2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ: This one goes to 11


Car reviews / Пятница, Сентябрь 28th, 2018

When does 100 mph not feel fast? The moment you reach 175 mph at the end of the Estoril straight, that’s when. And when you do it again. And again…

Calling the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ fast is like calling a tornado windy. It is the most densely packed form of excitement on the planet, a V12-powered Carnival in Rio, an exclamation point on wheels. And that intensity starts long before getting inside and hitting the gas.

Lamborghini head designer Mitja Borkert (pronounced: meet ya) likens the SVJ to piloting a fighter jet and then goes on to point out design elements plucked straight from a plane. A fin on the end of the front splitter looks just like the tail of an F-16. Generally speaking, they call it the Y-shape and place that design element all over the car, inside and out, even in the taillights. 

Of course, these details only become noticeable once you absorb the Aventador’s stunning, low and wide, and aggressive overall look. Hard angles and huge windshield rake give it a singular wedge shape, then various extrusions from the wings and scoops add both a sense of purpose and menace. I think a fighter jet looks a bit subdued by comparison. It’s all very alpha male. 

And that suits Lamborghini fine, because to the Sant’Agata Bolognese-based supercar (and SUV) builder, it’s all about flair. Make a thing that makes you feel. Stir the pot of emotions to grab your attention and then hold it like a vise. And don’t fight it. Life is way better if you allow the SVJ to soak up your attention. Listen to its 6.5-liter V12 bark with minimal concern about the neighbors. Hear it rev to infinity and scream like an early '90s Formula 1 car. 

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Speaking of, there’s more power here than in that era of F1 car. Also up 20 from the SV and 70 from the standard Aventador, the SVJ’s engine makes 759 hp at 8,500 rpm and 531 lb-ft of torque at 6,750 rpm. Powertrain engineers managed this by swapping in titanium intake valves, which close faster than the valves they replace. That closing speed change allows more air to get into the cylinder in the same amount of combustion cycle time. More fuel is injected as well and voila, more power. The SVJ uses the same fuel injectors as the SV, but it has a modified intake manifold to improve air flow. And it’s not just at the peak — this V12 makes more power throughout the rev range.

And the amount of weight being pushed around is less than you might think, courtesy of the absurd quantity of carbon fiber used. The material is part of the monocoque, roof, engine cover, front splitter, rear diffuser and rear wing, among other bits. Also, the wheels are forged aluminum and save 10 pounds when compared to the set on the SV. Altogether, the SVJ weighs 3,616 pounds, according to Lamborghini, giving the SVJ a weight-to-power ratio of 4.8:1. 

The Execution

From rest, 62 mph is just 2.8 seconds away; 124 mph only requires another 5.8 seconds to reach. No wonder a long straightaway gives the SVJ time to reach jetliner take-off speeds. The pull is immediate and forceful, enough to suck your retinas deeper into their sockets, the sheer shock of the matter interrupts breathing and, if you’re lucky, you collect yourself just enough in time to flick the right paddle, grab another gear and start the process over again. Shifts come fast and happen fast. In a weird way, this is another connection to '90s F1 as the SVJ uses Lamborghini’s seven-speed Independent Shifting Rod, or ISR, single-clutch automated manual gearbox. Lighter than a dual-clutch box (smaller too), when you’re at full-throttle shifts bang off with the immediacy of winning a Grand Prix. And all the mechanical sounds that come with it are immensely satisfying.

With such superfluous power, braking zones come quick, and at each and every one you feel thankful that the SVJ comes with massive carbon-ceramic discs, 15.7-inches in front, 15.0 in back, to whoa up progress. Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires provide plenty of grip to work with, and for the most part, the brakes perform superbly. Before going further, please refer back to the opening two sentences of this article. And to be fair to the SVJ, turn 1 is a tighter-than-90-degree, slower-than-60-mph corner. To have to scrub 115 mph in a few hundred feet, repeatedly, takes a lot of energy. That said, the brake pedal travel did get long and brakes did begin to fade. 

