Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar?

Supercars are supposed to be usable and practical these days, but - thankfully - Lamborghini does things differently

We talk a lot about supercars being useable these days, don’t we? The McLaren 720S has a weirdly sublime ride and great all-round visibility. The Audi R8 feels just like a TT until you start poking its 5.2-litre V10 with a stick. The 911 GT3 RS is one of the most hardcore things Porsche makes, and yet you could quite easily daily it.

As the Aventador S smashes over a manhole cover you wouldn’t even feel in other cars and then lurches into second gear, it occurs to me that Lamborghini did not get the everyday supercar memo. Not when developing this car, anyway.
If you ever get to drive one of these, for the love of god, don’t clock your first miles in it while negotiating a cramped London industrial estate at rush hour. If you do, you’ll be in for a whole world of hurt.

Lamborghini - Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar? - Features

The ride is the firmest of any road car I’ve ever encountered. The robotised manual gearbox makes a meal out of every shift, and the clutch awkwardly drops in when you’re doing anything remotely resembling a hill start. I’m struggling to see out as I manoeuvre around this concrete-clad part of the capital, made worse by the fact the tiny pieces of glass you’re given to peer out of are now steaming up.

Normally, you’d just wind the windows down and then up to clear the condensation and hit the front screen demist button, but that’s not easy in an Aventador, as nothing is quite where you expect it to be. There are buttons splattered around everywhere, and even the indicator and wiper stalks aren’t in the usual place - they poke down at around 4 and 8 o’clock.

Lamborghini - Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar? - Features

Just as I think the ride can’t get any worse, I have to raise the nose using the hydraulic lift function to avoid turning the front splitter into shards of broken plastic, which makes it feel like the front dampers have been replaced with rusty pogo sticks.

You might think that the noise would make up for this, but no - below 3000rpm the Aventador S sounds more like whirring industrial machinery. It’s not until you reach that 3000 mark that a flap opens in the exhaust and you can, at last, hear that 6.5-litre naturally-aspirated V12. But there’s far too much traffic for that to happen. Oh, and my back is starting to hurt, as the seat padding is woefully inadequate.

The Aventador is a car that makes the kind of everyday driving we take for granted seem like an arduous task. A few hours on, though, I’m far from North West London industrial misery and have the Peak District unfolding in front of the car’s perilously low nose. At least I think it is - it’s raining. And foggy. Ah.

Lamborghini - Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar? - Features

Regardless, I find myself switching from Strada to the more hardcore Corsa mode. Now, the dampers are at their firmest, the engine at its angriest, and the ESP in a less intrusive ‘sport’ setting. After experimenting with ever greater throttle inputs, I’m happy that the traction is substantial enough that dialling down the electronic aids won’t result in being spat off into one of those dry stone walls that line the roads around here. They’re a little sturdier than Forza Horizon 4, would you believe.

"Going fast in an Aventador is like having a fight. A fight you can’t be sure you’re winning"

The common complaint I hear about these cars is that they understeer, but I’m not feeling a whiff of it right now. Just absolute neutrality, with savage changes of direction possible with a flick of steering wheel. A lot of that is going to be down to the all-wheel steering system, and the aggressive all-wheel drive system, which sends even more to the rear than before. It makes for an absurdly darty front-end.

Lamborghini - Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar? - Features

This theme is carried through all aspects of the driving experience, because going fast in an Aventador is like having a fight. A fight you can’t be sure you’re winning. The ESP system seems to have an argument with itself as it decides how much of the V12’s 730 brake horsepowers to inflict on the wheels. The fast and very heavy steering kicks back brutally at times. And the only thing interrupting the scrambling of your insides caused by the full rage of the engine is the gearbox.

I moaned about it earlier, but finally now I’m at full throttle and leaving the shifts until the 8500rpm redline, it makes sense. Any other time it’s clunky as hell, but right now the seven-speed sequential ‘box is banging home each gear with racecar-like aggression and effectiveness. Every shift thunders through my body.

Lamborghini - Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar? - Features

As the age of big, multi-cylindered, naturally-aspirated engines draws to a close, this 6.5 serves as an extremely potent swansong. The word is the V12 will be allowed to live on thanks to electrification, but this might be the last time we see it in this thrilling state of purity.

There’s a relentlessness to it every time you fully open the throttle, and yes, the sound - once you’re above 3000rpm and the exhaust flaps are open - is deliriously good. It’s a toss up between this and the current Ferrari V12 for best exhaust noise, and I’m not sure I can pick a winner - there’s a huge distinction between the two, and each delights the ears in different ways. While the Ferrari screams, the Lamborghini howls.

Lamborghini - Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar? - Features

And then, of course, we have to talk about the way it looks. The classic supercar wedge shape, it’s a feast of bold lines and angry vents, and it all looks superb in this Diablo SE30-style purple. Driving the Aventador is like a public service: wherever you go, people both young and old adore this car.

As the light starts to draw in and I trundle through a surprisingly busy village, I can hear a commotion. Dozens of tiny shouts and whoops coming from just behind the car. Then I realise, I’m passing a school, and the kids are going absolutely nuts over the sight and sound of this purple vision of madness. I then, of course, pull both paddles to put it in neutral and give it a few revs, causing an even greater ruckus. Perhaps we need a few more Aventadors on the road to guarantee the next generation of petrolheads.

Lamborghini - Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar? - Features

As a national speed limit sign and a suitably squiggly piece of tarmac looms into view, it’s time for one last blast before the less-than-comfortable cruise home. And it’s bucket list-spec stuff. Partly because the way the Aventador S feels when driven hard is made all the more satisfying as pottering around at normal speeds is so arduous. You feel like you’ve earned the joyous, visceral experience when you do actually have space to open the taps a little.

"Driving the Aventador S at any speed is - for good and bad - a proper, memorable experience"

All of this makes me wonder if manufacturers are going the right way by making supercars you can do your daily commute in. Shouldn’t you have to work for that performance? Don’t you want reminding that the mid-engined monster living on your driveway isn’t a Ford Focus, even when you’re driving around normally?

When I gazed upon the cars adorning my bedroom walls as a kid - the likes of the Ferrari F40, Mclaren F1 and yes, the Diablo - I couldn’t care less what they’d be like while bimbling down to shops to get a pint of milk. I wanted to know how hard they’d pin you back in your seat. How it would sound having many cylinders exploding just behind your ears. How different it would feel to the tatty Peugeot 405 diesel my dad drove back then.

Lamborghini - Lamborghini Aventador S Review: The Last True Supercar? - Features

It’s here that the Aventador S differentiates itself from all supercars but the exotic, ultra-limited multi-million quid stuff from companies like Koenigsegg and Pagani. Driving it at any speed is - for good and bad - a proper, memorable experience. It feels otherworldly. Set apart from all other cars.

The last true supercar? It might just be.