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Lambo Aventador: red bull (no wings)

  1. A chewy question to begin with. Is it heresy to suggest that
    the car you’re currently looking at, the new Lamborghini Aventador, is… well,
    too smooth? Has Lambo, traditionally the last ones holding court at the bar
    while everyone else has called it a night, finally – whisper it – grown up?

    Not exactly. As you’re about to find out, the 691bhp
    Aventador (pronounced ‘event-a-door’, with the emphasis on the first syllable)
    is a huge leap forward for a company whose flagship model has used an evolution
    of an engine that first appeared in the middle of a Lambo the same year The
    Beatles went psychedelic.

    Words: Jason Barlow
    Photos: Ripley & Ripley

    This feature was originally published in the April issue of Top Gear magazine

  2. Yes, it was a thundering great V12, and one that ballooned
    in cubic capacity from 3497cc to almost 6500cc by the time it bowed out 43
    years later in 2009’s Murciélago SV. And yes, it was always a thing of
    ear-wax-displacing sonic wonder. But it was also quite old.

    There’s an all-new V12 in the Aventador. There’s also an
    all-new carbon-fibre monocoque chassis. And an all-new gearbox. Normally, most
    ‘new’ cars aren’t totally new at all, because they feature at least some
    carry-over bits from the car they’re replacing. But the new Lamborghini is
    properly new, and began life on a sheet of paper that wasn’t so much white as
    virginal. In fact, company boss Stephan Winkelmann reckons the Aventador vaults
    the company’s top model two generations ahead rather than one.

  3. “At the briefing for this car four years ago now, I asked
    the question, ‘What do we want?’ And my answer was very clear. We want no
    competitors for this car at all,” he says. “This car has to set the pace, be
    the benchmark, the ultimate trend-setter for the super sports car. So we
    concentrated on what the super sports car business is all about: design and
     performance.

    “In terms of performance, I believe that the power-to-weight
    ratio is now more significant than top speed, although this is still the
    fastest car we’ve ever done [0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, top speed of 217mph].
    Handling and drivability are the more relevant key words for the future. In
    terms of design, this car is extraordinary and also immediately recognisable as
    a Lamborghini.”

  4. Any new Italian supercar has a tough act to follow, and a
    new Lamborghini has it tougher than most. Remember the form: 400GT, Miura,
    Countach, Diablo, Murciélago. One of these was so rude-looking its name was a
    Piedmontese cuss, while another was named after the Devil himself.

  5. More problematic was 2007’s Reventón, which upstaged the Murc, and more recently the wilfully extreme techno-showcase Sesto Elemento. With the needle nudging the red in both cases, perhaps they had no option but to turn the volume down on the Aventador. Not that it’s dull or anything. God, no. Just very polished. Though it’s all sharp creases and geometrical edges, in the flesh it’s as well-resolved and tautly surfaced as any Audi. Shocking, yes, but not surprising, and not the otherworldly eye candy that, say, the new Pagani Huayra is.

  6. At 4.7m long and more than two metres wide, it’s definitely
    still a big statement. It has scissor doors and requires a degree of
    athleticism to get into. Once you’re in, though, there’s that same intoxicating
    sense of alienation that all big Lamborghinis generate. It has the
    over-the-shoulder visibility of a Transit van, and you just know that finding a
    space and cuddling up to the kerb in the damn thing will be the SAS
    air-drop-into-hostile-territory of low-speed parking manoeuvres. Which is as it
    should be.

    There’s a red flap that you flick up to access the starter button,
    and the instruments are on TFT screens: you can choose to have the speedo or
    rev-counter as the main display dial. The aeronautical influence is very apparent,
    with an Audi-sourced MMI system dominating the centre console. The paddle
    shifters have the hexagonal motif which appears all over the car. The quality
    is sensational.

  7. Filippo Perini, the head of Lamborghini’s Centro Stile,
    claims his six-strong, all-Italian design team beat off competition from VW
    Group studios in Berlin and Munich, as well as Giugiaro himself, to do the
     Aventador.

