Lamborghini Aventador

In recent decades, supercars have become somewhat domesticated, capable not only of face-distorting acceleration and g-forces, but also the occasional commute without protest. They no longer demand huge arm muscles to wrestle their fat, sticky tires from corner to corner, nor are they oven-hot on the inside. The Lamborghini Aventador certainly won’t melt your Ferragamo driving mocs or cause you to break out in a sweat at the thought of a parking lot, but it’s nevertheless a bit more hardcore and old-school than most other modern supercars.

Starting at around $400,000, today’s Aventador brandishes a 6.5-liter V12 engine giving between 691 and 740 horsepower, depending on the model. It has an automated manual paddle-shift gearbox that still lurches between changes, one that will thwack you hard in the back when driven in anger. But it’s also incredibly tactile and visceral, especially when you spin the engine up beyond 8,000 rpm to hear the V12 at its full operatic self.

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Editors' First Take

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If you're in a Lamborghini and you hear your tires squealing, chances are the next thing you'll hear is the sound of some corner of the car impacting a wall or another hard object. These cars are, historically, not the sorts of machines to reward over-driving. So, when I was handed the keys to the world's fastest production car around the Nurburgring, the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, I expected a day full of forced restraint and pucker-inducing moments.

Shockingly, I would quickly learn, the SVJ not only enables a driver to push past its performance envelope, it seems to welcome playing around out there. Lamborghini's 759-horsepower supercar is so comfortable on the limit that within a few laps of the challenging Estoril circuit in Portugal I had all four tires squealing and squirming as I found, went past, and then came back to their limits of adhesion.

I'd need all the tricks the new Aventador has to offer to go quickly in these conditions. Thankfully, it has quite a few.

Post-Performante

If you followed along to Italy last year for my first drive of the Lamborghini Huracan Performante you know that a lot of relatively minor tweaks made for a radical transformation. The Huracan went from a pulse-quickening road car to compelling track-day toy.

Much of that same thinking was applied to make the new Aventador SVJ a better car than its predecessor, the Aventador S -- which itself was a surprisingly big step up over the plain-Jane Aventador.

It's the new SVJ that recently grabbed the production car lap record at the Nurburgring, taking it away from the Porsche 911 GT2 RS with a time of six minutes and 44 seconds. That's about seven seconds faster than the Performante, which itself held the record for a little while, and 15 seconds lower than the old Aventador SV.

What's new? Well, we'll start with the tires, because while most attention will be focused on the new hardware, it's the sticky bits that make the most difference. The SVJ rolls on 255/30 ZR20 front Pirelli P Zero Trofeo tires and absolutely massive 355/25 ZR21 rears, all four of which were specifically developed for the car. Those hitting the track, however, can opt for Trofeo R tires, offering kevlar internals for greater sidewall strength. However, those will only work in a very specific temperature range, making them unsuitable for the street.

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