2015 Lamborghini Aventador SV It is probably the greatest soundtrack on sale today. Limitless. / #Lamborghini
ISLE OF MAN ATTACK UNLEASHING LAMBO'S 350km/h SV
Where better to take the new 552kW, 350km/h #Lamborghini-Aventador
SV than somewhere with roads on which it can truly run free – the Isle of Man by Henry Catchpole / Photography by Aston Parrott
As the Ferry Rolls in the swell on the Irish Sea, half a sandwich that has been shunned by a queasy passenger farther along the row of seats slides gracefully down the long table in front of me like some rudimentary sushi bar. A moment later it makes the return journey. The reason for enduring this mildly choppy crossing is a small sign. Or more specifically the different meaning attached to this sign on the island that we’re heading to. Usually found atop a grey metal pole, our sought emblem takes the form of a white circle with a single bold black line striking diagonally across it, top-right down to bottom-left. Where we’re going there’s no limit.
Somewhere in the dark bowels below deck, sandwiched between a Nissan Primera and a small Danish campervan, is a blood-red slice of Italian aggression that really ought to have 2 Unlimited playing continually through its speakers (apologies to everyone that will now have No Limit playing in their head for the rest of the day). For anyone that thinks modern Lamborghinis have gone soft, the Aventador SV is a bare-knuckled uppercut of a riposte.
When the ferry finally docks in Douglas, I descend the green stairwell (that’s not just a reflection on the pallor of the other passengers) and wander over the wet metal floor towards the silent riot of angles and edges. I don’t think there is a wilder looking car on sale today, with even the hypercar triumvirate of P1, 918 and LaFerrari looking almost reserved compared to an SV. This thought is only compounded by the direct upward sweep of the scissor doors. In the gloom the word Aventador glows red from the wide sill, like an illuminated welcome mat.
I duck under the trailing edge of the door on my way to dropping across and down into the seat. Despite being trimmed in leather, the carbon bucket gives a hard greeting, the whole thing feeling incredibly unyielding on both spine and sit bones, making me shift and squirm as I try to find a comfortable position. I end up rolling up my jumper for some lumbar support. The next thing to do is shift your feet to the left so that they are resting on the offset pedals rather than doing battle with the wheelarch. Ergonomically the situation is saved by the huge range of adjustment in the steering column. If you’re tall, it allows you to put the seat back and draw the wheel out to meet you, stopping a comfortable distance from your solar plexus.
There is a bit of a delay while the automotive Tetris that is the unloading process swings into action, but eventually the signal to disembark comes with a wide sweep of a boiler-suited arm. Flick up the bright red cover on the broad transmission tunnel and press the black button underneath. The door is still up and I listen to the power-drill whir of the starter motor, which continues just long enough to make me wonder whether the mighty 552kW V12 might not catch.
Then suddenly the cavernous belly of the boat is filled with the huge, 6.5-litre vvrrramm of a dozen waking cylinders. If people weren’t looking before, they are now. I reach up for the red leather loop and pull the door down before flicking the right-hand paddle and squeezing the accelerator to set the Aventador creeping slowly like a Komodo dragon towards the light. Fortunately there is a nose lift, so descending the ramp onto dry land isn’t quite as wincingly tentative as it might otherwise be.
It always gives me goosebumps arriving on the Isle of Man, and this time is no exception. There is just something very special about this place – it evokes the same emotions I’ve felt visiting the pits at Reims or the roads around Pescara. You can feel the history, both good and bad.
As it is already mid-afternoon, we decide that we might as well head straight for the mountain section of the TT course, travelling the wrong way around the circuit to save some time. The island has still got quite a bit of the race furniture visible as we drive the course. Some of it is permanent, such as the black and white kerbing, but some has presumably been left in place since the TT, waiting for the Manx GP and Classic TT. It gives the roads a very peculiar air, almost like you’ve strayed onto a film set. Then the long-awaited sign appears ahead.
The road is empty and straight, running out to Brandish Corner (a sweeping right-hander from this direction). Two quick fingertip pulls on the left-hand paddle, revs hovering, ready, waiting for the sign… I pin the throttle. All hell breaks loose. The acceleration is shocking, not only from the initial punch that pushes my back violently into the seat, but also because of the noise as the revs rise much more quickly than I expect. The big Lambo still feels just that, too. It is a brute of a car and intimidating in its sheer size. It’s not one of those cars that ever really shrinks around you. Up a gear and the rush continues, suddenly starting to feel very serious as the world outside the shallow, aggressively raked windscreen begins blurring faster. Walls and hedges become abstract streaks of grey and green in my peripheral vision.
