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2017 Lamborghini Aventador S first drive

Lamborghini's Aventador S is an homage to the ludicrous Lambos of old

Lamborghini’s unfettered imagination has produced some of the greatest, most emblematic supercars in the world. The latest Raging Bull to sprint out Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, is a revised version of the company’s flagship model named Aventador S.

The Aventador S’ more aggressive design is only part of the story. Lamborghini has applied every lesson it has learned over decades of developing high-performance engines, sonorous exhaust systems, and cutting-edge chassis to push its V12-powered machine to the limit. I traveled to Valencia, Spain, to find out what the S means on the road and on the track.

A new breed of bull

Lamborghini’s research and development department was given a task of Herculean proportions. The Aventador already stood out as one of the fastest, most dramatic new cars on the market. It’s built around a carbon fiber monocoque, and its looks are inimitable. Improving it was like making revisions to the Sistine Chapel.

Improving the Aventador was like making revisions to the Sistine Chapel.

Maurizio Reggiani’s team of engineers started under the deck lid. The Aventador S carries on with a 6.5-liter V12 engine that takes up most of the space behind the rear seats. The 12-cylinder is naturally-aspirated; that means no turbocharger, no supercharger, and no hybrid assistance. It generates a remarkable 740 horsepower – 40 more than before – and 509 pound-feet of torque through sheer displacement. Peak power arrives at 8,400 rpm, and the redline is reached just 100 rpm later.

A 7-speed independent shift rod (ISR) transmission transfers the V12’s power to the asphalt via a Haldex-type all-wheel drive system and some of the widest tires you’ll ever see on a production car. The S’ Pirelli P Zeros make the BMW M3’s rubber look like the little plastic wheels on a Radio Flyer.

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Officially, the Aventador S accelerates from zero to 62 mph in a mind-blowing 2.9 seconds, and it hits 124 mph in just 8.8 seconds. The V12 continues to bellow beyond the 217-mph mark, turning the outside world into a blur reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting. Standard carbon ceramic brakes bring the action to a stop. The S is unbelievable to drive in a straight line, but don’t let its size and weight fool you; it knows how to take a corner.

The trick four-wheel steering system introduced last year on the limited-edition Centenario has trickled down to the Aventador S. Offered on a regular-production Lamborghini for the first time, the system turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction as the front wheels at low speeds, and in the same direction as the front wheels at higher speeds. Lamborghini told me rotating the rear wheels by up to three degrees at lower speeds shortens the wheelbase by 19.7 inches, while rotating them just 1.5 degrees at higher speeds stretches it by 28.7 inches.

The new look is as much about function as it is about making a statement. Front downforce has been improved by 130 percent, and the new body kit directs more cooling air to the brakes and the engine compartment, where it’s needed most. There is even a discreet retro touch: Lamborghini design boss Mitja Borkert pointed out the shape of the rear wheel arches pays homage to the Bertone-designed Countach.

Quick, agile, and seriously fun

There is a good reason why Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali refers to the Aventador S as a super sports car. Nothing short of sky-diving parachute-free into a net prepares you for the thrill and exhilaration of driving the Aventador S on a closed track.

You step down into the Aventador – way down – and settle into a true bucket seat. The ignition button is embedded into the tall, sloping center console, where it’s cleverly hidden under a red cover. The engine comes to life with a boom and settles into a smooth idle. It’s not overly loud, but a blip of the throttle will notify everyone within a 500-yard radius that they’re in the presence of a Raging Bull.

The S is unbelievable to drive in a straight line, but don’t let its size and weight fool you; it knows how to take a corner.

The 40 extra horses aren’t immediately perceptible because the V12 produces so much power to begin with. At full throttle, the Aventador is so quick that it feels like it could take off if it was fitted with wings. The symphony of 12 pistons screaming away inches from your eardrum is even more pronounced than before thanks to a redesigned exhaust system, and it fills the cabin like only the best sound system on the market can. Truth be told, I never bothered turning on the radio during my time behind the wheel.

The rear-wheel steering transforms the Aventador into a whole new car that’s nimbler, more sure-footed, and more playful when the pace picks up. It’s quicker around turns – especially the sharp ones like I encountered on the Ricardo Tormo track in Spain – and it’s much more stable at triple-digit speeds. As you approach the apex in a corner, it feels like the front end and the rear end are working in unison. The steering remains quick, precise, and weighted just right.

Lamborghini Aventador S

Shifting gears can be done automatically or manually using the large paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. Either way, the next gear up comes quicker than you thought possible with a bang that punches you back in the seat like the recoil on a Beretta shotgun. The four-wheel drive system and the sticky tires help keep the Aventador S planted on the road, while R&D’s suspension wizardly makes body roll non-existent. Watch the S race around a track, and you’ll notice it almost looks like it’s at a standstill even when it’s cornering hard.

When track time was over, I headed for the back roads around Valencia. Surprisingly, the Aventador S proved to be a docile car that just happens to be really fast and a serious attention-grabber. A button on the center console conveniently raises the ride height in order to clear speed bumps, which avoids costly damage to the lower body panels, and there’s even a start/stop system to keep fuel mileage in check.

Historically, supercars have been super quick and super uncomfortable to drive on a regular basis. Those days are long gone; Lamborghini made the Aventador S as livable as possible without compromising performance. On back roads, the ride is firm without being stiff or harsh, and visibility is acceptable. Every piece of trim, every button, and every inch of leather feels top-notch. The infotainment system isn’t the most modern unit on the market, but the S partially makes up for it with Apple CarPlay.

Day-to-day usability is further augmented by a fourth-driving mode named Ego, which lets the driver customize a handful of key parameters. For example, it’s possible to set the steering and the traction control settings to Sport, and dial-in Strada’s softer suspension for a more compliant ride.

Conclusion

The Lamborghini Aventador S is brimming with cutting-edge features, and it’s better for it. It’s also a throw-back to simpler times when supercars were all about raw power and striking looks, and electric motors were used for windows and windshield wipers. The genes that defined the Miura, the Countach, the Diablo, and the Murciélago are alive and well in the newest Raging Bull.

Lamborghini’s commitment to keeping the naturally-aspirated V12 engine alive is what makes the Aventador S stand out from every other mid-engined sports car on the market today. Make an appointment with your cardiologist as soon as possible if a hot lap with 740 horses under your right foot doesn’t get your heart pumping.

Highs

  • Sonorous naturally-aspirated V12 engine
  • Enormous benefits of four-wheel steering
  • Inimitable supercar looks
  • Top-notch interior

Lows

  • Not for the low-profile crowd
  • No Android Auto