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2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ: First Drive Review

Lamborghini’s new SVJ Aventador is now, without question, the fastest car on the planet. Oh, it’s not the quickest — the 8.6 seconds it takes to accelerate to 124 miles per hour is actually kind of middling by supercars standards. There are also cars that out-hustle its 217 mile per hour top speed. Nor is it the lightest, most nimble supercar to be had or, if my recent test of both it and the McLaren Senna in Portugal is any indication, the hardest braking. But by the most important criteria that supercars are judged by, the revised Aventador, now in its eighth year — a septuagenarian by supercar standards — is now the king of production car speed.

Yes, as the armchair gearheads amongst you have probably already heard, an Aventador, piloted by Lamborghini factory driver Marco Mapelli, circumnavigated the Nurburgring’s tortuous 160 or so turns in just 6:44.97. That is faster than Porsche’s monstrous 911 GT2 RS, a thinly-disguised race car that previously boasted the fastest lap time. It is quicker even than something called the Radical SR8 LM that is, well, a race car that its engineers didn’t even bother to disguise. As exotic as it may be, the Lamborghini is hardly a pur sang race car, which only makes its recent record that much more impressive.

Horsepower isn’t the answer

As impressive as the SVJ’s engine is — and a 6.5-litre V12 belting out 760 horsepower is always impressive — it’s only 20-hp up on the previous Aventador’s 740. No way does 20 hp a champeen make. So, while Lamborghini did throw in some titanium intake valves, bigger bump camshafts and some improved intake manifolds, they are not the reason the SVJ is the fastest car on the planet.

It sure does sound like it though. In this time of turbocharged supercars that sound a little like, in the words of a fellow autoscribe, angry vacuum cleaners, the Lambo’s 12 naturally aspirated pistons pump out old school exhaust music; always on key, a tad raspy even on over-run and downright operatic when the tacho touches eight grand.

Aerodynamics is the key

As it turns out, horsepower is no longer the key to supercar supremacy; managing turbulent air is. And it appears that it is the Lamborghini that is the master of the supercar wind tunnel.

Not only, for instance, does the SVJ boast 500 kilograms of downforce, it can also, thanks to computer control, determine where that aerodynamic force is applied. In a process it calls "aero vectoring" — similar, in concept, to torque vectoring that sophisticated all-wheel drive systems boast only using wind pressure — the SVJ’s Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva (ALA) can push down on the Aventador’s inside rear wheel more than the outside. Flapper valves in that massive rear wing strategically "stall" the air flow under portions of the wing, directing up to 20 percent more air pressure over the inside tire. Those of you who’ve carved a corner in anger know that lateral acceleration unweights the inside tires, while ALA effectively counters that weight transfer by loading up the inside rear tire.

How effective is Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva?

Consider for a moment that the new SVJ is not so different, apart from said aerodynamic trickery, than the SV it replaces. Yet it is a gargantuan 15 seconds faster around the ‘Ring. Nor is this simply a case of blunt force aerodynamics. The Lambo’s ALA 2.0 is a highly sophisticated aerodynamics package.

By virtually every measure other than the SVJ’s ALA aero vectoring, the Senna should be superior to the SVJ, with its greater horsepower, lighter weight and lower ground clearance. The McLaren is quicker as well, accelerating to 124 mph in 6.8 seconds, while the Aventador, even this breathed-on version, takes a comparatively tardy 8.6 seconds. And I can personally attest, having just tested the McLaren at this very same Estoril track in Portugal, that the McLaren also brakes harder — much harder — than the SVJ. Quite literally, the only reason for the SVJ to be faster than the McLaren is that sophisticated Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva package.

Does all of this matter? Well, if you’re just trying to find the most-reliable and cost-effective wheels to get you to and from work, then not a piffle. However, in the spoiled/pampered world of indulged hedge fund managers, posting the quickest time around the Nurburgring is big stuff. It gives Lamborghini serious bona fides (especially since the similarly slippery Huracan Performante is in the top four as well) in the supercar arena, Most importantly, Lamborghini’s success points to a new era in supercars where, like Formula One, pistons and camshafts are no longer the differentiators; rear wings and front splitters are.

Welcome to a brave new world of automotive performance.

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