A heavy lean on the brake pedal is reassuring, the steering gaining weight and the nose feeling precise through the wheel and pedal as the mass is thrown forwards and the front tyres take up the bulk of the strain. We’ve criticised Lamborghini for its carbon ceramic brakes in the past, but these are fantastic. Out of the tightish left-hander at Creg, I get greedy with the throttle early in the corner, but the Aventador has barely believable traction and simply fires itself up the road with a force that feels even more shocking than the roll-on acceleration in a straight line.
Up at Bungalow I park the SV and wait for photographer Aston Parrott and road test editor Dan Prosser, who have been chasing me in evo’s longterm SEAT Leon Cupra. As I swing the driver’s door heavenwards I’m struck by the noise of the massive fan situated in the equally enormous intake over my right shoulder. Sitting there with the car cooling itself, I’m still buzzing. It feels wonderful to have finally been able to experience the SV unshackled. After a couple of minutes the blue Leon parks and for the next few hours we set about taking some photos.
On the way back to Douglas, where a pint and a bed are waiting, I stretch the Aventador’s legs again but not excessively. It just feels good to be able to drive without constantly feeling like I’m doing something wrong. Much of the time I’m not going particularly quickly, relatively speaking. I’m certainly not doing anything dangerous, just stroking the big Lamborghini along and enjoying the incredible sound that it makes as it digs deep and pulls hard from low revs. But even though I’m not remotely troubling the car’s limits, the SV is so fast that I would be given a hefty fine and possibly a ban if I were caught travelling at these speeds on the mainland. The Manx police will still take a very dim view and haul you over the coals if they think you are behaving in a fashion that is in any way dangerous, and rightly so. It’s just that speed per se isn’t punished once you’re past the appropriate sign.
Eight hours later, just before 5AM, we tip-toe out of the Kings Guest House (perfectly nice, but I’m not sure any royalty has actually frequented it) into a dark, wet and wild morning. Parrott is convinced that we might still get some beautiful light at sunrise. Prosser and I are less sure. The Aventador renders our tip-toeing pointless as it fires into life, and as we drive slowly through the sleeping streets it feels very firm, jolting and bumping over manhole covers. The SV has not been engineered as an all-rounder. I like that. Once we’re away from civilisation, the drive up onto the mountain is rather more timid than the night before as the wide, lightly treaded rubber struggles horribly with the patches of standing water. The SV’s Dynamic Steering is actually well weighted and reassuring (the first time we’ve been able to say that about the system), but there is nothing worse than that glassy feeling as big tyres skate across a wet surface. It certainly shakes off any last vestiges of sleep that might have been clinging tome. To pacify Parrott, we sit in a rain cloud up at Windy Corner with droplets drumming on the bodywork for half an hour before calling it quits and heading back to bed.
Three hours later, with the mountain still shrouded in a thick white fairy floss, I suggest we head to the lower ground of Marine Drive. It’s not a road for driving quickly (there’s a 50km/h limit in place most of the time) but it is spectacular. It also brings back good memories, as it was the first stage of the Manx Rally, which I was lucky enough to compete in during the 2008 season of the British Rally Championship. We spend a couple of hours out on the cliff tops and the SV certainly attracts attention. In fact wherever we park up during our two days on the island, there will always be someone wanting to take a picture, asking if they might be allowed to sit in it or just keen to talk about it. Everyone is refreshingly friendly.
Eventually, with the weather beginning to brighten, I hop back behind the Alcantara-trimmed wheel and set the satnav for some faster tarmac. In terms of derestricted roads, everyone knows about the Mountain Road across Snaefell because of the TT. But that’s not all there is to the Isle of Man. There are plenty of interesting sections and one down on the south western corner of the island is the A36, otherwise known as the Sloc Road (and the Round Table Road and the Shoulder Road). It links Port Erin with Foxdale nearer the middle of the island but so do the larger A7 andA3, so the A36 is relatively quiet. Initially it winds along in the guise of a narrow lane with high, grassy banks, but then it opens out into a wonderful moorland blast. It sweeps, then climbs gradually, increasing in pace and smoothness until you’re presented with a series of irresistible long straights.
