Test Drive: Lamborghini Aventador S

Courtesy Lamborghini

This supercar is extremely fast but hits the mark with a smooth turn.

I’m driving an extremely fast 2018 Lamborghini Aventador S very slowly through a corner at the Pocono Racetrack in Pennsylvania so I can get a sense for the supercar’s new four-wheel drive system. Unlike an SUV, for example, in which four-wheel-drive is mostly about maintaining traction in poor road conditions, four-wheel drive in an Aventador S is primarily about making a tight turn.

At low speeds, the rear wheels move in the opposite direction of the steering angle, reducing the turning radius and making the car easier to maneuver on city streets. At higher speeds, like on a highway, all four wheels steer in the same direction, adding to the stability of the ride and increasing overall responsiveness.

I’m impressed by the Lamborghini’s smooth rear-wheel steering ability, a technology I suspect would prove useful for maneuvering large SUVs. But with a 12-cylinder engine that boasts 740 horsepower under the hood (40 hp more than its Aventador predecessor), the lure of speed is impossible to resist.

The Aventador S tops out at 217 mph and roars from zero to 60 in under three seconds. I discover a variety of ways to experience a straightaway devoid of distracting traffic. There are the Italian names for familiar driving modes—Strada, Sport, and Corsa—that correspond to comfort, sport, and track positions. New is an Ego mode that lets the driver calibrate the steering, suspension, and engine performance to suit individual tastes. A new electronic brain called the Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Attiva (LDVA) manages all these systems as well as the rear-wheel steering, suspension, front-to-back torque adjustments, and overall car dynamics.

As welcome as these modes might be for everyday driving, they feel a little conservative. Switching to manual and using the paddle shifters at my discretion injects another level of excitement into the experience. The first level comes at the start when you flip up the red cover on the center console to fire up the engine and flick the right paddle on the steering wheel to move from neutral into first gear, even to engage the automated drive modes.

Stopping also is different than most cars in that I can’t just shift into park. I flick both paddles simultaneously to put the car into neutral and then engage the parking brake before turning off the engine, a procedure that spares wear and tear on the seven-speed gearbox. I might have been excited to see the rear spoiler deploy at speed, but my eyes are riveted forward. The rear-view mirror is very small, which suggests I shouldn’t pay too much attention to anything I’ve already passed, as there isn’t much that will catch up to me.

Of course, the Lamborghini Aventador S also is about an iconic design inspired by sharks and snakes, and its lineage is clearly visible to the eye. Perhaps the most noticeable changes compared to the previous Aventador are a more aggressive-looking nose and a longer front splitter for better aerodynamics and improved cooling for the engine and radiators. What’s remarkable is that while exterior changes are made largely for technical reasons, the car still remains a head-turner. The Aventador S is an Italian star. $421,350; lamborghini.com.