TESTDRIVE How well does a 690bhp Lamborghini Aventador work in India? Ouseph Chacko finds out over two days of driving the supercar through Maharashtra
At 6 a.m. on a cold January morning, somewhere on NH3 to Nashik a scream from a starter motor sent 12 members of the Sant Agata symphony orchestra into ‘ready' mode. Even other drivers stopped to gawk, cell phone cameras were whipped out and facebook profile pictures were clicked. For two days, the scene was the same with the Lamborghini Aventador.
The Aventador is extremely intimidating at first — you sit about three inches off the deck, the car feels as broad as the Gateway of India and thanks to the long dashboard, you have no clue as to where the nose is. Then you discover the pedals are so offset to the left that the throttle is where the brake usually is and the brake is where the dead pedal is. It is imperative that you do not put a foot wrong. Not with 690bhp sitting two inches behind your left ear. Not with throttle response that's so sharp. Some might accuse Lambo's newest hell-raiser of being less focused, the cabin's expected rawness diluted by the presence of a Bluetooth system, steering-mounted controls and Audi-sourced switchgear. But think of it this way — if these additional features help make the cabin a better, more comfortable place to travel at intergalactic speeds, then why not.
I drove a Murcielago once. It scared the hell out of me. The Aventador feels quite manageable. The engine's power delivery is linear, the steering needs a lot less effort at the familiarisation speeds , and I can actually see a bit of what's happening behind the car.
I see a Suzuki Swift with its driver intent on getting a picture on his mobile phone. He's inches behind the Lambo's bumper at 80kph, one hand and eye on the road, the other hand and eye on the phone. Three tugs on the left paddleshift and the Aventador is but a speck on his screen.
Let me try explaining what it feels like to sit at the pointy end of 690bhp. The thrust is simply enormous —Lamborghini says the Aventador pulls 1g under hard acceleration. Our VBOX recorded 1.2! Provoke the engine and you'll feel the steering go light as all hell breaks loose and weight transfer loads up the 335/30 R20 rear Pirellis. At 2000rpm, there's a growl from the motor that turns absolutely loony as it swings through 5000rpm. Post 6000rpm, your passenger will scream in sheer terror. Seriously, acceleration is so aggressive you will voluntarily back off before the 8250rpm redline in every one of its seven gears, at which point the Aventador still has plenty of fear left in it to unload.
Its performance is so tremendous because, at 1575kg, it is quite light. It's quite light because of all the cutting-edge tech under the skin — gone is the old steel space frame of the Murcielago. In its place is a full carbon tub and race-car style pushrod suspension. An all-new 6.5-litre V12 sits in the heart of the carbon-fibre tub and sends its 70kgm of torque to all four wheels via a lightweight, automated single clutch, seven-speed gearbox. Lambo says the single clutch unit was chosen because its gearshifts are more emotional than those of a twin-clutch unit. I suppose the expletive you utter at every thumping gearshift could be described as an emotion.
It even has three drive modes — Strada, Sport and Corsa. Selecting a particular drive mode alters the traction control settings, throttle maps and gearshift violence.
The LP700-4 is the fastest production car our VBOX has ever been strapped to. In what Lamborghini calls ‘thrust mode' the VBOX recorded a rather unhinged 3.2sec 0-100kph time. The 200kph comes up in a spine-compressing 10sec. Even top speed is an amazing 350kph. Keeping the Lambo in check are carbon ceramic discs the size of serving plates. Their tremendous stopping power and phenomenal feel saved many a wandering cyclist.
The dual-carriage NH3 is the right road for something so low and powerful. The Aventador's 2.2-metre width demands wide roads, and its low ground clearance means you won't be able to drop a wheel off the shoulder on single-lane roads. The morning is spent charging through the straights, feeling the Lambo squat through the wide corners. Through tighter corners though, you need to be absolutely committed. All the work needs to be done before the corner — line up, shed speed, turn in, apex, unwind steering lock, and feed in as much throttle as you dare. Be indecisive with the controls and the car will twitch and grumble at your cowardice. The harder you push, the better the all-wheel drive works to pull you through. Powering out of tight corners the nose wants to wash wide, but gently backing off will get you back in line.
What does happen though is the car, and you, get knocked around by the stiff suspension. It is also not as easy a car to drive as, say, the front-engine Ferrari 599. The Lambo is like Metallica's drummer — electrifying and brutal — while the Ferrari is more of Mozart's fluidity, finesse and detail.
The Aventador is unexpectedly India-friendly as well. The front suspension has a lift function that allows you to raise its nose and crawl over all but the biggest of bumps. Its scissor doors allow you to park right up against kerbs and get out without damaging the doors. And, unlike its predecessors, you don't need the strength of a bull to steer the car at low speeds. However, the ride is excessively jiggly at city speeds and the gearbox, even at its calmest Strada setting, is uncomfortably jerky. Also, taking it on a long drive can prove to be quite a logistical challenge. Long-distance drives will require a recce run and having a flatbed truck on standby will help you skip driving through boring traffic.
The Italian company insists we fill the fuel tanks of the Aventador with 97-octane petrol, which is available only in the metros. So if you're making a trip that's longer than 300km, you should be a bit watchful. Then of course, there's that small matter of the price tag (Rs. 3.7 crore, ex-showroom, Delhi). Is an Aventador worth the trouble? If you have the money, nothing else can give you quite the same kick. It's brutal, unhinged, provocative and surprisingly grown up. It's very well worth it.