Lamborghini Aventador Superveloce goes to hyperspace

For all its 12 cylinders of raging Italian bravura, the Lamborghini Aventador has been known more for preening in Monaco or Miami than for screaming around a racetrack.

That notion is shattered by the Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce, in the brief time it takes to thunder about the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Formula 1 track in Catalonia, Spain. This hard-body version of the standard Aventador, valued at several years’ wages for the typical Chevrolet-driving labourer, offers another stopwatch number to justify its US $492,595 price: 6 minutes, 59.73 seconds.

That number describes the hair-raising lap time set by Pirelli test driver Marco Mapelli on Germany’s benchmark, 12.9-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife:

That betters your run-of-mill Aventador by a freakish 25 seconds, thanks in part to the Superveloce’s slimmer weight, 750 horsepower (up from 700) and some of the fattest, stickiest tires ever mounted on a production sports car. That obsessively watched ‘Ring time also trails the unofficial road-car record holder, the sold-out, $850,000 Porsche 918 Spyder, by just three seconds.

Such on-track heroics have rarely been associated with Lamborghinis, which, for all their speed and allure, have historically been content to strafe public highways and leave the greasy business of racing to the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren.

Until now, my anecdotal experience supported those assumptions. In 2012, a ripping three-day drive through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains amid a convoy of Lamborghini owners – piloting models including the flagship Aventador – was as memorable a road tour as one could imagine.

But negotiating the road course at Miami-Homestead Speedway, the standard Aventador felt like a fish out of water – a two-tonne sushi-grade tuna, perhaps, but a fish nonetheless. The car sheer girth and rude, clunky automated gearbox made it surprisingly obstinate on track, if blindingly quick.

With just a soupcon of hyperbole, the Superveloce feels more like a new Lamborghini flagship than an upgrade to the existing car.

The Superveloce (or SV, for “superfast” in Italian) looks even more the interstellar action hero. It’s the car that might result if teenagers sketched a car from their hormone-fuelled subconscious; the only thing missing is a set of roof-mounted photon torpedoes. Carbon fibre informs most of the material changes, including fenders, doors, rocker panels and a monstrous rear wing. The latter is manually adjustable in three positions to provoke up to 170% more aerodynamic downforce than standard models.

The modifications help trim 50kg (110lbs) to an official 3,362lbs. Inside, carbon fibre forms the hard-shelled sport seats and exposed rocker panels, with a lightweight “carbon skin” material for the headliner. A new, bumblebee-yellow TFT screen offers maximum flash, including an animated, full-width tachometer that sweeps to a heightened 8,500rpm redline, up from 8,350.

The car’s mechanicals are lavishly upgraded to make the car not only faster and sharper, but to better engage its driver. The revised Haldex all-wheel-drive system no longer leaves the car’s front and rear ends fighting each other, and that improved balance and reduced slippage came into sharp relief on the 2.9-mile, 16-turn Catalunya circuit.

New Lamborghini Dynamic Steering adjusts ratios on the fly, its algorithms speeding or slowing response based on vehicle speed, steering-wheel angle and driving mode. That steering feels progressive and natural – if still not as communicative as a Ferrari helm – and helps the Superveloce dive into corners with far less need to crank the wheel with one’s arms at awkward angles. Yet in the tightest corners at high speeds, the system backs off, avoiding too-twitchy reactions to inputs.

Inside, familiar selectable driving modes adjust four-wheel drive, steering, transmission, throttle and stability control through Strada, Sport and racy Corsa settings. Interestingly, the middle Sport setting delivers the most power to rear wheels in baseline driving, at 90%. Lamborghini figures drivers might want to drift the back end wide on the street, yet with the peace of mind afforded by generous stability control should things go awry. For the track-oriented Corsa setting, an 80% rear-wheel bias enhances stability while flying through corners or down straights at superhero speeds. At any moment, up to 60% of torque can be diverted to the front tires.

Making those rear tires slip is a tall order. Pirelli developed a rubber compound exclusively for the P Zero Corsas, including 21in monsters at the rear – with a tread width of 355mm. Centre locking hubs help reduce the wheel’s rotating masses to improve performance.

Of all these advents, an Aventador driver is most likely, though, to notice the smoothed automated gearbox, whose single-clutch technology seemed hopelessly behind the supercar curve when it debuted with the Aventador in 2011.

Lamborghini claims that shift times in Corsa model have been cut in half to a remarkable 50 milliseconds. And thwacking the Aventador’s oversize paddle shifters doesn’t bludgeon a driver’s spine with gear changes that also tended to upset the Lambo’s composure. Note that the Superveloce was not driven on streets, which might have proven whether the standard Aventador’s notorious lurching-and-bucking had been tamed.

Finally, don’t forget the heart of this perspiring bull, a 6.5-litre, mid-mounted V12 that stuffs more air and fuel into cylinders for its 50hp gain and a noticeably more robust torque curve. The Lambo explodes from Catalunya’s corners with instantaneous, violent force, even as it produces operatic V12 music, a chiaroscuro blend of high-rpm brilliance and rich, cavernous depths.

Standard carbon-ceramic brakes bring the Superveloce back to earth. Straight-line performance numbers will silence the snarkiest internet troll: zero to 100km/h (62mph) in 2.8 seconds; to 200km/h  in 8.6 seconds; and to 300km/h in 24 seconds flat. Next stop, 217mph – that is, for the rare owner with enough pavement and guts to attempt a top-speed run.

Those buyers must decide which of the Lamborghini’s candy colours suits: green, orange, yellow or perhaps the signature launch color, a bloodily beautiful Rosso Bio red. Bruce Wayne wannabes may prefer a more sinister matte finish in black or grey.

Such specimens are among just 600 Aventador SVs to be built, with about 200 bound for North America. As the company is quick to note, such volumes continue to make Lamborghini among the rarest of hypercar breeds. Granted, the company posted another sales record last year, albeit with a mere 2,530 cars. Ferrari caps production at a comparatively excessive 7,000 units.

Even with the Superveloce’s price topping $500,000 with options, the scarcity strategy is apparently working: all 600 copies promptly sold out. Arrivederci, Superveloce: the driving affair was sweet, but all too brief.

Vital Stats: 2016 Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce

  • Base price: $492,595, inclusive of $2,995 destination and $3,700 gas-guzzler charge
  • Price as tested: TBD
  • EPA fuel economy (est): 11 mpg city, 18 mpg highway
  • Powertrain: 750hp, 509 lb-ft, 6.5-litre gasoline V12 engine, seven-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission, Haldex all-wheel drive
  • Standard equipment: Carbon fibre-backed racing seats, adjustable carbon fibre rear spoiler, carbon ceramic brake rotors, black alloy wheels (20in front, 21in rear), Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires, dynamic variable-ratio steering, magnetically adjustable dampers
  • Major options: Sound performance tuning, carbon fibre exterior/interior kits, personalised rocker kickplates, customised steering wheels, Piquadro luggage kit

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