The late-afternoon Italian sun was shining through the right-side door of the Aventador. It must have been a jaw-dropping ‘against light’ picture for everyone else on the autostrada. But for me, it was a pain. The navigation screen in this flagship Lamborghini is placed at an angle in the sloping centre console, which means I couldn’t read it properly. The only way to check if my direction was correct was to cover the screen with my right hand and peer at it. The right turn off the highway towards Bologna seemed to be some distance away.
Just then, a Fiat Punto passed me on the left, complete with screaming kids at the back, gesturing me to go for it. I sighed, thinking, here we go again. You see, in Italy, when you drive a Lamborghini, you’re part of the entertainment act. You are expected to perform for them. If you’re driving a supersport car, you are the custodian of a national treasure and the tax-paying citizens of this magnificent country expect their full money’s worth from you. The Punto expectantly pulled up in front of me, giving me the right of way in the fast lane.
By now it was a practised manoeuvre. Left indicator. Steer left. Slow down. Let the Punto go ahead. A clear stretch. Everyone else has also made way for you. Allllright then. Stomp the pedal. A millinanosecond of calm. Then BAM! There is an explosion behind me as the V12 crackles and then thunders as the Aventador transforms into a road-going fighter plane. I rocket past all the cars at some highly ridiculous speeds, getting just a fraction of a millisecond to wave goodbye to the kids in the Punto. The digits on the speedo climb rapidly, like in a Doomsday Clock in a movie. I give my best 100-watt smile as I pass the speed camera mounted overhead. I am sure, this being Italy, it will choose not to work when a Lambo passes by. In the whole process, I couldn’t see the satnav screen and realised that I had overshot my turn-off by a huge margin. Grr. This is what happens when you play to the gallery. Showoff.
This was just one of a series of incidents in an Italian road trip that I had the chance to take, coincidently timed for an SoS issue. Other than the mighty Aventador, there was the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera and the Spyder Performante to drive around. I’d driven the Superleggera before, but I prefer to be climate controlled in a supercar, so I concentrated on the pin-up poster car instead as it was the first time I was driving it. We drove from Lamborghini’s headquarters at Sant’Agata Bolognese to the picturesque Lake Como and back, taking in the autostrada, a few dual carriageways and extremely narrow hilly roads leading up to the lake. All along the relaxed, two-day, 500 km route, I had superstar status. Not a single head went unturned, be it that of a kid or a grandpa. And everyone endorsed you and hailed you, as if you were Rocky Balboa. Or maybe Don Corleone.
I had driven the Superleggera at a Spanish track and at that time I knew that Lamborghinis are out to kill you – especially if they think you’re fit only to drive the balls off a 1.2-litre hatchback. So it was with trepidation that I first approached the Aventador, as if it were a wild animal that had been domesticated into being a pet. Despite assurances, you know that even if the animal doesn’t want to kill you, it has the right tools for the job. So one last prayer, and I stepped across the dramatic scissor doors of the Aventador on the first day. I thought that you had to be built around these cars and not the other way round, but surprise, surprise, arriving at your perfect driving position isn’t a problem at all. And the interior quality is pretty good too; this car is not only about its drivetrain and Batmobile exteriors, but a fair amount of well-crafted insides as well.
It does take time to figure out all the Batman-styled buttons, however. But the one button that has had the whole world gushing since it was first seen is of course the start/stop button, with a red fighter-plane flip cover. It adds a sense of occasion to the whole Aventador experience and I was not immune to it either. The V12 fires up as the TFT instrument screen comes alive and suddenly, you’re a fighter pilot. Getting out of the HQ and driving around the streets of this little town, I am surprised at the Aventador’s docility. Aren’t these cars supposed to be cantankerous? Don’t they hate going slow? Well, in the first few gears, the Aventador burbles and grumbles. And shifts to an eco-friendly seventh! It is like a pussycat – is this the mighty Lamborghini that has the world talking? Welcome to the new world of supersport cars – civilised in civilian areas and completely bonkers otherwise.
