Claiming I've driven the Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce feels disingenuous, just shy of an outright lie, like a half-truth or a baseless brag. I got tangled up with this car for 16 laps, four sessions of four, split over a warm morning in the hills outside Barcelona. Drive? No. I held on, but that's a lot more than most of the world can say.
This car isn't for you or me. Lamborghini is only building 600 examples of the SV, and most of them are already sold to people with Scrooge McDuck wealth. It is the physical manifestation of "Let them eat cake," a deeply conflicted creation that courts exclusivity for exclusivity's sake and the vicious edge of performance with no eye toward competition. It's Michelangelo painting his kitchen ceiling for dinner guests instead of the arching plaster of the Sistine Chapel for all the world to see.
It's also the only Lamborghini I've ever driven. Why come at it slow? I'll take the one with extra crazy on top. The standard Aventador is already insanity made real, and the SV treatment kindly pushes the car even further from reality's frigid grasp. Engineers pried 110 pounds from the car, mostly by throwing more carbon fiber at an already carbon-intense creation. New rockers, air intakes, and, yes, that phenomenal rear wing are all hewn from the stuff. The black strands look like pieces of exposed carapace against the livid paint.
Jutting air intakes in the fascia and a massive rear diffuser work with the other bits to increase downforce by 170 percent compared with the more common Aventador, and the balance can be pitched front or rear by manipulating the adjustable spoiler. There is no button with which to articulate that expanse of matte carbon fiber, no hidden servos to do the deed. You must put wrench to fastener and turn it yourself. Or have one of your serfs do it. Either way, it requires human input. This $500,000 car shoves a crude tool in your palm and says, "Deal with it." I can get behind that.
Tweaks to the underbody tray help make the car 150 percent more aerodynamically efficient. Despite the additional downforce, the SV is slicker through the air, which lets it push past 217 mph. They tell us this before releasing us onto our playground for the day: Barcelona's blissful Catalunya circuit. The course is almost three miles long, with 16 turns sprinkled over the distance. It's the one with the long, slightly downhill straight that promises to let you stretch the legs of whatever horse you're riding, even if that horse has leather wings, a lizard tail, and breathes blue fire in your face.
Two hundred and seventeen miles per hour. The number rattles around in my head as I look at the cars in a row, a spectrum of caustic colors that wouldn't be amiss on the darker corners of the Vegas Strip. I have not been to 217 mph. I know one person who has. He doesn't speak of it fondly. 170? Sure. But speed's funny that way. A buck-seventy's further from 150 than 100 is from 80. The higher up the speedometer you go, the harder everything gets, and if you want those big numbers, you're going to need power.
This is not news to the Superveloce. The 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V-12 behind the cabin screams to 8500 rpm, dumping out 740 hp and 509 lb-ft of torque along the way. More numbers from another dimension, one that seems pretty far from the driver's seat. Off idle, churning down pit lane in first gear, the car doesn't bark or burble. It groans under the insult of anything less than a full thrash.
Just before the engine behind my spine wakes up and gets busy tearing at the world, I hear the hiss of atmosphere being siphoned from the Spanish sky and crammed into those cylinders. There are many distractions. Gear noise and heat, the building decibels of the exhaust, and the urgent hammering of my heart all demand immediate attention, but that serpent sound is there. It's a prelude to the violence and lust and vulgarity of the most powerful production Lamborghini ever built. Oblige it on the open track and the tune changes from a groan to a wail both brutal and threatening. One Superveloce at wide-open throttle sounds like a fleet of oppressive war machines from a darker future.
But I don't remember the engine. Not really. What I remember is that transmission, shifts as violent and shocking as a curse in church. The Superveloce translates power to the ground through a seven-speed automated manual with all the civility of a butcher's cleaver. Click the column-mounted paddle and the thing will slap your bones with a 50-millisecond shift. F1 cars do it in 40.
I remember the grip, too. Lamborghini piled on hardware to make the SV stick, including a new dynamic steering system and magnetorheological shocks, a first for the Aventador's pushrod setup. The former adjusts the SV's steering ratio on the fly, while the latter allows for wide swings in damping force. The system can independently vary each damper midcorner to increase grip and reduce body roll or negate brake dive. That kind of nonsense typically grates, but the wizardry behind the steering and suspension works so well, so imperceptibly, it's brilliant. They're not parlor tricks, they're weapons.
