Sunday, July 1, 2018

2018 Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster Review

By: Sami Haj-Assaad
“Supercars just don’t excite me anymore.” These words, spoken to me over a month ago by another journalist, friend, and (so-called) enthusiast were echoing in my head for far too long, but they’ve finally been drowned out. Drowned out by the wail of a naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine mounted in the middle of the new Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster.
My friend’s point is that back in the good old days, there was a crop of supercars that captured the imagination with amazing style, sounds, performance, and more. Today, it seems like everything is capable of supercar performance, with large luxury sedans outdoing some of the best and most dedicated teams of car nuts, while former pillars of automotive excellence are suddenly pumping out family-friendly SUVs.
Beyond that, another league of supercars, dubbed hypercars have cropped up with hybrid gas-electric powertrains that make magical things happen quickly, but at the cost of the acoustic drama, visual flair, and engagement factor that supercars were known for.
Back then, I politely countered that I didn’t share that opinion, but now I can definitively say that my friend (and he still is, I checked recently) is dead wrong. Every single one of these points is meaningless because supercars will always be a beacon of excitement that nothing else on the road can match.
I’ll use the new Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster as the prime example. The badge adorning the front of the very pointed nose is rich with a history of some of the most bonkers and beautiful cars ever built. The sleek and sexy Miura practically invented the supercar as we know it today, and everywhere it stopped, traffic stopped too with other motorists and pedestrians with any form of inner child gawked. It was a show stopper, but so was the Countach, an ostentatious Lamborghini that was offered from 1974 to 1990 that featured wild angles that dropped jaws, because it featured a design language justified with the phrase “because we could.”

Exciting in Every Way

The Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster is an obvious successor to those vehicles, but it’s worth pointing out that quite a lot has changed with Lamborghini and the automotive industry since that Miura showed up over 50 years ago. Most importantly, offerings like Miura and the Countach demonstrated that people will be attracted to what makes their jaws drop. It was clickbait for the road and after all that time, there’s nothing you can do to ignore a car like that.
Everywhere it goes, every intersection it passes through, everywhere it stops, people notice it and have something to say. Even if they can’t tell a Honda from a Hyundai, they know this Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster is something special. Wider than it is tall, this low, mid-engined beast sits atop the Lamborghini lineup. It looks like a predator on the road, and on a track, the Aventador S is thoroughly entertaining, with lots of tweaks and features that transform the supercar from a purebred diva into a legitimate speed machine.
But the design captures the imagination first, as the sharp Aventador S Roadster is loaded with aerodynamic tweaks that are both functional and fashionable. Venting ducts help direct airflow properly around and on top of the car to improve downforce, while an active rear spoiler with three settings helps even further, fluttering up and down as needed with the speed of the vehicle. The car features a ton of carbon fiber to keep things stiff and lightweight, bringing the dry weight of this massive car and its huge engine to 3,582 lbs (1,625 kg).

As Fast as it Looks and Sounds

But the visual impact of the Aventador S Roadster is hard to ignore. It infects the people who see it, making even the most disciplined spectator reach for their phone to snap a photo. But wait and see what people do when the 6.5-liter V12 engine is fired up, something that fortunately happens a few more times than you’d think thanks to an automatic start-stop system.
It barks a short tone that’s like a cymbal being shredded by a buzzsaw. In a world where the EV-proud is happy to boast that a Tesla makes no noise even as it sprints to 60 mph in three seconds, the Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster makes it clear that noises still matter. Fire up the car, and people will know that something special has just been awoken and that their time to take a photo or watch the vehicle in motion is counting down.
Once you put your foot down, the engine howls, and if you have a passenger, they’ll probably freak out too. The 740 horsepower provided by that big engine allows this all-wheel-drive supercar to hit highway speeds in 3 seconds, a figure that’s been replicated by so many other cars out there. And while a Tesla Model S P100D can do that, and a BMW M5 can do that, and a Dodge Challenger Demon is faster in some cases, very few of those cars provide the same combination of thrill and showmanship that the Lamborghini has. When you take off in this, it actually feels like you’re participating in a NASA countdown towards orbit.

Force Feedback

But that feeling might have something to do with the raw and unrefined single-clutch automatic transmission. It’s slow, with the upshifts from first to second and second to third feeling particularly awkward. The only way to make the car feel somewhat natural is to change gears at higher RPMs, which serves up that intoxicating sound as well. While the first impression of the gearbox isn’t a positive one, it grows on you especially as you use the paddle shifters to chose your gears. The raw feeling of a clutch letting go of a gear and then grabbing another one has a tactile feeling that’s hard to find in many modern cars. You feel the gear changes, and in a car as dramatic as this, shouldn’t you? Isn’t a sensory experience part of the deal? Absolutely! The car also comes to a stop with surprising speed too, with a 62 to 0 mph distance of 102 feet (31 meters) thanks to the giant standard carbon ceramic brakes. 

Touch Tactility

The steering also has a weight and feedback to it. Everything feels alive in this car as every touch causes a reaction. The steering and handling have been augmented with some interesting elements, as four-wheel steering and variable ratio steering are both in action here. The former feature operates by marginally turning the rear wheels in sync or in contrast to the front wheels to lengthen or shorten the wheelbase of the car. It helps the big Aventador S Roadster feel more agile and nimble in slow speed situations, and also provides a feeling of stability in high-speed actions as well. The variable ratio rack means that less steering input is required at higher speeds. It’s a feature that can feel a bit disconnected and inconsistent at times.
The magnetorheological pushrod suspension can stiffen or soften up a little bit to give the car a bit more or less of an edge as desired. The car has four drive modes: a street one, a sports mode, a track setting and a customizable mode that allows you to pick and choose varying options from the other settings to dial up the car as much as you want. Beyond the suspension and steering feel, these driving modes also impact the all-wheel-drive system, which is set up with a 40/60 power split between the front and rear axles in the street mode (named Strada). The Sports mode sends 90 percent of the power rearward, while the track-focused Corsa mode dials it back to 80 percent. These modes also come with their own stability control limits too.

Push your Limits

The driver will also be tested, not just as they decide whether to breach the posted speed limit but on how much punishment they can withstand from the interior of the car. Don’t get it wrong, the vehicle is incredibly finished with amazing materials and a design that matches the expressiveness of the exterior, but there’s a serious lack of space. It’s an obvious compromise that comes with the supercar territory, yet even the headroom is awkward — and this has no roof! The windshield rakes at such an angle, that it’s difficult to see traffic lights without popping your head up, or slouching down under the glass. Side visibility is zero. Look at your side view mirrors and you see the big cooling vents taking up as much space in the reflection as possible, and try to do a shoulder check and you actually won’t see anything. The roof of the car is stored in the frunk and that means there’s zero space to store anything, which is also a perfectly reasonable excuse to not pick up groceries on the way home.
But there are luxuries in here, with a fancy digital gauge cluster and easy to use infotainment system with Apple Car Play support. Also, take note of the front-end lift feature to prevent scraping that nose on any steep roadways, and then there’s a handy rearview camera too.

The Verdict: 2018 Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster Review

Of course, it’s expensive. That’s because it’s not only special but exciting. A cost of $460,247 in the US, or $506,751 in Canada gets you into the roofless car, and that’s just the beginning, before any options or extra features.
But think about what it does that so few cars can do and there’s intangible value. It announces your arrival and departure with a 12-cylinder symphony, it turns ordinary people into raving car-parazzi and it does this while going fast and keeping you involved in the process. This is a true supercar and a sign that they’ve never been better.

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