Here seems like as good a place as any to try the full Corsa mode. My memories of this most hardcore of settings on the standard Aventador is of it nearly snapping my neck on the first upshift, so I’ve been a little bit wary of engaging it on the SV. Trickling along in third gear, I press the button, feel the steering weight up a little more in my hands and then press the throttle pedal all the way to the bulkhead. Before you can say ‘HANS device’, the first upchange is necessary and, sure enough, there’s a savage jolt as the momentary torque interruption pummels the car. It’s not quite as bad as I remember and there is still enough straight to keep accelerating through all of fourth gear, so I brace myself for another. One eye on the revs, I feel like I’m in a jousting match, watching an impact thundering inexorably towards me… 6000rpm, 7000rpm, here we go, 8000rpm. BANG.
I brake and change down one gear (much smoother) for a fast left, then try one more upshift, but after that the sound of chiropractors rubbing their hands forces me to switch back to Sport mode. Even in this middle setting the single-clutch ISR ’box isn’t seamless like a dual-clutch system, and so you need to pick your moment carefully. Change up or down while the car is loaded for a corner and you’ll feel the weight of the engine straining to break free behind you as the shift pitches the car with the momentary loss of drive. It just means you have to proceed with a little respect and engage more of the thought processes you would use in a manual car, rather than treating gearshifts with the disdain that is possible in dual-clutch cars.
The faster, open corners up here on the Sloc Road really let you get under the skin of the Aventador’s front end. Initially it’s easy to feel intimidated by the reactivity of the nose to steering inputs, as it’s perhaps the biggest single change in the SV’s character over the standard car. There is a sense that if you simply turn in as hard as the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres will allow then you’ll inevitably unsettle and possibly even unstick the big rear end. On the road this does not feel like a good idea at all. Nonetheless, as you build confidence there’s a growing frustration as you sense that by the apex of each corner you could have carried more speed. Strangely, it’s in the faster corners where the SV starts to feel more manageable, giving the impression that it has risen upon its toes and is happy to be played with. You get a similar feeling in an R8.
Through a fast right I turn in hard enough to feel the front tyres scrub a fraction up to the apex. It’s very subtle and there’s no need to snap the throttle shut: just wait a moment for the corner to open then get on the power and feel the balance switch rearwards as the huge power is sluiced predominantly towards the rear wheels. When you get it right you can really feel the load building on the outside rear tyre under acceleration, sometimes even edging it fractionally wide of the line scribed by the fronts. It’s never enough to need corrective lock and it doesn’t feel like it might snap away from you as it would with a rear wheel- drive car. It is just this beautiful sensation of driving hard but hunkered down on the limit of grip as 690Nm is deployed to the road.
After a while spent on this quiet corner of the island we head back to Douglas for some 98 RON. I’ve been told the petrol station next to McDonald’s has the best fuel, so also take the opportunity to indulge in the culinary equivalent of some 91-octane unleaded. Whilst we’re munching on a couple of burgers, Prosser and I recount the story of the most famous cattle grid in rallying to Parrott. If you’ve never seen it, Ari Vatanen, flat-out in an Opel Manta 400, has a huge dose of oversteer coming out of a long left-hander in the Tholt-e-Will stage of the 1983 Manx Rally. This wouldn’t have been a problem except for the fact that the car is heading towards a cattle grid. Again not a problem, but for the fact that the grid is defined by two yellow concrete gateposts and, in its oversteering state, the Manta is wider than the gap.
‘‘Ohhhhh…’’ says co-driver Terry Harryman as they approach the grid. ‘‘Dear god,’’ he concludes as Vatanen only just winds off the opposite lock in time to squeeze through. It’s the definition of a heart-in mouth moment, and it’s all there to relive on YouTube.
Obviously once this has been recounted there is only one place Aston wants to go, so we head over there to take a photo in tribute to the moment (although with slightly less opposite lock and requirement for blasphemy). The Tholt-e-Will road is fun but mostly a bit narrow for the SV. However, it brings you back up onto the mountain at Bungalow, where the tram tracks cross the road. Parrott immediately sees another photo opportunity in front of a huge mural of Joey Dunlop riding his Honda SP1. Another recommendation: if you’ve never seen the film Road, all about the Dunlop family, seek it out.
After that we spend a while longer doing static photos as the evening commuter traffic makes its way along the A18. It’s fun watching locals pushing unlikely machinery in a way that you don’t really see on the mainland. An elderly Mercedes E-Class taxi, a Nissan Navara, a ’90s Corsa, all taking racing lines as they hurry home. Then, just as the sun is setting, I set off for Ramsey, turning around in the car park just up from Water Works Corner, where the air ambulance lands during the TT. One last run across the mountain.
