Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae Review – Redline Magazine
Written by Mark Rose, photos by Dom Ginn
This article is taken from Redline Issue 15. For more information on print magazines, visit the Redline Magazine website here. Don’t forget to use discount code FIN10 for 10% off!
It’s a grey, sodden, Monday morning and I’m sat in a queue of traffic in central London. I’d been forced on to this most despairing of routes because some insufferable eco warriors whose gang name I won’t give airtime to, decided to stage a protest on the M25. Apparently, London already has a problem with air pollution, only these numpties had just inadvertently made it worse. Good job. Adding to the cocktail of fumes was the Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae I’d just been handed the keys to. I’d been waiting some months to get my hands on it and rather frustratingly, my first two hours were spent kangarooing through the old smoke.
The issue, however, wasn’t the petulant protestors, even if they were responsible for the grid lock I’d found myself in. No, my beef was with the Aventador’s single clutch gearbox and its obvious disdain for first gear. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t build revs, such as a traffic jam, then the consequence of accelerating and braking becomes near comical levels of jerkiness. Once you’re in to second, the ‘box settles down a touch and in the higher gears the problem diminishes, but unless you’re gunning it, the transmission requires a little lift off the throttle when changing up, to help smooth things over.
Eventually, I was released from the onslaught of London buses, black cabs, and Boris bikes, and I made for the A13. With it came my first opportunity to get the big Lambo out of its Strada driving mode and in to Corsa. There is a Sport button, but as the old saying goes, “in for a penny, in for a pound”, so I decided to let the bull rage in its most rampant state. Suddenly, any lingering frustrations of London at low speed vanished as my senses were battered by the sound of a naturally aspirated, 6.5 litre, V12 engine and the violence of that once ponderous seven-speed automated-manual gearbox. This was a different type of assault that offered the type of masochistic pleasure that you keep coming back for time and time again. It was my first taste of what the Ultimae could do, and after that, there was no going back.
In an almost poetic fashion, the last edition of the Aventador is a no going back kind of car. Ultimae is Latin for the final, and this isn’t just in the context of the model line-up, but for Lamborghini’s normally aspirated V12. Replacing the Aventador is the all-new Revuelto which packs a new, electrically assisted 6.5 litre V12 engine and produces an astonishing 1,001bhp with a rev limiter of 9,250rpm. Yep, the flagship Lambo is going hybrid after nearly 60 years without assistance from turbos or electricity. An undeniable pivot point in the raging bull’s history, but for now we have the Aventador’s greatest hits at our disposal for five days, so excuse me while I live in the moment.
I say the Aventador’s greatest hits because it’s an appropriate metaphor for what the Ultimae represents. Early cars, while exciting, weren’t the sharpest tools in the supercar box, but over the years, Lamborghini has incrementally improved the formula with various iterations. The Ultimae is a middle ground between the road-biased S model and the hardcore, track-spec SVJ, which arguably makes it the most convincing Aventador of them all.
Beneath the jaw-dropping bodywork is some serious engineering. A carbon-fibre monocoque, push-rod suspension, carbon ceramic brakes, and rear-wheel steering come together to create a sensational driver’s car, even if it’s not initially apparent. Your first interaction with the Aventador is a reserved one because it’s a car that intimidates from the off. It’s large, loud, tricky to drive at low speed, and you can’t see out of it all that well. You’re imprisoned in a cramped, Alcantara and carbon-shod cockpit, in a car that feels like it doesn’t want to take prisoners. This is old school Lamborghini. If it doesn’t terrify you, then it’s not doing its job properly. However, once you spend enough time with it, you realise that the Aventador is on your side, willing you on to grab the bull by the horns and tame the beast. There are lines of communication between you and the car which is something you don’t necessarily expect. The well-weighted steering brims with feel, the brake pedal is firm but progressive, and the chassis pivots around you. The suspension is also just the right side of firm, even in Corsa mode, but the best set up for a twisty, country road is the individual mode called Ego, with the powertrain and steering in Corsa and the suspension in Strada. This set up offers a brutal but compromising blend of savage response and general compliance which gives you the confidence to take liberties with the car.
