First Drive Review: 2013 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Roadster

 

Snap is in the breathtaking 2013 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Roadster. He’s a unique bird, I tell ya. A cross between an automotive journalist and The Stig, but with less hair, supposedly.

Slice the roof off the biggest, meanest Lambo and, depending on the pollution levels where you live, it can be a breath of fresh air. Loud, but fresh.

You can’t do your first drive of a new Lamborghini model in the winter cold. I’ve driven every recent Lamborghini in the snow and over ice-covered lakes, sure, but never at the first go. Clean, warm tarmac is called for, and preferably track time if only to hear the massive exhaust bore howl north of 7,000 rpm.

In April 2011, Lamborghini had me down to the Vallelunga track outside of Rome for my first taste of the Aventador LP700-4 and the monster stole my heart away. Great track, great weather, and a great supersports car. 691 horsepower, 509 pound-feet of torque, a massively stiffer composite chassis structure with lower center of gravity, and 2.9-second acceleration to 60 mph do not lie.

Today, it’s the Aventador Roadster’s turn in my grubby hands and Lamborghini has hauled me down to sunny Miami Beach, Florida, because they heard I look good in a thong. Weather was perfect for chucking the two carbon fiber roof panels in the front luggage pit and parading the slow Miami area surface roads. Then going tits to the wind out at Homestead Speedway.

I watched other reporters’ videos shot and posted online from the previous waves. They all look like complete dorks pulled from their cubicles. Then they putter around strutting shit they can’t ever afford in conga lines of fifteen Aventador Roadsters. Boring, boring, boring. Oh, yeah, right, this is Florida, perhaps the single most inherently dull place in the civilized world and just chock full of the walking dead. They love this stuff. (I’ll cut Miami some slack as it is a very pleasant island unto itself.)

So, I took one for the team and paraded past tons of mouth-breathing people with sun-bleached brains. Nothing to do about it: there are no curves on Florida’s public roads and the police cars in circulation nearly outnumber registered private vehicles.

So, thank goodness for the 3.5-mile circuit laid out using the infield part of the banked Nascar oval at Homestead. Seriously, apart from needing some surface street art shot with a photog, all I wanted to do was lap this track with the seven-speed Independent Shifting Rod transmission calibrated in Corsa mode of the drive select system.

This is one of the few key compromises of the Aventador: the ISR transmission truly comes into its own only at topmost revs near the 8,250 redline out on the track in Corsa with its 50 millisecond Formula 1 impressive shifts. The four-rod system is one hot box, but at lower revs around town with the six cylinders of one bank disengaged via the fuel-saving cylinder on demand technology, it suffers severe yips and, if you suddenly punch the throttle to impress passersby with your exhaust note capabilities, a frustrating almost turbo-lag effect reminiscent of turbocharged cars from decades past. The “L539” dry-sump 6.5-liter V12 is naturally aspirated, yes, I know, thanks, but there is something amiss in the wedding between this latest motor and this latest tranny. There were even recent software upgrades particularly to help ISR’s behavior in the most timid Strada mode. I guess they need to work on it some more.

But on the track at full revs and foot to the floor between shifts, the ISR is beautifully hardcore and tough, just as a racing-inspired supersports unit should be. The current skeletal shifting paddles fixed to the column are not my favorite units, but they are certainly better than all previous scraggly hard-to-locate levers on Lamborghinis which were also way too close to the windshield wiper lever and other column switchgear. I vote to remove the cluttered switchgear from the steering area entirely and adopt the wonderful carbon fiber long paddles from the Maserati GranTurismo S or Ferrari FF. Only other solution would be to drop shift paddles and return to manual shifters and clutch pedals. i.e. Not gonna’ happen, child.

So, yes, the ISR and the V12 do wonders while at full tilt, the four exhaust tips that are bundled in back into the one 15.8-inch wide mega-tip singing as hard as they can. To my ears actually it is not all singing as well as it should either. It makes good sound, but that sound seems trapped between octaves. Open the rear electronically operated little window and, especially with the two carbon fiber roof panels in place as we were required to have for smart safety reasons at Homestead, the raspy baritone-tenor racket is really good stuff. It reminds me of a purposeful hard-working sound as on a Porsche versus the all-show thunder of any Aston Martin or Maserati. So, how does Ferrari rig it to sound so damned fine and screamy? The Lambo needs more holler as it carries that persona well.