    “It’s very important for us to fulfil the Italian way to do
    design,” he says. “This is absolutely an Italian supercar, and we are driven by
    our three key words - extreme, unexpected, and Italian.”

    It’s very Italian, then.

  8. “We were working on it at the same time as the Reventón, and
    the success of that car obliged us to make a few changes,” he continues. “As
    before, we took inspiration from fighter aircraft, in particular the F-22
    Raptor, which is driven by two opposing functions - one to be stealthy and
    invisible to radar, the other to be unbelievably fast. Even if you took the
    badge off this car, it remains a supercar. And a Lamborghini.”

  9. Perini - charming, loquacious and ever-so-slightly nuts -
    also cites various insects and the bone structure of the T-Rex as inspirations.
    Between us, we agree that the Miura is probably the only ‘female’ Lamborghini
    there has ever been, and that at a push the Aventador is more mid-Eighties
    Grace Jones than Monica Bellucci. The new car was also designed entirely on
    computer. Make of that what you will. For my money, the rear end - a bit often
    overlooked by most designers - is also the Aventador’s most interesting angle.
    The recurrent hexagonal theme is at its best here, in the massive apertures,
    the rear diffuser and the single exhaust tailpipe (the hexagons, by the way,
    are apparently inspired by the late-Sixties Marzal concept car).

  10. If the car’s design is the stuff of strong pub debate, the
    technical story simply steamrollers all comers. According to Maurizio Reggiani,
    Lamborghini’s director of R&D, “We reduced the weight of every component,
    we increased power but reduced consumption and CO2 emissions, we introduced the
    world’s fastest-shifting gearbox, we have an active all-wheel-drive system,
    pushrod suspension to reduce unsprung mass and improve kinematics… and for us
    the only possibility was to do the entire monocoque in carbon fibre, not just
    the tub. The new car is 30 per cent lighter than the Murciélago but 150 per
    cent stiffer. What lies beneath the dressis as beautiful as the parts you can
     see.”

  11. In an increasingly competitive arena, Lamborghini definitely
    thinks it has the edge when it comes to carbon fibre. While McLaren’s 12C has a
    carbon tub, and Ferrari insists that carbon fibre remains uneconomic for all
    but its lowest-volume supercars, Lambo has forged ahead with a complete CFRP
    chassis on the Aventador while readying a wholly carbon-fibre successor for the
     Gallardo.

  12. That’s two years away, though. Today, Lamborghini already
    has its own extensive in-house carbon-fibre production facility in Sant’Agata,
    and - as it demonstrated on the Sesto Elemento - it’s mixing a variety of
    composites disciplines within that. The new car’s load-bearing structure - tub
    and roof - effectively functions as an incredibly strong single item. The
    passenger cell that forms the heart of the car weighs just 147.5kg, and with
    the front and rear aluminium sub-frames added, it’s just 229.5kg (overall
    weight is 1,575kg). Should you feel so inclined it would take 26,000lb ft of
    torque to twist the shell by one degree, so it should feel pretty solid, even
    on the worst B-road in Britain.

  13. Lamborghini has been working
    closely with Boeing’s materials experts (the new Dreamliner features 23 tonnes
    of carbon fibre) and the boffins at the University of Washington in Seattle.
    One of the big break-throughs is in the different processes it uses to
    construct the Aventador’s monocoque; Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM), prepreg and
    braided or woven elements all have a part to play. There’s a foam layer within
    the chassis to improve stiffness, but it also dampens the noise and vibrations
    that can plague carbon structures. “We discovered that by chance,” Reggiani
    admits, “and it was nice to get something for free!”

  14. An evolving science, he also says that the partnership with
    Boeing means that they can now accurately predict the composites’ behaviour in
    a variety of situations, thanks to some incredible validation tools. “We didn’t
    have to repeat a single crash test,” he adds. What does that mean? At the very
    least, the ejection of a few toys from prams in Maranello and Woking…

    Speaking of which, look closely, and you’ll see that the
    Aventador uses F1-style pushrods on its suspension rather than struts, as well
    as aluminium wishbones on each corner. The spring and damper units (supplied by
    Öhlins) are mounted inboard on the chassis rather than on the wheel mounts.
    Why? Because it separates wheel movement and dampers, reduces unsprung mass,
    and allows the suspension geometry to be twiddled more imaginatively. Reggiani
    claims the result is more supple spring rates but not at the expense of
    handling precision. Bring on those debased British B-roads.

