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.

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
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Cars

Take a friend stargazing at 202 mph in the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider

McLaren has introduced the 2019 720S Spider. As its name implies, it's a convertible variant of the 720S coupe. The company promises the Spider retains the coupe's dynamism and agility thanks in part to the widespread use of carbon fiber.
Cars

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.
News

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.
Cars

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.
Cars

Gateway’s born-again Ford Bronco boasts classic style, 2018 muscle car power

Illinois-based Gateway Bronco has received a license from Ford to make brand-new examples of the first-generation Bronco. Every build starts with a Ford VIN and a donor vehicle, but Gateway upgrades every part of the car.
Cars

Bloodhound’s plan to build a 1,000-mph car has run out of gas

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has officially shut down. The upside is you can now buy a 135,000-horsepower car powered by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets for $319,000.
Cars

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?
Cars

Pininfarina Battista is a 1,900-horsepower, 250-mph electric supercar

The Pininfarina Battista will be the first production car from famed Italian design firm Pininfarina. Named after company founder Battista Pininfarina, it has a claimed 1,900 horsepower and a $2.5 million price tag.
Cars

Tesla could show the electric pickup Elon Musk is dying to build in 2019

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself.
Cars

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.