What It’s Like To Drive the Lamborghini Aventador S
“Have you ever driven on a track before?” my capable professional instructor asks. In truth, I have, but the hesitation in my voice tells him I’ve never driven anything like this. And I haven’t. I’m in the cockpit of a 740 horsepower, half-million-dollar supercar. I’m about to drive a Lamborghini.
Seconds later as I slalom tightly spaced cones at speeds that don’t seem possible for such a large vehicle, all thoughts of price and prestige are out of mind. I feel the rumble of the V-12 engine travel through the seat into my fingers. Pirelli tires can be heard screeching as I steer and countersteer. In that moment I’m no longer behind the wheel of the flagship Aventador S—I’m in the world’s most exciting go-kart.
I approached the track day for the North American launch of the Aventador S, at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, with some trepidation. Lamborghinis have a reputation for many things: power, unmistakable design, and being a bit crazy—setting it apart from the more refined Ferrari as the bad boy of Italian sports cars.
In a pre-drive press briefing, Alessandro Farmeschi, Lamborghini America’s chief operating officer, touts all the technical marvels hiding under the Aventador’s carbon fiber: four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, “adaptive magnetorheological suspension.” But the question on my mind is, Does all this tech get in the way of the snarling, uncompromised supercar promised by the charging bull on the hood?
That question is answered 20 seconds into my first hot lap. Distracted by the roars, pops, and crackles of the titanium exhaust, I inadvertently take a tricky corner far too fast. I make a rookie mistake and let off the gas, which causes the car to oversteer and lose grip at the rear end. The car’s brain, a system called LDVA (Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Attiva), steps in after detecting that traction has been lost and sends more power to the front wheels, saving my behind. I’m dragged around the corner with my heart in my mouth, sweat on my palms, and four wheels still firmly planted on the tarmac.
The Aventador line has been around since 2011, and the S model represents a comprehensive visual and technical upgrade. The front splitter now sports two distinct “fangs,” which the company says were inspired by both cobras and sharks. The triple rear exhaust tips have been reconfigured to resemble a rocket, because of course.
The Aventador S retains the Lamborghini DNA with its naturally aspirated V-12 engine, which has been featured in every flagship Lambo since its first production sports car, the 350 GT, in 1964. While the industry shifts toward using smaller engine blocks with turbochargers to increase power and torque, Lamborghini is standing firm with a whopping 6.5-liter engine to deliver all of its 740 horsepower and 508 lb.-ft. of tire-shredding torque. The result? Zero to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 217 mph. (After flooring the Aventador on the back straight of the track, I have no reason to dispute these figures.)
LDVA, the brain unit that bailed me out, controls the car’s lateral dynamics (steering), vertical dynamics (suspension), and longitudinal dynamics (drive) to optimize the performance for the conditions it senses. It can be partly user-controlled through the Aventador’s four driving modes: Strada, Sport, Corsa, and the exquisitely titled Ego—which enables drivers to adjust the car’s steering, suspension, drive, and other parameters to their individual liking.
More technical wizardry is employed when turning the car. Four-wheel steering, which is becoming increasingly popular in high-performance supercars, offers two primary benefits: At slower speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions, virtually shortening the wheelbase of the car and making it far more nimble in corners. At high speed, the wheels turn in the same direction, which virtually lengthens the wheelbase of the car, making it far more stable. It’s extremely noticeable, especially in tight turns, without feeling like a shopping cart with a loose wheel, and is the car’s most delightful feature.
All this combines for a package that is winning over a new breed of customers. Volkswagen AG–owned Automobili Lamborghini has sold 1,500 more Aventadors in five years than its predecessor the Murciélago in a decade. Along with the V-10-powered Huracán, the company sold 3,457 cars in 2016—a record year.
Part of that success comes from Lamborghini’s deliberate positioning of itself as a lifestyle brand for the young and rich—Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo are owners—and its commitment to providing thrills by the bucket load.
While other Italian sports-car makers are notoriously selective about whom they will sell a car to, Club Lambo is open to everyone. All you need is means to purchase, the desire to see and be seen, and a stomach for unrelenting speed.
A version of this article appears in the Sept. 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “In the Belly of the Brazen Bull.”