The Aventador SVJ Roadster is the last of the great, straight-up V12-powered Lamborghinis. After this you will be offered only eco-conscious plug-in hybrids or even—gasp!—electric cars. So enjoy this one while you can. I know I did.
You’ve already seen the SVJ Coupe, a car so fast and powerful it lapped the Nurburgring in a screamin’ 6:44.97, setting the production-car record at the iconic track in 2018. This SVJ Roadster is the same car with two removable roof panels and a retractable rear window—the latter all the better to hear that screamin’ V12 scream.
Is it an anachronism in this era of hybrid and electric supercars, when Rimac, Pininfarina and even Tesla are going to use nothing but batteries to launch their supercars into hyperspeeds? Yes, it is. But who doesn’t love anachronisms? Lamborghinis have been powered by big, heavy V12s since the very beginning, starting with the 1963 350GT. How they got a V12 into the Miura remains one of modern packaging’s great miracles (hint, they turned it sideways). Since the Miura, all subsequent V12s have been longitudinal posterior-mounted, behind the two seats and forward of the rear axle, like this one. For years those V12s were large, heavy things, so much so it felt like all Countaches, Diablos and Murcielagos were just mounting points for big, heavy engines, which they kind of were.
Before we get on the road here, you have to understand there are a few shortcomings to the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster:
Shortcoming No. 1: It costs two-thirds of a million dollars.
Shortcoming No. 2: All 800 are already spoken for.
Shortcoming No. 3: Unless you own your own racetrack, it’s hard to find a place to responsibly deploy it.
In the latter regard it’s a little like owning a bazooka—sure, it’s probably a lot of fun, but the problem is finding someplace to fire it off without getting arrested or accidentally destroying your neighbor’s pickup truck.
Thus, when I had one (an Aventador, not a bazooka) for a glorious day last week the biggest problem I had was finding a stretch of road that not only had some turns in it but wasn’t overpopulated with Class 10 motorhomes. We found such a place, my co-piloto and I, but even then there was the problem of other cars. To circumvent this, again, without being arrested, we waited at those one-direction road-construction sites, where everyone lined up for 10 minutes at a stretch. Timing it properly, after all the other traffic had been gone awhile, meant we had long stretches of wonderfully curving road all to ourselves.
So off we set, clicking the drive mode selector up from strada and sport and over to corsa— thus stiffening the push rod-activated magnetorheological dampers—and yanking back on the paddle shifter to thwap the dry double-plate clutch into the right gear. With the roof panels off and the tiny rear window retracted, that naturally aspirated V12’s roar was impossible to ignore. A tape measure would put the distance from the north end of the variably timed valves in the cylinder head to your own, personal head, at between 1 and 2 feet. So it was loud. Raise that rear glass and the sound dampens nicely, though.
Then the acceleration. Oh, man. Figure curb weight is 3,700 pounds (Lamborghini only lists the useless “dry weight” at 3,472 and power-to-weight using the dry weight formula, which is ridiculous, so I looked up the specific weight of gas, oil and coolant, multiplied by the listed amounts and got a 3,700.3-pound curb weight). With 760 SAE hp under the carbon-fiber decklid, each pony has to push and pull 4.87 pounds, which might be the best power-to-weight ratio in the world. Somebody go look that up. OK, I just did. The Ferrari 812 Superfast weighs 3,845 pounds and makes 789 SAE hp, giving it a 4.87. Let’s call it a tie. Still, it is quick, man.
Back to that acceleration. Oh,man.
But half the appeal of a car like the Aventador SVJ Roadster is its howlin’ presence. Just look at the body! It is cut and cropped for a 40 percent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency over the Aventador SV, thanks largely to passages channeling air through the body and through the wing, right or left as necessary in a turn and over and through the body and wing, depending on whether you’re hurtling along in a more or less straight line or squeegeeing through a corner. The much-touted Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva, or ALA for short, promises all kinds of windborne efficiencies. I believe they were there, working on my behalf, like little pressure-sensitive angels that never get carsick.
I did notice I was making numerous micro-corrections through every fast turn. This might have been a fault of the rear-wheel steering, or it might have just been my fault. Regardless, it kind of got in the way of enjoying the turns as much as I would have liked. That could be the difference between a supercar and a sports car. Or maybe I need a week at Bondurant.
The car did stay in line nicely under heavy braking, of which there was much. My car had carbon-fiber brakes, 400 mm discs with six-piston calipers front and 380 mm with four pistons rear. These never faded but did give off a natural-gas odor, which I’d never sniffed before. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffin’ brakes.
The whole thing was nonetheless a blast, so much so we stayed out on the road until just about sunset, at which point Lamborghini said to have the car back or else. It is a rare and delightful thing to drive something this powerful and this well-sorted. Especially if you’ve driven all the other V12-powered Lambos. Since the Huracan came out so many years ago, Lamborghinis across the board are much sportier.
None of which matters, since you cannot buy this car or any of the 800 Lamborghini is making. At least according to Lamborghini. A spokesperson said, “Unless someone cancels their order.” You might add, “Or unless someone meets with an unfortunate accident.” Either way, you’ll get nothing and like it, as they used to tell us in reform school. It might be just as well, considering, as I said, these things start at $573,966 before you add on the $3,695 destination charge and my car’s $66,220 in options. Sticker price on my test-SVJ was $643,881.
The future of supercars is coming, indeed, but it was real retro blast to drive the last of the past. Now go install an electrical outlet in the garage and wait till 2021. I’ll see ya then.