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Lamborghini Aventador supercar (2011) review

Published:04 May 2011

Lamborghini Aventador supercar (2011) review
  • At a glance
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By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

Lamborghini’s new 691bhp/219mph/£247k Aventador supercar might look like a facelifted Murcielago, but it’s a radically different beast under the skin – and on the road.

So what’s new on the new Lamborghini Aventador?

The lot. The old Murcielago had some composite body panels but its chassis was a stack of old tubes that happened to stick together, just like the Diablo and Countach that preceded it. But the Aventador is built around a carbonfibre monocoque, to which are bolted a pair of aluminium subframes, the rear one cradling the 6.5-litre V12.

So it’s not all new, the engine’s carried over, right?

Nope. It might be the same capacity as the old V12 (which can trace its roots back to the 350GT of 1964), but this one’s brand new with a much bigger bore and shorter stroke, meaning it's revvier and massively more refined. It’s more powerful too, sharing 691bhp between its four wheels (700ps, hence the name) compared to 631bhp for the old LP640-4 it replaces, and besting even the 661bhp of the hardcore Murcielago SV. And while you might expect the short stroke to mean a lower torque figure as a payoff, there’s more of that too – 509lb ft to be precise, all achieved without a turbo.

Let me guess, it’s rather brisk?

That extra power, together with a 90kg kerbweight reduction help explain the bonkers 2.9sec 0-62mph time, which is quicker than anything this side of aVeyron. But consider the 8.9sec 0-124mph (200km/h) figure. It’s quick, but the two-wheel drive McLaren 12C, whose inferior traction means it takes 3.1sec to get to 62mph, still manages to get to 124mph in exactly the same time. The Lambo even delivers its power like the turbocharged 12C, thrust arriving with a bang at just over 2000rpm, and continuing until peak power is reached at 8250rpm.

Sounds absolutely insane. And does it deliver the thrills?

Yes, but in a far more cultured manner than the Murcielago’s gruff old V12. That thing vibrated like a washing machine without the concrete ballast in the bottom, but the new engine is much smoother. So is the new seven-speed paddle shift ‘box. Good job, because the lovely – but unloved – manual is dead. This isn’t a dual-clutch system, which are heavy, bulky and expensive, but a conventional two-shaft box, albeit one in which different shift rods move adjacent gears simultaneously, cutting the shift time to just 50ms, 40% faster than the Gallardo's clunky E-gear transmission can manage.

It’s even reasonably smooth around town in Strada, the most comfort oriented of the Audi Drive Select-style driving modes, where you can choose between Manual or Auto modes. Sport’s shifts are better though, crisper and more positive in Manual, although its Auto setting is more clunky. But when you’ve engaged Corsa mode, you wince as you tug on that paddle. Lambo says drivers want the emotional feel of a gear engaging but Corsa kicks the cogs home so hard, the rest of the car could have it up on GBH charges. A mite OTT, I’m afraid.

And the handling?

The Murcielago was absolutely exhilarating to drive fast but boy, did it make you work hard. Drive it clumsily and you could end up with too much understeer; ignore the warnings of all that weight shifting, let the thing get too broadside and you wouldn’t get it back. The Aventador is an absolute pussycat in comparison. It’s got more grip, more balance and is a whole lot more tolerant of your attempts to bend the laws of phsysics. And the traction is staggering.

For any sort of serious road driving you want to forget about the basic too-safe Strada setting which is too nannying and understeery to be really fun. Corsa is uncompromisingly focused, all about shaving tenths and feels really aggressive on turn in. You can feel the extra steering weight and the four-wheel drive system pulling, and not just pushing the car on the exit of corners. But on the road at least, I found the mid-ground Sport option to be the best bet. It seems to let the car move around a bit more, giving it a more rear-biased feel, a very slightly looser ESP setting to enjoy it, and a generally more relaxed gait than Corsa does.

What doesn’t change according to the mode selected, is the chassis stiffness. The Lambo features a race-style pushrod suspension system, but the Ohlins dampers are simple passive jobbies. So the body control is great, but there’s no facility to cushion the undeniably firm ride on real roads. Coming on the back of the supremely supple McLaren 12C, the Aventador is shockingly hard. But the standard carbon brakes are excellent: massively powerful and far more feelsome than the Gallardo’s.

Does it feel suitably supercar-like inside?

Well the fact that you still access the cabin by climbing under a traditional Lambo scissor door helps. The driving position is miles better than the Murcie’s, seat, wheel and pedals being broadly in line, although the thick pillars mean the visibility is actually worse. This is a great cabin though. The quality is first rate, the Audi-sourced switchgear unobtrusive and the TFT instruments that can be configured to show a giant speedo or giant rev counter, are very cool indeed.

What’s the damage?

You’ll need £248,000 to buy an Aventador and plenty of patience if your name isn’t already on the list – the first 18 months of production is sold out. That price represents a £50k jump over the old car, but the previously optional, now standard paddle shift gearbox and carbon brakes help offset some of that. You could compare the Aventador to a £1m Bugatti and call it a bargain. Or you could just as easily say that McLaren’s equally fast and even more capable – if less arresting and less exclusive – 12C makes it look pricey.

Verdict

The Aventador doesn’t just move the game on from the Murcielago, it transports it to a new time zone. The new car is faster, handles better, is easier to drive and much better built. If there’s a downside, it’s a slightly irrational one, one that will make no sense to the majority of buyers. It’s that the big Lamborghinis have always enjoyed a bit of fear factor. The Aventador is so competent that some of that thrill has gone. See? Totally irrational.

But if you’re thinking of chopping in your hardcore Murcielago SV, you need to know that you’ll be steeping into a very different kind of car. If you’re not a screaming nutcase though and don’t already own an SV, then you’ll absolutely love it. It’s quite easily the best Lamborghini yet.

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Specs

Price when new: £247,767
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 6498cc 48v V12, 691bhp @ 8250rpm, 509lb ft @ 5500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed sequential, four-wheel drive
Performance: 2.9sec 0-62mph, 217mph, 16mpg, 398g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1575kg (dry)/carbonfibre and aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4780/2030/1291

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  • Lamborghini Aventador supercar (2011) review
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  • Lamborghini Aventador supercar (2011) review
  • Lamborghini Aventador supercar (2011) review

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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