It’s nine o’clock in the morning and you’ve been on an airplane for the last 10 1/2 hours—with one more plane to catch.
One shot of whiskey, two beers, 16 hours and one more sleepless night later the voice of Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann snaps you out of a somnolent, dreamlike haze: “After its introduction in Geneva and Shanghai, this is the real presentation of the Lamborghini Aventador. You will be among the first to experience it.”
Your final destination yesterday was Rome, but you won’t be driving the Aventador through those chaotic streets, where the locals generally regard the lines that divide the lanes as mere reference points. No, that could cause undue stress and result in heart arrhythmia. Instead, today you’ve been bussed behind police escort to the nearby Autodromo di Vallelunga to drive the car much closer to its limits—as well as your own—at speed and on-track, and experience a different sort of stress. One that could conceivably end in a heart attack.
Regardless of what conclusions you’ve already drawn, the Aventador does represent a pretty big leap forward for its manufacturer. Lamborghini boldly claims it embodies an advancement of not one but two generations, and it’s all due to the new flagship’s many technical innovations. In spite of the traditional longitudinale posteriore (lengthwise rear-mount) positioning of the powertrain and its stylistic resemblance to the outgoing Murciélago, this is an entirely new vehicle from the pavement up.
The first innovation, and arguably the most significant, is the carbon-fiber monocoque passenger cell. Lamborghini claims it is the only such structure available in a full production vehicle—taking care to note that it is formed as a completely enclosed “box,” rather than just a tub. It is built entirely in-house using the patented RTM-Lambo molding process (RTM for Resin Transfer Moulding). The completed body-in-white weighs a scant 505 pounds, but has torsional rigidity of 35,000 Newton-meters per degree of twist. This produces a chassis that is, according to Lamborghini, 30 percent lighter yet 150 percent more rigid than that of the Murciélago.
In an adjoining room there’s an actual rolling chassis on display, with the front and rear tubular aluminum frames, the suspension components, and wheels affixed to the monocoque cell. Here you gaze upon the race-derived suspension setup, where the spring-and-damper elements are transversely positioned, like in a real race car. At one end they’re fixed directly to the body shell by way of aluminum; at the other, pushrods, relay levers and rockers are fitted to transmit forces from the wheel mounts to the springs and dampers themselves. Lamborghini R&D director Maurizio Reggiani explains that along with the rigid chassis structure, this is designed to produce exceptional levels of solidarity and steering responsiveness.
Then there’s the completely revised propulsion system. The power unit is a familiar 60-degree 12-cylinder arrangement, but like the car itself, this is a completely new assembly built from a blank sheet of paper. It pushes 6.5 liters, like the engine in the Murciélago LP 640, but here power has increased to 700 cavallo vapore (literally “steam horses,” Lamborghini’s traditional method of presenting power figures). Call it 515 kilowatts, or about 690 horses in American terms. Peak power is achieved at a head-spinning 8250 rpm. It’s all good for a frightening 2.9-second 0-62 mph run, and a reported quarter-mile elapsed time of 10.5 seconds.
The new V12 is linked to an equally new seven-speed gearbox, what Lamborghini calls its Independent Shifting Rod (ISR) transmission. It is not a dual-clutch unit, which the company says enables it to be both lighter and more compact. At full tilt it’s capable of crazy-fast gear changes (50ms) through the independent rod design. As one rod disengages the current gear, another engages the next. The ISR gearbox has four of these rods and its electronics monitor each independently. Power goes to all four wheels through a Haldex IV center differential that replaces the old viscous unit. It can direct up to 60 percent of the current torque output to the front wheels, or send it all to the rear if it wants to.