2019’s Top 10 Tech Cars: Lamborghini Aventador SVJ
Slips through the air with the greatest of ease
The tale of the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is an inspiring story of endeavor, failure, and perseverance. Back in 2011, the original Aventador seemed as powerful and fantastical as a Klingon warship—it’s a Lamborghini, after all—but it had no real business on a racetrack. Its successor, the Aventador SVJ, has evolved into the fastest production car ever tested on Germany’s benchmark, the 20.8-kilometer Nürburgring circuit.
My own scorching introduction takes place at Circuito do Estoril, the former home of Formula 1’s Portuguese Grand Prix, where the SVJ escorts me to 280 km/h (174 mph) on a long straightaway, blowing my mind along the way. The sheer speed isn’t surprising, considering the 6.5-liter V-12, with its 566 kilowatts (759 horses). Rather, it’s the way the Lambo lets drivers access that power with gains in balance and stability.
0–100 km/h (62 mph)
One earful of this bellowing V-12 bull, mounted directly behind my helmeted head, leaves me energized, as does the 2.9-second sprint to 100 km/h. Maurizio Reggiani, the company’s chief technology officer, has vowed to preserve these ultrahigh-revving, naturally aspirated engines in an era that’s seen every rival switch to turbocharged power. “I will never give up,” he says, though the writing is already on the wall. Reggiani and Co. are developing the Aventador’s successor, a gas-electric V-12 hybrid whose electric boost is designed to keep pace with downsized turbo rivals in power, fuel economy, and carbon dioxide emissions.
With its titanium connecting rods and reduced internal friction, the engine has more than brute force going for it. Yet those factors alone can’t explain the SVJ’s astounding performance at the ’Ring, where it has shaved nearly a full minute off the time of its predecessor, setting a record of 6 minutes, 44.97 seconds. Look instead to the car’s more slippery, stable, and agile bearing. New rear-wheel steering makes the car easier to dial into corners. The slick all-wheel-drive system can switch to a rear-wheel-only mode, freeing up the front wheels and so making steering sweeter and more precise.
And the company claims a 30 percent gain in aerodynamic downforce versus that of the old Aventador SV, much of it derived from ALA 2.0, for Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva. This active-handling system incorporates a soaring rear wing unlike anything the industry has seen before: It is Lambo’s patented “forged composite” of a polymer, stiffened by carbon fiber. Forging makes the thing shapeable enough to allow for hollowed-out air channels in the wing. That capability makes for some interesting aerodynamic finesses.
When ALA is off, front and rear flaps stay shut, and air flows over the hood to boost front-axle downforce. That max-downforce setting pins the car to pavement whenever I squeeze the brakes or carve through Estoril’s tricky corners. Magnetorheological dampers do their part, stiffening or relaxing at any of four corners to keep the body flat even as its momentum shifts enormously.
When ALA switches on, flaps open, air blasts into the wing’s hollow, vertical stanchion, and then it’s forced through narrow slits on the wing’s underside. That pressurized airflow stalls the wing and sharply reduces drag, for enhanced acceleration toward an epic 350-km/h (217-mph) top speed. Front flaps redirect air through vortex generators below the car, further smoothing the aero profile.
Aero vectoring is the final trick: Turn right, for example, at speeds above 71 km/h (44 mph)—any slower and there’s no meaningful air pressure—and the right-hand deck-lid flap closes while the left flap pivots open. Now you’ve got downforce on the inside rear wheel but lower pressure on the outside, which helps the Lambo pivot through the corner. It’s all controlled in real time by the Lamborghini’s big brain and inertial sensors, which can adjust ALA flaps in less than half a second—far faster than any motorized wing, and without added weight or complexity.
And don’t overlook the tires. Pirelli developed an exclusive tire compound for the SVJ’s tires, the very same rubber—20 inchers up front, 21s in the rear—that helped the SVJ negotiate the ’Ring without crashing and burning.
Lamborghini will build just 900 copies, each priced from $517,770. It’s a king’s ransom, but not unreasonable for a genuine racetrack king.