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Lamborghini’s Aventador stunned at launch then fell behind. Now hail The S. Words Steve Sutcliffe.
When Lamborghini unveiled the Aventador back in 2011, the world of fast cars gasped for a moment in disbelief. Because, at the time, the Aventador, with its cartoonish good looks, its thunderous V12 engine and 210mph top speed, was like no other supercar on Earth. It was also near the technological cutting edge back then, featuring a carbon monocoque chassis with pushrod suspension and four-wheel drive with which to deploy its prodigious power.
But since then the atmosphere among the upper echelons of fast cars has thickened somewhat, and dynamically the Aventador has struggled to keep up. Which is why Lamborghini has come up with this car, a dramatically more advanced Aventador known simply as ‘The S’.
It costs £277,000 and boasts four-wheel steering and revised electronic suspension. That famous 6.5-litre V12 has also been tickled to produce 730bhp and 509lb ft, with more torque available towards the top end this time.
Aerodynamic efficiency is up by an impressive 50%, too, with 130% more downforce than before and a lot less drag, says Lamborghini. And, as you can see, the S also looks quite different from its predecessor, with an unashamed design nod towards the Countach around its rear wheelarches.
The technical progress doesn’t stop there, however. There’s a bespoke new Pirelli tyre, while the dynamic drive programme, which featured three modes – Strada, Sport and Corsa – has been re-written to include a fourth setting called Ego. This allows a driver to alter the dynamics of the steering, powertrain and suspension separately from each other, which is a minor eureka moment for the Aventador.
The other key technical change is the fitment of one single ECU to control all the car’s dynamic functions. And this, Lamborghini claims, has enabled its engineers to develop a consistency in response that you can’t achieve with separate ECUs.
On the move the S has a new-found harmony in the way it reacts to your inputs – be that on the throttle, via the steering wheel, on the brake pedal, and most of all beneath your backside – and this alone means it represents a huge step forwards dynamically over the old car. What you notice first is how direct the front end now feels; then how much cleaner the throttle response is. You instantly feel much more in control of the car as a result. And without question the single biggest difference is the four-wheel steering.
From behind the wheel this manifests itself in much sharper front-end bite everywhere and, because the car is so much better-balanced under power, the engineers have been able to send much more torque to the rear axle at any given time. Which makes the S feel more like a rear-wheel-drive car than a four- wheel-drive one.
The more time I spent in it, the more the S blew me away. And it wasn’t only the new handling set-up that impressed. The V12 engine is also a rare gem that shines brighter than ever here; the carbon-ceramic brakes have huge power and a lot more feel than before; and, although the gearbox remains fundamentally unchanged (which means it works OK if not brilliantly, when compared with the best of the best), its automatic mode has been softened to make it smoother.
But it’s the chassis that’s the stand-out feature, because it’s just so much sharper and so much better-balanced than it used to be. At last, dor has the underpinnings to do that heroic #V12 engine justice.
Above and top left Latest Aventador looks wilder than the original and packs a power boost to 730bhp, but the improvements to its handling are what really count.