2020 Lamborghini Aventador S Review | One last go in the ring

Jonathon Ramsey
Autoblog


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A sign at the Miura Ranch in Andalusia, Spain, warns any careless human, “Ganado Bravo – Prohibito Entrar.” Brave Cattle – Do Not Enter. The cattle at issue are specifically bulls, and Ferruccio Lamborghini’s visit to the ranch in the 1960s – Lamborghini himself was a Taurus – would provide the thematic source for the names of his cars. Legend says Murciélago, a Navarra fighting bull, was sired into Don Antonio Miura’s breeding line in 1879 after surviving 24 stabs from the matador’s espada – the audience had clamored for the matador to spare the bull’s life.

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The bull christened Aventador got no such reprieve, killed by Matador Emilio Muñoz during a bullfight in 1993 in Zaragoza. Aventador did, though, fight fiercely enough to earn the accolade Trofeo de la Peña La Madroñera, awarded to the bravest bull by Zaragosa’s only female bullfighting club, La Madronera. Then someone cut off one of Aventador’s ears and gave it to Muñoz as a trophy.

The Lamborghini Aventador, over a run of nine years and going, has fought just as bravely as its namesake and deserves the same trophy. It also – as much as it pains me to write this – deserves to be put to rest.

The looks of the 2020 Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster don’t disappoint. Despite the name changes since Marcelo Gandini’s 1974 Countach, Lamborghini’s flagship has largely been an acolyte of the Porsche 911 school of evolutionary design. Nevertheless, every one of the Aventador’s angled, unsparing lines acts like an arrestor cable on passers-by. Long, low, wide in front, and swelling to a carrier-esque beam in the rear, the Aventador is the kind of ruthless transport we’d expect from Cyberdyne Systems or the Weyland-Yutani Corporation – no trace of weakness in it, nor any compassion. Breathtaking instead of beautiful.

The only respite from the malice of the test car was in its color, Blu Cephus Pearl. A vivacious neighbor, as soon as she saw the car, christened it Déja Blue. That took some edge off the menace.

Almost everything in the cabin is tailored excellence. The look and feel of the stitched leather, the seats, the craftsmanship, all could have come from an Italian atelier – and essentially, for any who’ve seen the leather shop at Sant’Agata Bolognese, they did. The compact cabin provides room for 6-footers; the seats provide continent-crossing comfort.

The Aventador S updates the digital gauge cluster from the preceding Aventador LP700-4, omitting the metallic partitions to create one uninterrupted screen. Watching the lights flicker is the same sci-fi dream it was in 2011.

The center console, however, is a letdown. When Lamborghini debuted the Aventador, the instrument panel bore switchgear that parent company Audi introduced on the 2004 A8 (aka Audi MMI). Some of the functionality didn’t make sense in 2004, such as turning the infotainment knob to the right to move the cursor up, not down, and needing to press a button then turn a knob to change the fan speed. Since then, Audis have gone through multiple generations of controls so we can’t help but find it underwhelming to be met by a dowdy, antiquated console in a $561,997 flagship super sports car.

The Sensonum Premium Sound System adds $4,200. If you burned that $4,200, you’d at least get heat and light, which would be more useful returns than the muddled sounds that emerged from the speakers. No amount of slider fiddling could correct this.

Removing and stowing the two roof panels is simple, but going topless is advisable only in warm weather at low speeds. Wind pours into the cabin over the windshield above 40 mph. On a cool day up to the mountaintop hamlet of Idyllwild, behind Palm Springs, the heater couldn’t overcome the cold cataract of air even with the windows up. I couldn’t hear my passenger over the wind noise. I couldn’t hear the stereo. I couldn’t hear the 6.5-liter V12 unless wringing out the revs, a fact more shocking than the cold. I pulled over, replaced the top, and didn’t remove it again.

True, Aventador S buyers don’t bring Consumer Reports sensibilities to the purchase. But the current era of supercars and even hypercars is one of near-daily-driver refinement. The Aventador arrived the same year as the McLaren MP4-12C, which set an absurdly high bar for blending performance, comfort, ease and modernity. In the 11 years since, we’ve watched the the MP4-12C morph into the sensational 720S, and the Ferrari 458 upgrade to the 488 and now the F8 Tributo. It's difficult to understand why parent company Audi has been so stingy with Lamborghini’s development allowance.

The Aventador’s driving experience likewise shows gray whiskers. The seven-speed single-clutch transmission exhibits less tidal motion than before. However, that gearbox, a vital link in the drivetrain, is also the weakest. Partial throttle renders the shift software indecisive in the softest Strada mode. When the programming does decide on a gear, it’s the wrong gear, and then the software is happy to take a delay-of-game charge before downshifting.

Switching to Sport means exchanging a touch more decisiveness for agitation as the Aventador refuses to shift up until close to redline. It's hard to fault it for this one – that’s the point of Sport mode. The best way to get down the road in an Aventador, as with any other heavy, resolute animal, is to grab it by the … you know … paddle shifters.

Who knows if Ferruccio intended such uncanny convergence between the bull iconography and actually riding a bull, but that’s what has happened. The Aventador rumbles and snorts, that grumbly V12 noisy with clicks, clunks and whirrs. The car performs best not when it’s driven, but when it’s wrestled. Flick into Corsa, grab the paddles and aim the Roadster up a twisty road – one with wide lanes, if possible – and giggle at the instant, naturally-aspirated, seat-squishing acceleration, the turn-in delivered by the four-wheel steering, and the grip from steamroller Pirellis. It seems no coincidence that Miura bulls hold the record for the two fastest runs during the tight, twisty Running of the Bulls.

But that wrestling is work. The Aventador S feels huge and heavy. It is huge and heavy, yet we’re regularly introduced to hulking sedans, crossovers, and SUVs that disguise their true weight. This Lamborghini doesn’t.

The Aventador has had a fabulous run in the arena, still gratifying and invigorating in so many ways. And nothing under a million dollars can match its design’s murderous brio. It deserves retirement with its head and horns still raised aloft, and a worthy successor, soon.

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