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.
When I first drove the, it was appropriately on a racetrack -- Estoril in Portugal, to be specific. That's appropriate because the SVJ is an Aventador that's been thoroughly gutted and re-tooled for on-track performance. And on that race track the car was a delight; a truly stellar day of driving, but I confess I was a bit disappointed to never turn a wheel in the car on a real, public road.
My first run in the topless, $573,996 Aventador SVJ Roadster took place amid some very different surroundings. Palm Springs instead of Portugal for one thing and instead of a circuit my drive covered a strip of sinuous road stretched across the desert. On-road, in other words. And that's also appropriate, because while the SVJ Roadster gives up little in on-track performance compared to the razor-sharp coupe, of the two, this one's far more likely to ply its trade out in the real world.
Of course, with pristine weather and scenic hills dotted with multimillion-dollar mansions, Palm Springs is pretty far removed from reality in many respects, but it still poses a far greater challenge to comfort and usability than Estoril. And when it comes to usability, the Roadster failed its first test before I had even left the parking lot.
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