The front and rear inboard pushrod suspension using Ohlins competition dampers is not adaptive yet it does well for itself even over those American weather strips. But, again, you really feel what this setup is designed to do while you’re at the smooth and highly dynamic track. Between the very low center of gravity on any Aventador, the wide footprint, and the high stiffness from the carbon-fiber tub and composite or aluminum panels all around, the side-to-side feel of the big Lambo in transitions is tremendously confidence inspiring. The overall added weight for the roadster configuration is only 110 pounds and that weight is located down low in the rockers, the central tunnel, and the bases of the front and rear cabin pillars. All rear surface panels are a bit thicker and the pop-up roll-over protection needed to be added as well. I noticed only a miniscule less rigidity versus the fixed top Aventador and at these dimensions, and with this aggressive powertrain, that’s pretty impressive.

On the track, not only did I benefit greatly from the newly created forged Dione alloys – now 20-inch front and 21-inch rear – but these were wrapped in sticky Pirelli PZero Corsa tires – 255/30 ZR20 92Y front and 355/25 ZR21 107Y rear. They lasted the entire day under the abuse of several pilots, good and not so good in their on-track driving abilities. I could tell the damned car with these tires and in these perfect conditions could do so much more and I wanted that. After all, I was wearing my red Puma driving slippers given to me on some Ferrari launch a few years back. I needed to live up to the utter geek factor of these shoes.

Speaking my Italianese with my hosts, I weaseled a special session of several hardcore laps following Lamborghini GT3 racer and test pilot Giorgio Sanna. We seriously went at it and when we had passed out of sight of the paddock and into the tight curves out back, every lap was like the final lap of an endurance race when things are still neck and neck after twelve hours. The Pirelli Corsa tires were reaching their wear limits and our fuel tanks were near empty. Christ, was this emotional stuff for a press launch. It was terrific watching both cars slide slightly laterally through every curve, the rear-biased four-wheel-drive haldex system functioning well beyond belief. The automated rear wing is big but more finely calibrated than other large wings that act more as air brakes. It was fine tuning its angle throughout the nose-to-tail hot laps. The standard ventilated carbon ceramic brake discs (15.5-inch diameter front with six-piston calipers) provided solid bite late into curves and manifested no fade all day long.

Something good that comes of an overly sensitive gearbox like the ISR is that it forces you to get a lot better at staying on throttle through curves and not simply going off-throttle and then hammering back on. The gearbox requires a certain aggressive smoothness, if you will, which is an excellent lesson to learn for any race lover.

Would I take the $445,000 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Roadster over the less expensive coupe? No, I would not. To my eyes, the design changes to the Roadster are too dolled-up and border on overwrought, even tacky a little. Whereas the head to toe hexagonal theme looks well-tempered on the stunning fixed roof Aventador, there is too much of it here on the roadster version. Would I choose this car over my beloved Ferrari FF fetish? Hmmm. Honestly, I cannot say. I would need to thoroughly hash it out on long side-by-side testing, both on ice and snow, as well as at the track. Anything between those extremes is just cruising and easy for any car.

The other consequence of the Aventador Roadster being used as a roadster with the easy removal and storage of the two carbon fiber roof panels, is that these panels completely take up what little stowage room exists aboard in the front cubby hole. In the passenger cabin there is no stowage capability whatsoever even for a hand purse. But with no cargo room left up front, how can you even conceive of going anywhere but for a one hour drive in the nearby hills? A long weekend with the SigOth beside you? Better hope that person doesn’t mind having all belongings aboard stuffed into the their foot well.

Practical bits laid aside for a second, however, the Aventador Roadster is a distinctly hair-raising experience, and fabulously Lambo. I mean, the thing still can rocket to 60 mph from a stop in an estimated 2.9 seconds, and the real number will certainly be more like 2.6 seconds using the Thrust function without a doubt. Top speed remains 217 mph. I can only imagine attempting this with the roof missing; your glistening brain would be exposed to the elements in short order.

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[Photos: Billy “Snap” MacGillicuty/Wolfango Spaccarelli/Lamborghini]

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