2018 is off to a good start for Lamborghini. Along with taking wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance races, the company is on track for another record sales year. With the Urus sport-utility due to launch later this year, the Italian automaker looks to have a bright future ahead. "The momentum is very good," says Alessandro Farmeschi, Chief Operating Officer for Automobili Lamborghini America. "The brand is solid—we have a clear path for the future." And what better way is there to celebrate than with the debut of a 740 horsepower convertible?
"The car is a pure expression of Lamborghini's DNA," Farmeschi explains. "From the design, to the V12 engine, to the concept itself as a super sports car with all the technology on board, like the monocoque chassis, all-wheel drive system, and pushrod suspension."
Supplanting the standard Aventador Roadster in the company's lineup, the Aventador S Roadster brings a number of key enhancements to Lamborghini's halo car. We spent a day filling the hills of Malibu and the surrounding area with the sound of twelve cylinder music to get a sense of what those tweaks translate to out on the road.
Hey—it's hard work, but someone's got to do it.
LAMBORGHINI CHOPS THE TOP
"When we speak of the S models, we tend to discuss its four masterpieces," says Farmeschi. "These define the improvements of Aventador S roadster." Lamborghini essentially boils this down to steering, drivetrain, suspension, and technology enhancements, but in reality the list of changes versus the standard Aventador are longer than that.
Along with its infinite headroom, the Aventador S Roadster benefits from the same improvements bestowed upon the Aventador S Coupe that debuted late last year, the majority of which focused on making the model a more nimble and capable performance machine while also smoothing out some of its rough edges.
As with the Aventador S Coupe, the company's efforts to improve the Roadster's ability to shape the air are evident at a glance, as the revised front end not only increases airflow to the engine's radiators and enhances the car's aerodynamics, but bolsters its visual presence as well. Working in conjunction with a revised rear splitter, the company says the Aventador S Roadster is now 50% more aero efficient while providing 130 percent more downforce, the latter of which can be partially attributed to a new active rear wing setup that can be set to three different positions based on speed and the drive mode selected.
Motivation from Lamborghini's naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 now stands at 730 horsepower, up 39hp from the original Aventador by way of reworked variable intake and valve timing. Those tweaks also help to bump the redline up to 8500 rpm and deliver a sprint to 62 mph from rest in three seconds flat—just a tenth behind the coupe—on the way to a top speed of 217 miles per hour.
Along with the Strada, Sport, and Corsa driving modes offered on its predecessor, the Aventador S Roadster now offers a fourth option: EGO mode. Here drivers can customize the parameters for steering response, drivetrain behavior, and suspension stiffness to create a "best of" preset to their liking rather than having to potentially compromise one system's settings in order to gain the benefits of another's by using Lamborghini's pre-defined modes.
The Roadster also benefits from the handling revisions introduced with the Aventador S coupe, which includes revised suspension geometry, new rear springs, and a magnetorheological adaptive damping system that works in conjunction with a new four wheel steering system.
Originally debuting on the limited production Centenario, this new steering system functions similarly to four-wheel steering setups found on cars like the Porsche 911 GT3 and the Mercedes-AMG GT R, turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front wheels at low speeds to virtually reduce the car's wheelbase by 700mm on the Aventador S. At higher speeds all four wheels turn in the same direction, effectively extending the car's wheelbase by 500mm to enhance stability.
ON THE ROAD
Looking for some extra attention? Set out for a drive with a squadron of Skittles-colored Aventador S Roadsters. Even the jaded populace of Santa Monica couldn't resist ogling these extroverted machines, due in no small part to that banshee wail of their twelve cylinder hearts, power plants which feels every bit as urgent as Lamborghini's official performance figures suggest. As Farmeschi mentioned during the presentation, this engine and the Aventador platform itself represent the purest expression of modern Lamborghini. But it's a sword that cuts both ways.
Unlike the Huracan, which shares its underpinnings with the Audi R8, the Aventador platform isn't used with any other vehicles aside from one-offs like the Veneno and Centenario. As a result, the Aventador S Roadster looks and sounds like nothing else on the road, and that does a lot for the car's road presence and the overall sense of theater behind the wheel. Driving an Aventador S feels special.
But the drawback is that certain concessions are required to deliver that experience. That's most evident from the Aventador's single-clutch, seven-speed transmission, a gearbox that feels two generations behind the curve. Lamborghini says that the transmission choice was focused on packaging and minimizing weight while delivering fast shift times, the latter of which can happen as quickly as 50 milliseconds in Corsa driving mode.
At wide mode throttle in that racy drive train setting, the transmission delivers up-shifts with immediacy and a brutal recoil that's wholly unlike the seamless refinement found in the latest dual-clutch gearboxes you'll find elsewhere. But here the effect only adds to the sense of occasion—pulling that shift paddle feels like firing off a round on a bolt-action rifle, and each forceful shove into the seat is accompanied by uncontrolled giggling from the car's occupants. You can't help but smile wide when driving this car hard.
Lamborghini tells us they've refined the transmission's character during low-speed daily driving, but it's here where the gearbox often feels woefully out of sorts when left in automatic mode, taking an exorbitant amount of time to transition between gears. There's also its odd habit of shifting into Neutral without warning during extended waits at stop lights, which can make for some curious looks from onlookers when you stab the throttle after the light turns green and the car remains stationary. Ultimately we found the gearbox was at its best around town when shifted manually in Sport mode, which essentially splits the difference between the lethargy of Strada and the savagery of Corsa.
But once we got the Aventador S Roadster out onto the swaths of twisting tarmac of the Malibu Hills, none of that mattered. Without the roof the V12's scream could be heard in full effect, along with all of the exhaust system's off-throttle crackles and pops.
Despite weight more than two tons, the Aventador S Roadster is indeed a brutally fast machine, effortlessly rocketing into unmentionable speeds in the blink of an eye. With the adjustable suspension and four-wheel steering, it's now sure-footed too, taking on the low-speed, technical sections of Mulholland like a much smaller car and catapulting out of the corners with ferocious immediacy.
Still, despite its hair-raising speed and head-turning looks, it's important to remember that the Aventador S is more about the supercar experience than it is about lap times—those looking for the latter might find a better fit in the Huracan Performante.
But in the case of the former, the Aventador S Roadster demands very little compromise versus the fixed roof model while adding a tangible amount of drama and outright fun to the proceedings. If the Aventador is the purest expression of modern Lamborghini, the Aventador S Roadster is, in turn, the purest expression of the Aventador.