By Matthew Zaiff
Are supercars defensible? How does a car that can only be attained by the ultra-rich benefit humanity in any way? Often viewed as opulent status symbols, supercars undoubtable elicit an emotional response from owners and enthusiasts who dream to drive one. After World War II, Feruccio Lamborghini made a name for himself by assembling tractors from surplus military parts. After becoming man, Feruccio began to purchase sports cars, including a Ferrari. Unsatisfied with the mechanical blunders of the Ferrari, Lamborghini decided to launch his own sports car manufacturer and in 1963, Automobili Lamborghini was established. Lamborghini, despite its grassroots startup origins, has cemented itself as one of the premier boutique manufactures, building opulent vehicles for the wealthiest customers.
Today Lamborghini lives under the Volkswagen Auto Group, where German engineering and Italian design coalesce to produce some of the most striking vehicles on the road. A fine amalgamation of the best of both countries. Think of it as currywurst lasagna. Something that shouldn’t work on paper but is probably great in practice. Thankfully I had just enough time behind the wheel of the menacing Avendtador SV to sample this fusion firsthand.
It’s easy for a non-enthusiast to brush off such expensive automobiles as frivolous and gaudy, but one needs to consider the greater societal impact of these feats of engineering. These exotic cars help function as a test bed for new technologies and serve as a demonstration of future trickle-down innovations. High end manufacturers have to innovate in order to stay competitive, and the average consumer has benefited in a variety of ways. Most modern safety features that we all enjoy got their start in an automobile that the vast majority of consumers couldn’t afford.
What was once considered science fiction can now be had in a sensible Honda Accord. Features like emergency braking, stability control, anti-lock brakes, and active aerodynamics all had their start in the luxury segment. Thanks to trickle-down technology, most of these features are easily accessible to the masses.
Active aerodynamics, originally designed to push racecars to the ground, now make their way into the consumer market. Movable flaps, wings or ducts are beginning to help commuter cars reduce drag and increase efficiency. What once were reserved for racetracks and exotic supercars, are beginning to trickle into the cars we see on the road every day.
“In 1985, the Lambo 5000QV was the first production car to feature a body panel made of carbon fiber,” said The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah. “Today, CF isn’t just the standard for lots of different industries from automotive, to aerospace, to safety, to efficiency — the BMW i3 is an economy car with a full carbon structure and Toyota’s Prius Prime uses carbon fiber body panels as well. Today, Lamborghini’s ALA technology is a remarkable way to simplify active aerodynamics for use on road going cars, and it really works. Their Urus, ugly as it may be, is actually capable of both respectable off-road performance and running many laps of a race track without taking a big poo.”
In addition to the technological benefits of developing and building supercars, the impact these automotive works of art have on people is undeniable.
With each generation of supercar, dreamers are inspired to come to the forefront of the automotive industry. Every great engineer needs some form of inspiration. As humans we are constantly building on what came before us. Whether it’s art or science, the past always influences the future. The impact of seeing a supercar in person on a young scientific mind can mean the difference in a future, yet to be developed technological breakthrough. Even if the individual who was impacted by a supercar doesn’t go into the automotive industry, it is likely that he or she will continue to question how we can improve technology in every segment.
“Lamborghini actively creates theater for their cars, both for the driver and the bystander,” said Farah. “To see and hear an SVJ go by on full throttle is like sitting front row at the 24 hours of Lemans. It’s just insanity. It’s even better in the car, where the sound has been tuned for optimum pleasure.”
I got to experience this theater firsthand when I got some seat time in the Lamborghini Aventador SuperVeloce Roadster. Sitting in the flagship SV, I was constantly reminded that I wasn’t in an ordinary vehicle. The interior is comprised of never-ending swaths of carbon and alcantara. As the SV is the hardcore big brother to the standard Aventador, there isn’t much in the way of creature comforts. No center console for storing loose junk or Starbucks Venti-accommodating cupholders. Just some simple storage netting behind the seats and not a whole lot else. What you do get is grip tape covered aluminum panels instead of carpeting and one most brutal engines ever built. The SV is powered by a 12 cylinder good for 740 horsepower and 509 lb/ft torque. 0-60 miles per hour comes in the mid 2 second range and expect mid 10s for the quarter mile.
“The new Aventador Superveoce continues the Lamborghini tradition of SV models, pushing the boundaries in terms of performance and pure driving emotion,” said Stephan Winkelmann, President and CEO of Automobili Lamboghini.
Driving a V-12 Lamborghini down Chicago’s Michigan avenue on a summery Friday afternoon is something I won’t soon forget. The soundtrack from the 6.5 liter V-12 was more than enough to signify the impending arrival of a rare toro arrabbiato (angry bull). I’ve driven other exotics before, but nothing commands a presence like an Aventador. Nothing. Those other supercars are also much more livable on city streets. There is no escaping the infamous Graziano built transmission. The ISR 7-speed gearbox while reportedly refined from the crude dynamics of the earliest Aventador, still remains a shortcoming in an otherwise incredible platform. While getting around town in traffic isn’t impossible, it certainly isn’t as effortless as the big bull’s younger dual clutch equipped brother, the Huracan. With the Corsa drive mode selected, wide-open throttle upshifts from first to second will have you seeking your local osteopath for treatment, it’s that rough.
Lamborghinis latest dynamic steering and magnetic suspension handled the unforgiving Chicago streets with a surprising effortlessness. While you can feel every imperfection in the road surface, potholes are not as jarring as I anticipated. The steering is remarkably light at low speeds and weights up nicely at speed.
My main problem with the big lambo is the interior packaging. Space is a premium and for a car this size I’d love a bit more airiness. Thanks to the fixed carbon bucket seats and my over 6’2” stature, my natural seating position has me staring directly into the a-pillar. My solution to check for pedestrians and stoplights was to poke my head out of the roof à la Ace Ventura.
Overall the SV is incredible and easily the most special car I’ve driven to date. While it has its flaws, the SV’s monstrous power plant and driving dynamics shine through, not to mention this car is one of the best-looking supercars today. Lamborghini is due to replace the Aventador with a bigger and faster car soon that will definitely feature some electric assistance. With each iteration of Lamborghini’s flagship models, I always wonder if how the designers and engineers could possibly top what they’ve done before. Well, if history is any indicator, the next prized bull from Sant’Agata Bolognesse will help usher in a new era of supercar.
Car fanatic turned journalist.