Of the 14 corners of Valencia’s Circuit Ricardo Tormo, the scariest is the hard left-hander at the end of the half-mile straightaway. That’s because by the time you hit it, you’ve had the space to accumulate a triple-digit velocity, and for me, the time to worry about how to drop enough speed and make the turn without losing control of a half-million dollar supercar.
The 2017 Aventador S produces all the skin-tickling sounds and riotous thrust you expect from a Lamborghini. But this revised version of Sant’Agata Bolognese’s current flagship, which starts at $421,350, promises more than Sturm und Drang. Lamborghini built this car to make you race through that corner, and love doing it.
Take that corner at speed in the first generation Aventador, which launched in 2011, and anything can happen. That car paired Lamborghini’s trademark alien looks with parent company Audi’s left-brain innovation, but was also prone to imbalanced handling and understeer (when the car doesn’t turn as predictably as it should).
But hey, range topping Lamborghinis—Miura, Countach, Diablo, Murcielago—have always had their quirks, if you’re comfortable calling a rowdy V12 with the user-friendliness of a chainsaw and the tractability of a 5150 suspect on the lam, quirky.
Like its predecessors, the Aventador S delivers on the numbers supercar shoppers so covet, especially compared to the original Aventador. 740 metric horsepower (up from 700), 509 pound-feet of torque. The hulking 6.5-liter V12 revs higher, with a deeper, subtler growl, thanks to a weight-saving titanium exhaust system. Those power gains aren’t enough to improve the speed specs (0 to 62 mph remains 2.9 seconds, top speed is still 217 mph), but more is still more.
Even on the boring highway stretch, any enthusiast will enjoy the bellow of the naturally aspirated, mid-mounted V12. Lay into the gas pedal, and a swell of power flows to the sticky Pirellis, shoving you back into the form fitting leather seats. The seven-speed, single-clutch transmission is smoother than its predecessor, but still swaps cogs with a power-interrupting hiccup. When you’re reveling in the absurdity of 700 horsepower, those slow shifts are a real buzzkill.
What sets the Aventador S apart is Lamborghini’s attempt at domestication. The engineers loaded the car with incremental upgrades, all with an eye to making it more drivable, not just on the straightaways but through the twisties. The drivetrain, suspension, and steering settings can now be individually adjusted. The car offers better cooling, enhanced aerodynamics, and smoother gearshifts.
The biggest change happens at the asphalt: The Aventador is the first serially-produced Lambo to offer four-wheel steering. At low speeds, the rears turn opposite to the fronts, gifting the car the nimbleness of a vehicle with a far shorter wheelbase. Above speeds of around 75 mph, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts, stabilizing the handling as if the wheelbase were much longer.
Turning all four wheels is newly popular among folks like Ferrari and Porsche, but the change in mechanics complicates other factors. So Lamborghini gave the Aventador S a comprehensive re-tune of the front and rear suspension, including updated geometry, hardware, and an adaptive damping system that uses real-time calculations for better body control. Pirelli’s revised PZero tires, bespoke for the new car, incorporate stiffer sidewalls at the rear to cope with the added torsional stresses of turning.
Which brings me back to that left hand turn. The late Aventador struggled in the corners. The new version is made for them, if imperfectly. Another improvement helps here. While the old car had a tendency to divert power to the front wheels when you took your foot off the gas mid-corner, the new model drives more power to the rear wheels, helping the car turn as it exits a bend. Pointing all four wheels in the same direction, the Aventador thrives.
Coming off the straightway, I flick the low-slung Italian to the left. The understeer isn’t all gone, but the front end submits enough to keep me on the track and through the bend.
While Lamborghini brought much-needed refinements to the Aventador S, it left enough of the rawness to keep the fires of controversy stoked. Want a nimbler, lighter, better-shifting Lambo? Take the Aventador’s overachieving little sibling, the V10-powered Huracán, which delivers jaw-jerking acceleration and core-strengthening cornering, without the look-at-me scissor doors. You’ll save six figures of scratch.
If, however, your prime metric is shock and awe, there is nothing brassier and satisfying—nothing more truly Lamborghini— than the Aventador S. And hey, now it corners.