  15. Lamborghini has built a rolling chassis to showcase the
    Aventador’s genuine technical beauty (if you’ve ever seen a Murciélago
    undressed, you’ll know it’s less, er, cohesive), and though the elegance of its
    monocoque and suspension set-up is hard to resist, there’s also the small
    matter of that new engine. Thank God these guys and their rivals up the road in
    Maranello are refusing to abandon the V12. Where to start? With some (big)
    numbers: the maximum power output is 691bhp at 8,250rpm, torque 509lb ft at
     5,500rpm.

  16. The 60 degree, 6498cc unit weighs 235kg, 18kg lighter than
    the previous one, and sits 60mm lower in the chassis for a reduced centre of
    gravity. It’s dry-sumped, the crankcase is made of an aluminium-silicon alloy,
    and there’s electronically controlled variable valve timing for inlet and
    exhaust in each of the two four-valve cylinder heads. Frictional losses are
    reduced, and throttle response improved, thanks to a remarkably short-stroke
    lay-out, and an unusually high compression ratio points to Lamborghini’s
    dedication to the cause (CO2 emissions are 398g/km, but hey, they’re engineers
    not miracle workers). The new exhaust system is a surprisingly artful looking
    thing, too: it’s a hydro-formed three-into-one system, with low-and high-volume
    mufflers. So it should rumble around town and wail operatically at 8,000rpm.

  17. The Aventador’s transmission is equally startling. Reggiani
    notes that the car’s electronic brain can handle half a billion operations per
    second, and in many ways, the car’s fully integrated electronic architecture is
    its most impressive feature. The new gearbox - ISR, Independent Shifting Rod -
    is something else altogether, and though it offers lightning-fast (50ms)
    seamless shifts, it uses a different principle to DSG. In essence, it’s a
    single-clutch twin-shaft seven-speed ‘box, which separates second and third
    gear and allows the independent shifting rods to disengage one gear while the
    other is engaging the next gear. There are four of these shifting rods, and
    they’re operated by hydraulic actuators: all the components are housed in one -
    admittedly rather large - casing, though the transmission weighs only 70kg,
    substantially less than a DSG system.

  18. Five gearbox modes of increasing ferocity are available:
    three manual (Strada, Sport and Corsa), with two automatic options (Strada and
    Sport). Winkelmann insists that the ISR has the sort of emotional character
    often lacking in such systems, particularly in Sport or Corsa mode.

    The Aventador’s all-wheel drive is governed by a
    Lambo-specced version of the electronically controlled Haldex coupling (rather
    than the viscous coupling previously used) which sends 70 per cent of the
    torque to the rear in most conditions, but can juggle it to the front when
     required.

  19. There’s also the latest-generation ESP system, which is
    fully adjustable - should you find yourself on a road big enough, or on a
    circuit wide enough to accommodate both the car and your enlarged cojones.
    Lambo’s version of Audi’s Drive Select System allows the driver to remap
    engine, transmission, diff, ESP and the electro-mechanical steering in Strada
    (road), Sport or Corsa (track, all bets are off) mode. The brakes upfront are
    400mm ceramic discs with six-pot calipers, 380mm at the rear grabbed by
    four-pot calipers. Pirelli supplies P Zero rubber, 255/35 wrapped around 19in
    alloys at the front, humungous 335/30 on 20in wheels at the back.

  20. Even getting your head round the Aventador feels like an epic journey. Almost as epic as the one that Lamborghini has been on all these years, but which now finds it somewhere close to the summit of 21st-century supercar technology. Not bad for a company who launched the Diablo just 20 years ago with fuzzy felt on its dashboard. “To talk is good, to write is good, to see pictures is even better,” Stephan Winkelmann says with a wry smile. “But you have to drive this car to discover what it is really about.”

    We genuinely can’t wait.

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