Review: 2013 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 Roadster
Want your 700 horsepower and a bit of sunshine too? Here you go.
Just understand that you’ll be able to take one friend or some luggage with you. Not both.
That in a nutshell is the Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 Roadster, a car barely big enough to wrap its own name around.
Order yours now from your friendly local neighbourhood Lamborghini dealer for a mere $485,000.
While searching for a solution to the question “Where to put the roof,” chief designer Filippo Perini realized that with the Aventador coupe’s structure — and massive V12 engine — there could be no thought of a folding roof behind the seats.
“There are many concepts fitting with the word ‘roadster’,” said Perini, as he sketched the car freehand on a pad in front of my very eyes. “We have our own — extreme.”
Referring back to the Miura, Diablo and Murciélago roadsters, Perini noted that proportion is everything. The Aventador’s silhouette is “iconic” and he needed to keep the roadster the same.
“The height of the Roadster is 25 mm less than the coupe,” he added. “And carbon fibre gave us the freedom to get the shape we wanted.”
Within these constraints, the double-shell carbon fibre removable roof was the preferred solution.
The space-age material from which the car’s structure is also built meant that each panel weighs less than six kg, easily handled by even the weak-of-arm. The panels are stuffed in the front trunk; you must follow a precise sequence of events to get them both nestled in there securely. I never did master it. And when you do so, you’ve got room for a toothbrush and not much else.
Stephan Winkelman, the CEO of Lamborghini, said semi-jokingly that you carry your bags to your destination with the top in place, put them in your hotel room, remove the roof, then go for a drive.
The carbon fibre monocoque tub is reinforced in the sills and central tunnel, leading to a rigidity of 22,000 Newton-metres per degree of twist with the roof off, and 24,000 Nm/degree with the roof installed — yes, the roof panels are load-bearing.
While the Roadster less rigid than the coupe, these are very good numbers.
In all, the removable roof adds only 50 kg to the weight of the car which, despite the carbon fibre everywhere is still a substantial 1,625 kg (3,582 lbs).
The performance is also extreme: 0-100 km/h in 3.0 seconds, top speed of 350 km/h, and lap times in the hands of Lamborghini’s own test drivers almost exactly the same as for the coupe.
Maurizio Reggiani, head of R and D for Lamborghini, said that aerodynamic performance of the roof design is also critical, not just for low drag but for a quiet interior. Even at 300 km/h, he said, the interior noise level is about 90 decibels: “The same as a children’s birthday party!”
I never attended a children’s birthday party that sounded this good.
The small rear window between the headrests also can be lowered independently top up or top down, to allow occupants to enjoy that brilliant engine sound more clearly.
The roof isn’t the only technical change to the car. The 6.5 L V12 engine now has cylinder deactivation — all software-driven, and it can be applied to either bank of six, so as to spread the changes in wear pattern around — and stop-start technology, designed to improve fuel consumption and emissions in stop-and-go traffic by as much as 25 per cent.
Reggiani noted that the stop-start uses a super-capacitor to supply extra juice to the starter, making the restart quicker — just 180 milliseconds, compared to 250 for other such systems, and to about one second to get the car started first thing in the morning.
The four-wheel drive system balances front-to-rear torque based on the setting the driver chooses from a panel on the centre console.
In “Strada” (road), it’s 30/70, for optimum stability.
In “Sport,” it’s 10/90, allowing more tail-out hooliganism.
In “Corsa,” in recognition of the fact that “tail-out” looks cool but isn’t the fastest way, it’s 20/80.
The seven-speed paddle-shifted manumatic gearbox has revised software for smoother shifting, although the single-clutch design isn’t quite as comfortable as the dual-clutch concept.
These drivetrain changes naturally are now fitted to the Aventador coupe as well.
As per usual Lamborghini press drive practice, we were to begin our time in the car on a race track — Homestead Miami Speedway, about half an hour south of Miami.
The track drill is again comme d’habitude for Lambo — a pace car driven by one of the company’s test drivers, partly on the banked IndyCar/NASCAR oval (max 160 km/h, please) and through a little road course on the infield followed by journalists.
Each lap, the leader moves to the back and everyone else moves up a notch, so each scribe gets a chance to follow the leader directly: an understandable precaution, given the power — and the cost — of the car.
The problem is the pace car driver can only go about as fast as the slowest guy in the parade. The trick is to try and align yourself with other guys who you know can pedal pretty well. There were some “lifestyle” people on this event, some of whom couldn’t drive a nail with a hammer.
But several sessions in this format did give me a bit of exposure to the potential of this car.
And man, does it have potential. It isn’t often I have 700 ponies under foot. I tried the various mode settings, and frankly, “Strada” seemed the most genteel.
I wondered if the new engine management system with the cylinder deactivation had anything to do with this — not likely, given we were foot-down pretty much all the time and that feature would hardly come into play.
It was more likely a matter of getting used to it. A few hundred more laps? I’d be delighted.
The car is brutally powerful. But because the grip level is also extremely high you don’t get the impression that the car is overpowered (once you’re used to the instant throttle response, that is).
The car’s brakes are more-than-equally powerful. The cars were shod with Pirelli Corsa semi-slick race tires for the track session; P Zeros were fitted for the drive back to Miami.
Turn-in is instant, belying both the car’s size and its weight.
The race-car-bred pushrod suspension provides what seems to be an excellent balance of handling and comfort, for a car of this performance potential.
So, tires swapped and back to Miami we went, stopping at what I thought was my secret photo location — only to find three other Aventadors there. Turns out the pro shooter Lambo hired found this spot and they put in the SatNav.
The car is actually quite easy to drive in traffic. The stop-start does indeed work quickly, and largely unobtrusively.
And we did draw the expected attention from onlookers, not for the least of which reasons that we managed to snag one of the handful of cars painted in what Lambo spokesman Kevin Fisher called the “hero” colour, “Azzurro Thetys;” a silvery blue that seemed to change shade as the light strikes it at different angles.
It is difficult to sum up a car like the Aventador Roadster. You like it; you can afford it; you buy it, no matter whether that guy in the paper likes it or not.
I like it. I can’t afford it. I wish I could.
Lamborghini Aventador roadster
ENGINE: 6.5 litre V12, dry sump, variable valve timing, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, cylinder de- activation, stop-start function.
POWER/TORQUE: 700 hp @ 8,250 r.p.m. / 509 lb.-ft. @ 5,500 r.p.m.
FUEL CONSUMPTION, L/100 km: 16.0 combined highway/urban
COMPETITION: For a 700 horsepower convertible? Um, maybe a superyacht.
WHAT’S BEST: Stunning styling; astonishing performance; this is the best-handling Lamborghini ever.
WHAT’S WORST: Storing the removable roof panels pretty much eliminates luggage space; as I said about the Aventador coupe, the single-clutch gearbox and lack of direct injection suggest there is more to come.
WHAT’S INTERESTING: A new dealership under construction in the GTA should make Lamboroghinis a more common sight on our local streets.
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