It’s a shame that you can’t pick and choose the different bits of the SV’s three driving modes, as I think the steering is at its most natural in the relaxed Strada setting, although everything else (dampers, ESC, exhaust, gearchange) feels just fine in the middle, Sport setting. I let a gap build in the trickle of traffic and then head for the Gooseneck. The SV still feels big through the tight uphill right-hander, but I’ve got more confidence now and feel happy throwing it hard into the corner and getting on the power early. We’re at the low white walls of Guthrie’s before we know it and threading the red wedge through the chicane before running out onto the Mountain Mile. It might not sound like much given that the SV is capable of 350km/h, but touching 250 on the way up to the 28th milestone of the TT course is something that will live with me for a long time. Even though it’s clear as far as I can see (and trust me, my eyes are out on stalks) it feels life-affirmingly fast on an A-road. Then it’s hard on the brakes, past Mountain Box and into Verandah, a sequence of three corners that you can take with a constant lock, the car drifting across the width of its lane as each apex comes and goes.
The setting sun is seemingly igniting the clouds to my right, the whole sky a patchwork of flaming, floating cotton wool. Past Bungalow, up Hailwood’s Rise, then a trailing throttle through Duke’s Bends, where I know there will be translucent blue flame sporadically jetting from the quartet of hot exhausts. The noise is utterly addictive. Loud and angry as only twelve naturally aspirated cylinders can be, it is quite probably the greatest soundtrack on sale today.
Out of Keppel Gate the tail just begins to slide a fraction but I know there is no need to lift as the all-wheel drive stabilises things. Exiting Kate’s Cottage with a straight and empty run down to the pub at Creg-ny-Baa, I pin the throttle once more, holding each gear as long as I dare, revelling in the consecutive crescendos. The road dips down just as I’m about to go for fifth gear and although it looks relatively mild, the Lambo flies for a fraction of a second. The revs flare in unison with my heart rate.
I ease off on the way down to Brandish and let the world return to a more mainland pace. I’m so, so pleased that we brought the SV here. It’s a car that needs speed to really come alive and show its best dynamically. The drama of it on the road is undoubtedly so much greater than on a track too. Largely (but not entirely) because of its gearbox it doesn’t feel as modern and polished as some of its competitors, but somehow I can forgive it that because of the raw excitement the whole car is capable of generating. In a world where the outer limits of many supercars are becoming more accessible, the SV remains a very intimidating but thrilling proposition. Much like the Mountain Road.
DETAIL TECH DATA #2015 #Lamborghini-Aventador-SV
Engine 6498cc V12, dohc, 48v
Power 552Kw @ 8400rpm
Torque 690Nm @ 5500rpm
Transmission Seven-speed #ISR
automated manual, all-wheel drive, #ESC
Front suspension Double wishbones, inboard coil springs and adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension Double wishbones, inboard coil springs and adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes Carbon-ceramic discs, 400mm front, 380mm rear, #ABS
Wheels 20 x 9.0-inch front, 21 x 13.0-inch rear
Tyres 255/30 ZR20 front, 355/25 ZR21 rear
Weight (dry) 1525kg
Power-to-weight (dry) 362kW/tonne
0-100km/h 2.8sec (claimed)
Top speed 350km/h+ (claimed)
Basic price $882,650
On sale Now
evo rating 4+
TOUCHING 250KM/H ON THE TT COURSE IS SOMETHING THAT WILL LIVE WITH ME FOR A LONG TIME
THE FASTER, OPEN CORNERS REALLY LET YOU GET UNDER THE SKIN OF THE FRONT END
Right: IoM’s open mountain roads are among the few places in Europe where an Aventador SV can properly stretch its legs.
YOU HAVE TO ENGAGE MORE OF THE THOUGHT PROCESSES YOU WOULD USE IN A MANUAL CAR
THE SV HAS NOT BEEN ENGINEERED AS AN ALLROUNDER. I LIKE THAT
Left: 6500rpm in fifth gear; we’ll let you work out whether that’s legal on the British mainland…
Below: the cattle grid for which #Ari-Vatanen
got his Opel Manta back in shape just in the nick of time during the 1983Manx Rally. Below left: centre-locking wheel nuts.
Clockwise from above: exhaust tips are strictly functional, and the noise they emit is loud; statue and mural of TT legend Joey Dunlop; so much for photographer Parrott’s planned sunrise shot.
IT ALWAYS GIVES ME GOOSEBUMPS ARRIVING ON THE ISLE OF MAN, AND THIS TIME IS NO EXCEPTION