Taming the Bull

Taming the Bull image

Text: Iñigo Roces / Photos: Iñigo Roces | posted September 30, 2011 21:47

The new Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 around Sepang Circuit

Childhood Dreams

Die-hard car fans lucky enough to grow up in the eighties likely had one of two poster hanging on their bedroom wall. It was either a red Ferrari Testarossa or a white Lamborghini Countach LP500.

I was the boy with the LP 500 poster. I had the M.A.S.K. Stilleto toy to match. And just recently, I've procured a copy of Cannonball Run II that features the vehicle skipping like a smooth stone over a pond. Its distinctive wedge shape, audacious use of bodykits and spoilers, early implementation of aerospace technology (see the NACA duct on the side) and of course, the scissor doors combined to set the stage for a class of vehicle that continues to haunt the dreams of many young boys today: the supercar. From then on, all supercars to follow seemed to require everything the Lamborghini pioneered; a V12 engine, a unique kind of door and heavy integration of aerospace technology.

Today, it's no different with the likes of Koenigsegg, Pagani and even Mercedes-Benz offering their own interpretation. Everyone has a list of these dream cars, and one of the top cars on that list is almost always a Lamborghini.

A Brief History

Besides the vehicle's design, the brand's intriguing history has also helped its climb to the top. Though the company never officially acknowledges it, the story is still told in hushed tones, even by some Lamborghini staff, with a few details missing here and there, but the main point, always the same.

Lamborghini's founder, Ferruccio was an accomplished engineer, amassing his wealth from tractors built from excess parts of vehicles and military equipment in post-war Italy. This allowed him to indulge in his passion - sports cars. He was a long time fan of Ferrari sports cars and having purchased a 250 GT could, Ferruccio though the car could use some improvement and refinement (so too could their service in his opinion). Upon bringing this matter to the attention of the company's founder, Enzo Ferrari, he was dismissed by the pride-filled man from Modena. This led him to make his own modifications that would prove to surpass the performance of Ferraris at that time. Spurred on by his success, Lamborghini decided to build his own supercars, out of the very same factory his tractors were created. His goal was to create the perfect grand tourer sports car. His brand would bear his astrological sign, Taurus the bull, on a shield facing opposite that of Ferrari's prancing horse. Since then, Lamborghini cars have sought to include attributes that were lacking in its competition's offerings.

Back to Reality

The history comes to mind as I patiently listened to the briefing being conducted during the regional launch of Lamborghini's latest model, the Aventador. The stage is the 5.2 kilometer Formula 1 race track in Sepang Malaysia. The rest of the press are trying to pay attention, but the howl of the engines are still heard clearly in conference room just above pit lane. The cars are going around the track, being warmed up and tested for the day's event, yet even from the farthest corners, their engine notes resonate into the room.

The Gritty Details

In the mean time, representatives are giving us a technical briefing on the elements and features that enhance the car's performance.

The Aventador, as with tradition, is named after a legendary bull in Spanish Bullfighting. The Aventador bull entered into battle in October 1993 at the Saragossa Arena, earning the "Trofeo de la Peña La Madroñera" for its outstanding courage.

Unlike tradition, the Aventador is the first clean slate Lamborghini integrating many new concepts and technologies in its construction. It is built with a carbon fiber monocoque shell weighing only 147.5 kg for light weight and rigidity. Aluminum frames stretch out from this shell to form mounting points for the engine and chassis. The rest of the body is made with carbon fiber reinforced plastic made in-house by Lamborghini to their own unique weaves and specifications.

The vehicle is powered, also according to tradition, by a V12, mounted in the posterior of the vehicle, oriented longitudinally displacing 6.5 liters in this iteration. The brand new power unit is compact and weighs in at just 235 kilograms. Power is transferred to a 7-speed single clutch transmission (ISR: independent shifting rods) that is not only lighter than a dual clutch but shifts in just half a second. From here, the power moves to all four wheels, biased of course, to the rear. Push-rod suspension (horizontally mounted coil springs) derived from F1 together with aluminum double wishbone suspension and carbon ceramic disc brakes provide improved handling and braking.

Put it all together and you get LP700-4 (Longitudinala Posteriore, 700 horsepower, 4-wheel drive). Entry is via the car's trademark scissor doors because conventional doors on a car this wide would never open in a tight parking spot. They are hydraulically assisted so just pulling on the hinge unlocks them and allows them to glide upward.

Form Follows Function

Design-wise, a Lamborghini is not one to ride with the tide. From the sharply honed front end through the extremely low roofline to the distinctive rear diffuser, every line has a clear function, every form is dictated by its need for speed. The stealth fighter inspiration is clear, although there's nothing in the brochure to suggest that the car can evade radar… yet. Electronically managed air intakes open to cool the engine, an electronic spoiler rises to provide stability at high speeds or can adjust its angle for greater down force at midrange speeds. And of course, an optional clear engine cover allows the owner and many more admirers to clearly see the powerhouse even when the car is parked.

Inside, the stealth fighter inspiration is obvious from the sharp angles all over the cabin to the shapes and forms of the instrument housings. Starting the car is perhaps the most exciting of all with the button hidden beneath a red switch cover, that makes you feel like you're about to unleash World War III. Switches for lights, and other accessories are also designed for the fighter pilot aspirant. Just above the start button are the many mode buttons that allow the driver to instantly tune the engine to Strada (street), Sport and Corsa (race) modes for the desired environment. M and R are for Manual and Reverse respectively.