The Aventador Superveloce has three drive modes: Strada, Sport, and Corsa. The last one is what you want. It's two fistfuls of boar hair and the beast beneath, turning the car feral and righteous. Even through the technical chicanes on the back quarter of the track, the steering is sharp, with a wickedly quick ratio. If you're into the tiller more than 90 degrees, something has gone wrong.
The SV is stuck and loose at the same time, the all-wheel-drive system and Pirelli-clad center-lock rollers in constant battle with a tide of power and torque. The throttle might as well be a go-sideways lever. Turn 3 is a massive, slightly off-camber right-hander, and on fresh rubber, the Superveloce welds itself to the tarmac. Two days later, my upper arm was sore from trying to hold myself in place. Sore. From driving a street car.
Not that I was flopping around the cabin. The h seats of the Aventador have been abandoned in favor of fixed-back, carbon-shell buckets molded to the svelte posterior of some Italian god. No carpet on the floor, no supple leather on the doors, just carbon fiber everywhere. Even the stereo went into the scrap pile, sacrificed at the altar of weight reduction. The SV feels industrial and harsh with a rare purity of purpose. The cockpit is also the source of its conflicted nature.
This car can lap the Nürburgring in less than seven minutes. It can tear off 0–62-mph sprints in a claimed 2.8 seconds and rip to 186 mph in only 24 seconds. But the fantastic seats, the same type you'd find in a Le Mans prototype, aren't designed for a five-point harness. There are lots of reasons, some legal, some practical, but it boils down to the fact that engineers found it difficult to safely and effectively anchor the straps in the carbon-fiber monocoque. Then there's that roofline, so low you'd have to work to fit an average-height driver wearing a helmet. And all in a car that has no business having its neck wrung anywhere but a closed course. How Italian.
What is the SV, then? An expensive ego stroke? Lambor-ghini's answer to the tired question why climb the mountain? I'm not sure. I've always respected the guys in Sant'Agata Bolognese, not because they build fierce cars with weird doors, but because I got the feeling they were in on the joke, never taking themselves too seriously, poking Ferrari over the absurdity of the holier-than-thou supercar. For every vacuum-sealed 458 Italia, there's a Huracán that says, "Chill out. Anyone can do what you do, even a tractor company." Ferrari red? No. F***-off orange.
But this? This feels like Lamborghini is no longer laughing with the rest of us. There's an undercurrent of genuine desire to no longer be a jester mocking the noblemen at court.
The hard morning of bashing around the circuit takes its toll on those Pirellis, and by noon, it's clear exactly how much of the car's grip rests on their shoulders. The SV is splattered with bits of rubber, black comet streaks on yellow paint, like it's driving through a hailstorm of spent tire. The crisp turn-in fades, replaced by the all-too-familiar specter of understeer. The car loosens up even more, bowing under the hellish force of the engine and hustling 3800 pounds of carbon and aluminum around an F1 course.
The SV is alive and writhing, twitching its hips in warning at an improper gearchange or throttle lift, stepping wide out of apexes in graceful rotation and hunkering on its claws at each waking of the brakes. They're carbon-ceramic platters, and clamping on them with any ferocity will send every cell in your bloodstream shooting toward the front of your body. There's an accompanying flash of dizziness, and you hope like hell you can remember to tighten your gut before the next right-hander.
Each lap feels like something survived. The Superveloce will neither coddle you nor hold your hand, and it's exactly what you pray a Lamborghini will be, what you see in your mind and feel in your stomach when someone whispers that name. Not the buttoned-down, cool precision of the company's German overlords, but a thing full of character and scorn. Brass knuckles, not collar stays or cuff links.
Am I different for driving it, for having wrenched a Lamborghini from the misty realm of the conceptual and transmuting it into cold reality? Yes and no. I have a new definition of speed, having been reoriented by the most powerful vehicle I've ever driven, and a new respect for what a company can accomplish with single-minded focus. But the Aventador Superveloce isn't my new pedestal car. It's not something I can rationally aspire to any more than a vacation on the red shores of Mars. It's a fantasy, a trick of the light that I saw and touched and felt one Sunday morning in Barcelona.