does, and a whole load more besides.
The Roadster is differentiated not only by its matt black roof panels and gloss black pillars, but a completely redesigned rear decklid. Gone are the series of Miura-style slats bridging the pair of flying buttresses, and in their place lies a flat engine cover designed to look like hi-tech armour plating, and featuring two windows through which the V12 is visible. The Aventador looks great from every angle, but see this one from above and it could be straight out of Jules Verne.
Is the roof a typically terrible Italian supercar effort?
The Aventador Roadster's roof is much better than the old Murcielago soft-top, if not quite as slick as the electrically folding hardtops fitted to Ferrari 458 and McLaren 12C convertibles. To go naked, first fold the seatbacks forward, then flip the catches behind them to release the two matt black-coloured roof panels and slot them into the front boot. Two panels, because that makes it possible to do the job on your own. The panels themselves are made of a forged composite frame, topped and tailed by RTM composite skins. The clever bit is that, once in place, they actually improve the torsional rigidity of the carbon chassis, thus negating one of the traditional whinges often associated with convertibles, that they’re not as stiff, and so not as much fun to drive as their hardtop cousins.
How compromised is the Aventador Roadster structurally?
Incredibly, Lambo’s R&D boss Maurizio Reggiani claims the Roadster is as rigid as some of its rivals are in coupe form. It’s barely any heavier than the coupe either, registering an extra 50kg on the scales due to some additional strengthening in the sills, tunnel and rear bulkhead. That additional ballast is the reason the Roadster hits 62mph in a staggering 3.0sec, rather than the kidney-crushing 2.9sec of its hardtop brother. They’re neck-and-neck for top speed too, both hitting 217mph. And that’s regardless of whether you’ve got the Roadster’s roof in place. If you actually managed to strap the old Murciélago’s tent to the space above your head you were limited to a meagre 100mph top end.
Tell me about the Aventador Roadster's powertrain
The 6.5-litre V12 now has a brilliantly integrated cylinder deactivation function that switches off an entire bank when not needed. With the same 692bhp as the coupe has on tap though, you could probably send another five to sleep for cruising around South Beach, if you could stand the NVH. Mounted north-south in the engine bay and 180 degrees round from the mid-engined norm, the Roadster sends power to all four wheels via a seven-speed sequential transmission. Not a dual-clutch ’box, but a single-clutch unit unique to this car.
What's the Aventador Roadster like on the move?
In Strada, the sanest of the Aventador’s three driving modes, the exhaust is hushed and shifts are soft, but also slow. It’s like playing Commodore 64 games on a brand new water-cooled gaming PC – improved, but still years behind the best. Lamborghini claims the Aventador needs to have differentiation from the other VW Group products, and that a single-clutch gearbox gives the emotive driving experience a twin-clutch doesn’t deliver. In other words, it thumps enough for you to notice. But that doesn’t compute, not when you can engineer in that emotion to the later tech and still give the option of refinement.
The ride feels tough too, and that’s despite Lamborghini slightly softening the suspension after criticism of the coupe’s ride at launch two years ago. Both ends of the Aventador get racing-style pushrod suspension. Reggiani says it’s great for reducing unsprung mass and also gives vastly better control of suspension geometry. But the dampers are passive, which must inevitably mean making a compromise at the development stage. How much low-speed and rough-road civility are you willing to give up for ultimate handling precision and high-speed stability? Ferrari and McLaren, even mother brand Audi, get round the problem with adaptive dampers. The steering makes amends though. It actually feels slightly dead in your hands after the Murciélago’s, but the response is incredible, the front wheels responding to the tiniest of inputs with no sneeze-factor and, thankfully, given Audi’s ownership, no annoying options for tweaking its weight.
Is the new Lambo any good on track?
A convertible on a track? Don’t laugh: in testing, Aventador coupe and convertibles posted almost identical lap times. For safety reasons, all of the cars have their roofs fitted, but even so, the cars feel incredibly stiff, and there’s that steering again. It’s so responsive you feel like an amputee combat veteran whose doctors have wired up a couple of wheels to the nerves in his stumps. Reggiani says the new Pirelli Corsa tyres are the reason the front end feels so tight, though they are optional, Pirelli P Zeros being the standard fit. The Roadster gets humungous 20in front and 21in rear rims in a new design, the later wrapped in what looks like black Prosciutto, but is in fact a giant 355/30 tyre. Model year 2013 coupes can have the same set-up as an option, otherwise they get last year’s 19/20 combo.
As you’d expect given the footprint and Lamborghini’s predilection for delivering cars that are less overtly playful, or at least less accessibly playful, than Ferrari’s, grip levels are sky high, but there’s a gentle cushion of understeer waiting for you should you step beyond. In Strada mode, the ESP will have already jumped out with the rubber bullets and water cannons before you’ve even got there, but in Sport, you get a little more latitude. The torque split switches from Strada’s 30:70 front:rear split to a naughtier 10:90, and the ESP is dialled back, but you’ll still find it overeager to ‘help’ when you summon full thrust out of a tightish corner and are hoping for a little wiggle from the hips as your reward.
We’ve been told not to switch off the ESP, but my wavering finger finally succumbs on my fifth lap. Hope no-one notices. Instantly the car feels smoother as you come onto the right pedal, and far from being a liability, you have to be trying hard to get it to really move around. When it does start to go though, you become patently aware that this is a big, big car. It’s palm moisteningly exciting and I don’t spin, but I don’t feel that comfortable either, so switch it back on. If you want to do lairy, a Porsche Boxster or Ferrari 458 is infinitely more indulgent on the track.
The last of the three options is Corsa, which delivers a 20:80 torque split, a sound like the end of the world and bangs the gears with a recoil like a WW1 cannon. This is the quickest way round the circuit but the gearshift feels comically overdone. I stick with it though because I’ve just discovered the reason even the most ardent cabrio-haters would be made to choose the coupe over this one. As on the 458 Spider and 12C Spyder, the Roadster’s vertical rear window can be lowered into the bulkhead. Imagine the regular car’s soundtrack: not a Ferrari-like shriek, but a rich, bass-heavy growl, a mechanised lion’s roar. Imagine hearing it tear past your house the other side of your cosy double glazing. Sounds good, right? Now imagine throwing open those windows. Expect Aventador coupe owners to resort to toffee-hammer terrorism on their own fixed windows after hearing the Roadster for the first time.
I miss the old Murciélago, but the Aventador feels light years ahead. Driving position, build quality, refinement, performance; you name it and you can almost guarantee that the new car does it better. Amid the sea of bland Japanese and Yank metal, the Aventador looks like it’s just been beamed down from some other planet.
A Ferrari 458 has a better roof. It’s better to drive. It’s £100k cheaper. That’s where our money would go. But in Miami, it’s just another Ferrari. The Aventador is most definitely a cut above in the eyes of the pavement judges, and the Roadster is the best of the pair by a significant margin.