Again, I’m sympathetic — that’s a lot of heat to deal with. And generally, the car slowed with authority and pedal feel was consistently spot on, travel was correct to make trail-braking easy to modulate, but confidence in them was sapped just a touch. It’s like the one time in my life that I petted a tiger at a petting zoo. I knew that it was almost definitely safe, but, if it wasn’t, I’d have to deal with a whole lot of energy really fast. 

Assuming a tiger doesn’t eat you before turn-in, the SVJ is a treat. Your butt sinks deep into the competition bucket seats that make it easy to both feel the car’s movement and not move at all yourself. The incredibly steeply raked windshield does make vision less panoramic than I hoped, but it’s still more than adequate 99 percent of the time. And the steering feels alive in your hands. Though a bit overly boosted, it’s hydraulically assisted steering, like the good old days, meaning you feel the road and all of its little eccentricities.   

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The SVJ combines longstanding race car kit and new technology. The dampers are adjustable, modern, but also mounted horizontally in the center of the axle and actuated via pushrods, keeping more of the weight in the center, like formula cars have run for decades. The exhaust is mounted high, which looks cool, but also makes room for a massive rear diffuser. That, along with a big front splitter and big rear wing, makes 551 pounds of downforce at 186 mph. But the wings can be “stalled,” meaning their effectiveness and drag is reduced with a system called ALA 2.0.

ALA is short for Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva; the 2.0 was added because this system was introduced on the Huracan Performante and upgraded here. The electrically actuated, computer-controlled system has channels in the front and back that, when closed, allow the front and rear wing to function as normal. Once opened, air flows around the wings in such a way as to reduce the amount of both downforce and drag on the car. Open ALA channels effectively mean a more streamlined and faster car. Great for straights. The system makes more downforce than before, hence the 2.0, and also pulls off something called aero vectoring. In the rear, only half the wing is stalled, which allows air to push down harder on the inside wheel in a corner, which is pretty darn slick — not to mention rear-axle steering to aid further in back-end stability.

But you don’t feel any of that. You just feel response — fast, immediate response. Any small wiggle of the wheel, brush of the throttle or tap on the brakes causes a noticeable reaction. Normal motions feel exaggerated in the SVJ. You have to consciously tell yourself, "Slow down your hands, slow down your feet." Or you have to tell someone else why you spun. Adapting to this car’s behavior, however, is like turning the volume knob of life to 11. Nothing but a screaming  V12, blurred scenery and big forces pulling at your body in every direction. It gives you tunnel vision of nothing but awesome. It's singularity of purpose.  

Lamborghini only gave me the opportunity to drive the SVJ on-track, but, yes, it is street legal. In fact, one of the driving modes is strada (street in Italian) where things calm down. Then there’s sport (or fun mode, as Lamborghini likes to call it because it’s easy to drift the car), corsa (race in Italian) and ego (a customizable drive mode — adjust the steering, shocks and stability control independently of each other) modes. But frankly, I don’t see the point. Once you live life at 11, everything else is too quiet. Anything beneath full throttle results in slow and sometimes lumbering shifts from the ISR. And you notice it’s a bit hard to see out this thing and that the rear window is bifurcated by an air intake and otherwise limited by louvers. Drive it calmly and you quickly realize that 11 is the only reasonable volume in this car. 

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The Takeaway

Being a car of big numbers, price must be a part of that, and $517,770 certainly fits. Lamborghini is building 900 examples. What do you get for that money? You get the most perfectly flawed car on the planet. A car full of racing technology from a car company that for a long time rebuked racing altogether. It’s not bad to drive normally, but it is a touch unsettling. 

The SVJ slaps subtlety in the face and looks good doing it. You cannot help but be impressed by the car's physicality and its ability to just make you feel good. Allow it to, and the SVJ will win your heart.

On Sale: January 2019

Base Price: $517,770

Powertrain: 6.5-liter V12, 7-speed automated manual, AWD

Output: 759 hp @ 8.500 rpm, 531 lb-ft @ 6,750 rom

Curb Weight: 3,616 lbs

0-60 MPH: under 2.8 seconds

Pros: Makes life more vivid and exciting, the sun brighter, and the night shorter

Cons: Insufficient cupholder space