Opinion: the awfully brilliant first impression of a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Opinion: the awfully brilliant first impression of a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Opinion Does the most extreme version of the 11-year old Aventador stack up as a

Opinion

Does the most extreme version of the 11-year old Aventador stack up as a ‘new’ car?

For a story coming soon to TopGear.com and Top Gear magazine, I got to spend 1,500 miles with a Lamborghini Aventador. One of only 800 SVJ Roadsters. Please don’t think I’m boasting. I was sh*tting myself. 

Presuming the roofless Aventador is even more intense than the hard-top, and the SVJ is the fastest, maddest model, this is as extreme as the big bad V12 Lambo gets.

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This presented an unusual opportunity: for an 11-year old car to make a first impression. I’ve never driven an Aventador before. The V10 Huracán? Familiar with that. But its 6.5-litre older brother had always tantalisingly been out of bounds, like an 18 certificate movie to a 14-year old. 

Easy to forget how elderly the Aventador is, really. Revealed in 2011, it’s been on sale for over a decade. In 2011, the Space Shuttle flew for the final time, Minecraft was released, and a worldwide audience of two billion watched Prince William and Kate Middleton say ‘I do’ at Westminster Abbey. How time flies. Heck, we only had iPhone 4s back then. 

And this shows in the Aventador. It’s so dated, it belongs in a museum, not a showroom. The headlights are absolute candles, so the top speed at night is, ooh, 55mph. Any faster and you literally cannot see where you’re going. Which is a sizeable problem in a car worth £397,000.

Inside, the infotainment is from an Audi A6. Not the current A6, or the one before that. They’ve scraped the mould off the one before that, back when the RS6 had a V10. Usually I prefer buttons to a touchscreen, but this three-generation-old pixel-fest is fiddlier than performing laser eye surgery in an earthquake. 

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Lamborghini’s bumf insists the system features Apple CarPlay, but this one wouldn’t even hook up a reliable Bluetooth connection. When it did, everyone I phoned hung up in disgust at the cacophony of background noise. So, it was a lonely 1,500 miles, given (as per usually for a carbon tub car) the radio signal was non-existent. 

I tried to stream some music, but the Aventador only lists its on-board Jukebox (remember SD cards?) or CDs as media sources. Plenty of time alone with your thoughts in there. Those thoughts mainly being “I wish I didn’t need a double-jointed neck to see out of the letterbox windscreen”.

Even for a supercar, the Aventador is hilariously, spectacularly impractical. The SVJ has no cupholders or proper armrests and the glovebox seems to have been modelled on that slot between the seats and the transmission tunnel you lose your phone or spare change in and can’t retrieve without skinned knuckles. All you can see in the rear-view mirror is wing. 

The ‘range-remaining’ computer changes its mind more pessimistically than a Nissan Leaf’s. And I have never, ever driven anything that consumes so much petrol. An entire 85 litre tank can be vaporised in under 200 miles. Stick that in your EV range anxiety charging port. 

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I found myself playing a little game, wondering how I’d respond to this car if it was the work of a new Chinese start-up we’d never heard of. Would I find all this nonsense charming and quirky, or would I write it off as unacceptably amateurish?

I guess that’s the beauty of having a reputation to live up to, especially when that rep is ‘to build the maddest, most outrageous supercars in the world’. A Lambo literally has to be obtuse and silly. That’s why a Huracán is harder to see out of, louder and tougher to operate than an Audi R8. The Italians take all the same basic components as the Germans, smother it in hexagons, deliberately designing it to be annoying because that gives it theatre. As the saying goes, poor people are mad. This is eccentric.

Truth is, I adored the Aventador. There are enough practical, daily-drivable supercars from McLaren, Porsche, and even Ferrari or Bugatti. It’s not as if it’s fragile: the fundamental build quality seems strong. Nothing felt like it was going to break off, the nose-lift saved the beaky splitter from becoming a permanent fixture on several petrol station forecourts and there were no warning messages, odd expensive noises or worrying odours. From the car.

Chiefly, this massively wide, tricky to place, hugely intimidating wedge with its hideously outmoded automated manual gearbox is a plinth for that mind-melting V12. This is its last dance before it’s joined by hybrid boost, weight and complication. At a shrieking 8,500rpm, you’ll – briefly – forgive an Aventador SVJ pretty much anything. Then it’ll try to rip your head off with a brutal full-bore Corsa-mode gearshift. And you’ll forgive it all over again.

Did it live up to 11 years’ worth of expectations?  Emphatically. The Aventador isn’t the best supercar of all time, but it is – and may well remain forever – THE definitive supercar, for good, and for bad. 

Photography: Mark Riccioni