Lamborghini Aventador S

Any time a performance car company adds an ‘S’ suffix to one of its models it’s fair to expect something special.

But, when that company makes some of the most characterful supercars in the world then, metaphorically speaking, the ‘S’ is backed up by a big, bold exclamation mark.

Enter Lamborghini’s Aventador S, which comes to the Australian market bristling with new aerodynamic design, redeveloped suspension, increased power and sharper driving dynamics.

A more aggressive nose and longer front splitter redirect airflow for better aero efficiency, improved engine cooling and increased cooling to the radiators. Twin air ducts in the side of the front bumper reduce aero disturbance from the front tyres and optimise wake flow to the rear radiator.

The rear is dominated by a black diffuser, available on request in carbon fibre, characterised by vertical fins that amplify the airflow effects, reduce drag through pressure recovery and generate downforce. Three single outlets on the lightweight (by 20 percent) exhaust system exit through the rear bumper.

The active rear wing is movable in three positions depending on speed and drive select mode, and optimises the car’s improved overall balance, working with vortex generators created in the front and rear of the chassis’ underside that maximise air flow as well as assist in brake cooling. 

Significantly front downforce has been improved by more than 130 percent over the standard Aventador coupé. When the wing is in its optimum position, the overall efficiency at high downforce is bettered by more than 50 percent, and in low drag by more than 400 percent.

Enhanced lateral control comes from new four-wheel steering, adopted for the first time on a series production Lamborghini. The system provides improved agility at low and medium speeds and more stability at high speed. On the front axle, it is combined with Lamborghini Dynamic Steering (LDS), tuned for a more natural and responsive feel with a sharper turn-in.

It is specially adapted to integrate with the active Lamborghini Rear-wheel Steering (LRS) on the rear axle: two separate actuators react in five milliseconds to the driver’s steering movements, allowing a real-time angle and cornering stiffness adjustment.

At low speeds, the front wheels face in opposite direction to the steering angle, thereby virtually reducing the wheelbase. With less steering wheel angle required, the S is more agile with a reduced turning radius, ensuring higher performance in curves and making it easy to manoeuvre around town and at low speeds.

Conversely at higher speeds, both front and rear wheels share the same steering angle, thus virtually extending the wheelbase, providing increased stability and optimising response.

The S’s permanent four-wheel drive has been calibrated for the stabilising effect of the rear steer, allowing more torque to the rear axle: when powering off the throttle, less torque is shifted to the front axle to induce a little oversteer and heighten the drive experience.

The addition of the rear wheel steer system also required a complete recalibration of the active dampers and stability and traction control systems, with a central processor – known as the Lamborghini Dynamic Active Vehicle module – added to control the chassis functions.

Ceramic brakes are also standard on the S, while new Pirelli P Zero tyres – riding on 21-inch rear and 20-inch front wheels – were engineered specifically for the model, with reconfigured sidewalls and shoulder construction to deal with the rear-wheel steering system. Claimed stopping distance from 100km/h is 31m.

The Aventador’s naturally-aspirated 6.5-litre V12 has been tweaked to produce another 40hp (29kW), taking total output to 740hp (544kW) @ 8500rpm, while torque remains at 690Nm @ 5500rpm. The S weighs in at 1575kg and accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds. Speed tops out at 350km/h.

We’re well familiar with Lamborghini’s three drive modes: Strada (Street), Sport and Corsa (Race), which influence the behaviour of traction (engine, gearbox, AWD), steering (LRS, LDS, Servotronic) and suspension (LMS), but the S has a fourth. This intriguingly-named EGO mode allows a choice of 24 individual set-up profiles where you can customise the traction, steering and suspension settings.

So ends the mandatory technical sermon. Now to the drive…

Lamborghini chose the Phillip Island grand prix circuit for the motoring media to fully experience the S. Three years ago, we drove the Aventador LP-700 coupe and spider (convertible) here and marvelled at their speed and dynamic performance on what is one of the world’s great racing circuits. The day left not just an indelible impression, but set a stratospheric benchmark for performance.

Unfortunately, this time around, the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast of ‘100 percent precipitation’ on the morning came true. With so much standing water and heavy rain still falling, that put paid to any thought of extending ourselves and the S to the nth degree.

Panel inside a Lamborghini’s Aventador S

What we can verify is how secure and stable it felt and performed under such low grip, poor traction conditions. While top end speeds were (understandably) down about 40-50km on what we experienced in the dry three years ago, the S amazed and reassured in equal measures in the competent way it braked, turned in and exited Phillip Island’s many mid and high-speed corners.

So much so, that within a lap we ditched the default Strada mode, ventured to Sport and then upped the ante by invoking Corsa. With the S thus highly sensitised, the smart (and fun) way around was work as one: roll the throttle on and off smoothly and take the corners a gear higher to surf the V12’s fat torque band.

Lamborghini says its Independent Shifting Rod (ISR), seven-speed shifting system – capable of providing robotised gear shifts in up to 50 milliseconds – remains ‘the best solution in terms of dimensions and weight’ for the Aventador. They say changes have been made to improve its shifting in manual operation, and smoothness in auto, but to our mind it still feels harsh compared with the dual-clutch units of other similarly-endowed supercars.

Regardless, so bewitching is the Aventador as an engaging, overall drive that some willingly trade this off. Since the model’s launch in 2011, it’s become Lamborghini’s most popular V12 of all time, with 5500 units sold. The S can only add to this success.

(* Not inclusive of on-the-road costs).