So how do you feel in the moments, those precious few seconds, before climbing aboard the new Lamborghini Aventador to drive it for the very first time? Nervous? Yes. Intimidated? Of course. This, after all, is a car that costs $350,000 and can catapult itself to 62mph in less than three seconds on its way to a top speed of 217mph.
Yet the overwhelming impression, the sensation you become more aware of than any other when handed the keys to this howling monster of a machine, is one of pure, child-like excitement. Because more than anything else, the Aventador – all 690hp and 6.5 liters of it – is just an impossibly exciting car.
In many ways, and despite its cutting-edge technology, it's actually an old-school kind of a car. Lamborghini refers to it as a “super sports car,” claiming that it “redefines the market with its brutal power, outstanding lightweight engineering and phenomenal handling precision.” In the end, though, it's still a big old bruiser of a machine, with a monumentally large V12 engine in its guts – and an exhaust note to make your heart explode. Same as it ever was from Sant'Agata, in other words.
What's different this time around, though, is what lies beneath the typically extrovert exterior. Gone is the conventional manual gearbox and the legendary Bizzarrini V12 engine that did service in everything from the Miura to the 4099th Murciélago. Instead, the Aventador is powered by an all-new 60-degree, 6498cc V12 that's mated, like it or not, to a 7-speed paddle-shift gearbox. And at its core sits a no-expense-spared carbon fiber monocoque with single-seater-style pushrod suspension at each corner.
The brakes are similarly state of the art, featuring carbon-ceramic discs with six-piston calipers at the front, four at the rear. Even its body parts are fashioned mostly from carbon fiber (although the hood, bumpers and doors are made from aluminum). What we're talking about, in other words, is a car that may look and sound like a traditional raging bull, but one that's very much at the leading edge of things technically. Nowhere is this more apparent than inside.
As with the Murciélago, the doors open upward to reveal a cabin that initially seems a long way away, the high-backed driver's seat seeming to nestle just inches above the ground. But when you climb inside, the similarities between old and new come to an abrupt end. The Aventador's cabin is every bit as new and revolutionary as its engine, gearbox or suspension. And mostly, it works as well as it looks.
Whether the new digitized instruments will receive universal approval will remain a talking point for years to come, you suspect, but the basic ergonomics inside this car are at least 250 times better than of old. What you notice first is the fundamental correctness of the driving position – the fact that you no longer need to tilt your head toward the center of the car to sit comfortably in it, and that your legs point in a perfectly straight line toward the pedals.
Soon after that, you might also register how much better organized the center console is, and how much clearer the instruments are to read, even the minor ones. You'll realize, too, how much less intimidating this car feels inside (compared with the Murciélago) once you're ensconced behind its new flat-bottomed wheel. Its controls are better laid out and visibility is much improved, not just out of the rear but to the sides and front as well. Result? That vaguely terrifying sense of entrapment that descended upon you in the Murciélago has gone, replaced by a more conventional, far less confused driving environment.