The rest of the buttons are to call up menus onto the center LCD for car setup options, in-car entertainment, and various other conveniences. It also comes with Navigation iPod integration and Bluetooth telephony. And yes, backing up has been addressed. A rear-facing camera now broadcasts video of the view behind onto the LCD so that owners no longer have to sit on the window sill while backing up their vehicle.

Over in the driver's side is the fully digital instrument cluster. A massive odometer dominates the display with speed displayed and the gears just below it. I tire pressure monitor sits on the right side while temp and fuel levels along with trip information sit on the right.

High quality leather seats not only look good but provide ample cushioning and quite a great deal of support in tight corners. It sits the driver low in the car, just barely enough room to peer over the thick, flat-bottomed, steering wheel.

The Drive

Yet all these details fly into one ear and out the other when in close proximity to the machine. It stands just 1.136 meters tall. A strong breeze blows through my legs, drawn in by the powerful cooling fans in the side intake. Entering the car requires quite a squat and a bit of faith as I fall back hoping to land on the low mounted seat and not the wide door sill. At last, inside the car, the horizon sits just above the wheel, only the legs of the technicians around the car are visible from the side window. Ahead is the green Gallardo that will guide me around the track and make sure I don't make a pancake out of myself. A voice crackles on the radio from the driver in the car ahead urging me to keep up as he speeds away to show the track's lines.

Even with just a light touch of the throttle, the car surges forward while the loud and intimidating engine note is droning behind. In an instant, he's already at the corner, and as I press that throttle and pull the left paddle to do the same, 700 horses gradually bear down on the tires. The engine note goes from drone to rabid snarl to full-on roar.

In that same instant I'm quickly accelerated to the corner. A soft touch on the brakes slows it down rather quickly but comfortably. The first turn of the wheel is heavy, perhaps as a reminder not to do anything foolish with this much power. And contrary to what experience in other sports cars will tell you, the miraculously obeys, with little drama or complaint. From there, each turn is a confidence-inspiring experience as the car turns, cuts and dices through corners with such little effort and at speeds most cars would fail at.

The Aventador is constantly tempts me to pour on more power. I foolishly oblige, in mid corner, only to be punished with a roar and a twitch from the rear. The eager input has sent the tail dancing, the traction control quickly containing it after a half second of horror on my part. And yet, after that brief humbling moment, the car is still on the racing line, ready for the next command as the recent warning of its awe-inspiring power still hangs in my head.

After several corners some tight and others sweeping, the main straight of the track finally appears. I send the throttle to the floor, the engine barks in approval, my head whips back from the sheer force and I'm firing through the crisp gears nearly as quick as an automatic pistol. The kilometer long straight is eaten up just as soon as it has appeared, the car hitting 250 km/h with room to brake, but still itching to reach its 317 km/h top speed.

I've got two more laps around the track to go. With each corner I dare to push a little harder, trying to inch toward the car's limits slowly and while not having a repeat of the surprising twitch. The car willingly obliges, but not without a few humbling moments thrown in between.

On the last lap, I find I'm braking hard enough to cause the tail to twitch slightly under braking, coaxing a chirp every now and then from the ABS and causing the traction and stability control lights to flash every now and then.

As we pull into the pits to end my session, I set the car cruises along in Strada mode. I feel like I've ran a marathon while the car feels like that point just before you've broken a sweat but not quite there yet.

As I step out, another member of the media steps in for his turn. The cars continue to do this all day, each time coming back with only a handful of specks of rubber dotting the hood like rare beads of sweat. They only stop to refuel every once in a while, hardly showing a hint of fatigue.

It's then that it dawns on me why this class of car has earned the moniker 'super'. All day it's toyed with drivers around Asia, each time returning them without a scratch, an adrenaline rush like no other and that sinking feeling that in spite of all that, they've barely scratched the surface of what the car can do.

Just like the fierce bull this car is named after, it allures just as much as it intimidates, patronizes its driver with its phenomenal power, grip and quick reacting electronics, only to humble him with a display of its raw power and ability every now and then.

The Aventador has come along way from its forebears' widowmaker reputation. It's easy to drive, deceptively easy, that you begin to think you could be the next Formula 1 star. The handling is truly breathtaking as the cars continued to drive like new even as the tires were showing signs of typical race wear. The braking was flawless in spite of the visible heat dissipation emanating from the discs. The temperature rose a few notches on track only to cool down on the slow drive to the pits. The performance is truly flattering to the driver, up until that point where you push a little too hard and the vehicle's monster alter-ego reveals itself. It's delighted so many drivers and also scared every one enough not to mess with the traction control settings.

Perhaps that's the allure of the new Aventador. It's the kind of car that is easy to drive but takes a lifetime to master. Or so it wants us believe. Which, despite being an all-new car, does nothing to diminish Lamborghini's legendary reputation.

Price: Approx. Php35-Million
Engine: 6.5-liter V12 48-valves
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
Max Power: 700 ps / 690 Nm
Transmission: 7-speed A/T
Seating: 2 passengers
Brakes: All four carbon ceramic discs with ABS, EBD traction and stability control
Suspension: Independent pushrod coilspring double wishbone front and rear
Wheels & Tire: 20 inch alloy on 335/30 tires

Our Lamborghini Aventador experience would not be possible without recently appointed Automobili Lamborghini Philippine exclusive distributor PGA Cars' Chairman Robert Coyiuto Jr.