I was still in the Strada driving mode and generally getting used to the attention this car was drawing on the highway. I thought the others were making rude gestures at me, for driving a car that only a few thousands in the world will get to buy. Yeah, right. This is Italy, and as a wise man (er, Nick Hall) once said, if you’re driving a Lambo in Italy, even men will sleep with you. Amen to that. I am not exactly Brad Pitt, but in the Aventador, heck, I was Brad Pitt with a cape and my undies outside my clothes.
Enough of all this attention – time to spread some bits of Pirelli’s finest all over the autostrada. Shift to Sport mode, downshift using the left paddle and – ohmygodohmygodohmygod – with a mighty roar, the Aventador lunges forward. After this, there was no looking back, only looking forward at that BMW Mini instantly becoming BMW Major. He quickly gives way, and accompanied by a four-pipe crescendo from hell, I blast past him. And many, many others after that. The Aventador’s mind-blowing V12 stuns you with its ferocity; there is so much of aural feedback this monster is giving you – the induction noise, the millions of moving parts, the exhaust... Metallica, the San Francisco Philharmonic and four Pavarottis rolled into one.
6498cc V12. 690 bhp@8250 rpm. 70.4 kgm@5500 rpm. What is the meaning of all these numbers? They just serve the needs of people who live only to measure things and compare one with the other. It is only for discussing at forums. It is of academic interest. Because when you’re behind the wheel of the Aventador and approaching jet take-off speeds, these figures just don’t matter. And nothing in the world matters at that moment. Nothing. It is just you and the machine. At these speeds, it is heightened awareness. It is shortness of breath. It is steadily increasing palpitations of your heart. There is barely any time to take your eyes off the road to look at the speedo. You know you’re doing something crazy, but this is the moment. This is it. This is now.
The beautifully sized steering wheel gives you the illusion that you have complete control over the car and the paddles are like the buttons that dial in the ferocity and the velocity. The brakes are sharp and they somehow stop the missile from ploughing into the car in front. And I had 470 kilometres more of this to go! It is a procession of emotions all along the autostrada. The Aventador is arousing envy, breaking hearts, evoking admiration, initiating depression, triggering lust, instigating crime, planting ambition and causing impotence.
The Aventador comes with a huge disadvantage, and this is pretty huge: when you’re in the car, you have no clue of the visceral impact that it is causing all around. It is a sight to behold, the low Batmobile nose of the car sniffing the road surface like a bloodhound on steroids. However, nothing compares to the sight of an Indian drawing up in an Aventador at the toll plaza – the attendant is seated six feet up while the Lambo is as tall as a go-kart. No worries, this is not India, so there is no honking and the Italians behind are still mesmerised by the godawesome posterior of the car before my extended financial transaction comes to an end.
It is a Friday and there is a huge jam on our route. The Aventador shares space with all sorts of vehicles. It is a bit uncomfortable in stop-go traffic, with the seven-speed gearbox finding it a pain to swap ratios between 1st and 2nd. The engine sounds angry, like a caged bull. Yet, for its rather large proportions and slow-speed discomfort, I am easy with the car, switching between slow and fast moving lanes. Heck, it even comes with a nose-lift kit. Its manoeuvrability and usability is a surprise compared to the Superleggera, which is utterly finicky, like a spoilt brat. What a beautiful contrast between the two Lambos.
Driving inside the narrow urban areas surrounding Lake Como, the Aventador makes you feel like a superstar all over again. In fact, this car oozes so much sex appeal that even that grandma walking back home with a shopping bag smiles, pouts and looks hungrily at the car. Prego, prego, outta my way! As we reach our destination for the day and park it for the photographs, the setting is magical and the futuristic Aventador and the two Gallardos are as much part of the Italian landscape as the 18th century villa that forms the backdrop. As the scissor doors of the car rise majestically upwards, they take my breath away along with them. I am lost.