Fitting in at Monterey Car Week involves a little bit of irony: To fit in at this fancy event, you have to stand out; and to stand out, you need something truly special.
Engine: 6.5-liter V12
Output: 740 hp, 509 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-speed single clutch automatic
0-62 MPH: 2.9 seconds
Top Speed: 219 MPH
Weight: 3,472 (Dry)
US Price: $421,350/$522,725 as-tested
Fortunately, Lamborghini noticed that our run-of-the-mill rental car wasn’t doing the trick, so the Italian automaker let us take a spin in the new Aventador S so we could get a real taste of that Pebble Beach lifestyle.
Among the exotics and one-offs on display and driving around on public roads, the new Lamborghini still manages to capture everyone’s attention. Our particular model packed a lot of extras, meaning it rang up at more than half a million dollars. But Lamborghini owners don’t really care about the price tag; what they care about is how this supercar makes drivers feel like rock stars. Driving around Monterey, people were giving thumbs up, snapping photos with their cellphones, and even screaming and throwing their unmentionables at the vehicle. OK, the last thing never really happened, but I’m sure it would have been inevitable if our drive was extended any further…
The True Test
We can often tell how awesome a car is by gauging the unfiltered reactions of kids — and when we pulled over to shoot some video for this review, a group of pre-driving age youngsters stopped to take some photos of their own and loved our yellow supercar.
And what’s not to love about the Aventador S? It’s a stunning car with sharp angles, slick carbon fiber accents, aggressive vents, and all the other supercar must-haves. Aerodynamics are an important part of this vehicle, and airflow has been improved with a longer front splitter and two new air ducts in the side of the front bumper. Around back, there’s a mean-looking diffuser and the sleek rear spoiler has three settings to control how air glides around the vehicle.
Still, that striking design can’t quite upstage the aural fireworks that erupt from the 6.5-liter V12 engine. Now making 740 hp and 509 lb-ft of torque, this engine is mated to a seven-speed transmission that’s been retuned for better shifts. But the highlight of the vehicle is the noises it makes, especially in the Sport and Corsa modes where the exhaust burbles and pops whenever I lift off the throttle. That exhaust setup is a new piece of hardware for the Aventador S, and it’s lighter than it was on the Aventador, thanks to its use of three single-pipe outlets.
In action, the engine is a beast. It feels like it can send drivers into an alternate universe every time they put their foot to the floor. Highway speeds arrive in under 3 seconds and the car can reach a top speed of 219 miles per hour, or two and a half times faster than what’s required for Marty McFly and Doc Brown to time travel. Unlike Back to the Future, however, roads are still needed for this car, something made painfully obvious by the supercar’s low ground clearance.
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The one weakness in the formula is the seven-speed transmission, which is an old-school single-clutch automated system. It feels analog and really makes its presence known, as upshifts can be hesitant with seemingly long moments of unengaged gears and shift-shock. The car could really be perfected with a dual clutch transmission and who knows how much faster it could be. But during the times that the transmission does mesh with the driver, there’s much less to complain about, as gear changes fire off in about 50 milliseconds.
How Does it Stay on the Road?
A big asset when it comes to achieving that otherworldly Lamborghini performance is the all-wheel-drive system. The system permanently sends power to all four wheels but can vary how much power is going to each wheel in order to maximize traction. A big part of how the car decides to allocate power involves the different drive modes, Strada (the most relaxed setting for street driving), Sport, and Corsa (the most aggressive track setting). These drive modes also help whip the transmission into shape and encourage it to crack out faster gear changes. A new mode called Ego allows drivers to customize the driving experience, so drivers can have the suspension in Strada setting, while the powertrain could be set up in the fire-breathing Corsa mode.
In addition to all-wheel drive, the Aventador S features all-wheel steering, which provides two important traits: better maneuverability at low speeds and improved stability at higher ones. One new feature, two great benefits? An engineer at Lamborghini must have realized how great BOGO sales are. Finally, rounding out the handling improvements is a new rear-suspension setup that should provide better balance.
Balance, however, is too tame of a word to describe how it feels to drive this car through some winding California canyon roads. Impressive, engaging, and enjoyable all sum up what it’s like, but driving this Lamborghini is something that transcends mere words.
I particularly enjoyed the weighty steering that provided an intimate feeling of command over this Italian beast. On these well-kept California roads, the Lamborghini didn’t ride as harshly as I’d assumed a supercar with a track-conquering stiff suspension and 20-inch (21 in the back) size wheels would. Grip and control were plentiful, although it did take some time to get used to the unique quirks of driving this car. Here’s a weird one: it’s nearly twice as wide as it is tall, and moving it around parking spots requires some serious recalibration of your personal automotive space bubble (thank goodness for rearview cameras and sensors). Also, I’ll admit that I needed a reminder to use the paddle shifters to put the car into drive or neutral.
The interior is just as cool as the rest of the car. The leather seats are trim and clearly race-inspired, but they seemed to fit my body practically perfectly, without me feeling pinched around the sides (or maybe it’s that diet, finally showing the results of eating nothing but cabbage soup for six months). I also loved the carbon fiber trim found in every nook and cranny of this Aventador S. And although most of it is optional, the carbon fiber trim surrounding the engine bay, x-frame, and other parts of the car were plentiful and contrasted perfectly against the car’s bright yellow paint finish. Could you tell me again why Bumblebee from Transformers was a Camaro and not this epic Lambo? No reason you provide will be good enough!
The Verdict: 2017 Lamborghini Aventador S Review
This Lamborghini brought out my inner child, made me feel like a rockstar, and featured power and drama that should be reserved for Hollywood’s best summer blockbusters. The only thing that could upstage this car might be the ultra rare multi-million dollar Lamborghini Centenario, which is a celebratory vehicle for the Italian automaker based on the Aventador and is only slightly more powerful and a bit lighter. With only 40 of those rarities ever made, it’s unlikely Aventador S owners will be yanked from center stage.
And at the end of my short time with the Aventador S, I returned it with a wide grin on my face: just like those fellow motorists who saw it on the road and heard it on the go. It’s a perfect representation of the enthusiasm and car culture that makes the Monterey Car Week such a joy to attend.
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