The tyre is a Pirelli P-Zero Corsa and in dry conditions it offers enough grip to pull your face off. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can carry some serious speed through corners safe in the knowledge that it won’t go skating off the road. The abundant grip and communicative steering allow you to place the front end with real accuracy, the rear-wheel steering helps you tighten your line in to the corner and then you can use the four-wheel drive system to catapult you out the turn and in to the next one. Is it the most agile of supercars? No, not with a dry weight of 1,550kg which is still remarkably light for a car of this size but not quite as lithe as offerings from Ferrari and McLaren. However, the mid-engine V8 cars from Maranello and Woking aren’t in the same league as the Aventador, and in truth, nothing else offers this level of dynamic ability under the backdrop of that sensational V12 engine and the ferocity of the gearbox. The motor and transmission add drama to the competence, it’s a spine tingling experience. Once you’ve peeled back the layers and uncovered the big Lambo’s idiosyncrasies, you learn to trust it, and once you have confidence in the package, you can exploit it in ways that you didn’t think possible. It serves up all your adrenaline and dopamine in one giant hit, and it keeps you coming back for more.
The Ultimae feels like more than the sum of its parts, however, it’s impossible to deny that in a car brimming with excess, the star of the show is the engine. The V12 is larger than life and the headline act among a talented supporting cast. The noise is like nothing else. When you fire it up it sounds grumpy and industrial, but as the revs begin to build the engine comes to life before rampaging its way to the 8,700rpm rev limiter with the addition of pops, bangs, and the occasional spit of flame on the overrun. And none of the noise sounds muffled by pesky OPFs or restrained by legislation created to make cars cleaner and quieter. It’s pure, unfiltered V12 theatre both in and out of the car. It’s intoxicating, indulgent, sensual. It stirs the soul in ways that make you bubble over with emotion, and it’s how a supercar should sound.
Accompanying the noise is the fury of the performance. The Ultimae is the most powerful road-going Aventador to roll out the factory with 770bhp at an atmospheric 8,500rpm and 531lb ft. at 6,750rpm. Zero to 62mph is despatched in just 2.8 seconds, it will see 125mph in 8.7 seconds, and it will top out at an eye watering 221mph. The acceleration times sit at the sharp end of the supercar league, but the top speed is hypercar territory. As is often the case though, numbers only tell a small part of the story, more so in the Aventador than any other car. The throttle response is off the scale, such is the way it picks up and fires you forward, but the highlight is how it hunts down the rev limiter. Beyond 7,000rpm, the Lambo rushes towards the red-line with a level of anger and urgency that needs to be felt to be fully understood. The upper end of the rev range is where the bull truly rages, then you pull a paddle, feel the gearbox thud you in the back, and you get to repeat the experience all over again. It’s furious, sometimes intimidating, but it’s profoundly exciting.
The excitement doesn’t just stop at the driving experience. Onlookers also go giddy at the sight and sound of the Aventador, even during the current economic and political times when a £345,000, petrol-guzzling supercar seems out of touch with the real world. However, the outrageous appearance, Lambo doors and overall presence of the big bull is so special that it becomes difficult to hate. Children point at it, grown men go weak at the knees, and white van drivers beckon you to rev it. What’s more, the Ultimae is far rarer than most people realise. Just 350 coupes have been built along with 250 roadsters and they’re all sold, meaning the chances of seeing another are exceptionally slim.
Over the course of my five days with the Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae, I tried my best to rationalise it. I then realised that you can judge the car against what it does objectively well, but that’s missing the point entirely. Technically speaking, it’s not the perfect supercar because there are others which are quicker, handle better and are, dare I utter these words, kinder to the environment. But again, all this is the missing the point. The Aventador doesn’t need rationalising, it doesn’t need to be the best at one particular thing, it just needs to be. For many car enthusiasts, it’s still the childhood dream. It’s the bedroom wall pinup, the ultimate expression of petrol-hedonism that loopy, out of touch car people like us revere. The Aventador isn’t just a supercar, it’s the supercar. It represents the highest of watermarks in Lamborghini’s rich and illustrious history, and I have no doubt that in the years to come, that’s how we’ll remember it.