First Drive: Lamborghini Centenario LP 770-4
Celebrating the 100th birthday of Ferruccio Lamborghini with this 759-hp, 220-mph, $2.4 million Aventador
NARDO, Italy — Glistening in the early morning light is the one and only Lamborghini Centenario demonstration prototype in existence, and we're about to drive it. We open the door, duck under its low flying roofline, and climb into the yellow-over-black cabin. Starting up the fighting bull's V-12 with 6.5 liters of muscle mass, we roll onto Nardo's superfast handling circuit to see what this hellhound on the prowl can do.
A special edition version of the Aventador SV built to celebrate the 100th birthday of founding father Ferruccio Lamborghini, the Lamborghini Centenario LP 770-4 has 759 horsepower at your command. It reportedly tops out at 217 mph, hurtles from 0-to-60 mph in roughly 2.6 seconds (give or take a tick), and is limited to a production run of only 40 units, 20 coupes and 20 roadsters, all of which are already spoken for. After we're done thrashing the prototype, it will be trailered off to its final destination in the Lamborghini factory museum.
The recently renovated Nardo facility, just purchased by Porsche and used by almost all major European manufacturers, consists of a high-speed loop with fast, four-lane banked corners as well as a magical, 4.2-mile infield handling track with a mix of left- and right-handers, blind corners, and one memorable crest where, for a brief moment, only sea and sky fill the frame. We're led by Lambo test driver Mario Fasanetto, following in the wake of his bramble-metallic Aventador SV.
Nardo is exceptional because its main straight is long enough for supercars like the LaFerrari or the Bugatti Chiron to blow past the 200-mph barrier. Carry enough momentum out of the last left-hander before the start/finish line, and the Centenario will reach 90 mph in third gear, 130 mph in fourth, and 170 mph in fifth before it's time to lift and turn in eastward at close to 150 mph. As the nose tucks in, the tail stretches its springs for the blink of an eye—long enough to make the stomach pit pounce. Thankfully, Fasanetto sets the pace and shows us the line. He stays out in the middle of the track for a rather long time then nudges toward an imaginary apex and brakes hard between the 100- and 50-meter signs while shifting down wham-wham-wham into second gear.
We do our best to mimic Fasanetto, marveling, grinning, and licking blood. It's 759 hp versus Fasanetto's 740 hp, but unless you really press on, the SV will pull away as if assisted by some hidden e-boost device. (Yes, his driving skills no doubt play a role.) Talk about slipstream, dirty air, lift, downforce, and stability.
One of the key dynamic features that distinguish the base SV from its Centenario brother is the car's adaptive aerodynamics setup. It sucks in oxygen through its nose cone, small apertures below the headlamps, large lateral scoops, and the dual front splitter. Air then flows from the hood's nostrils over the smooth, raked roof, along its sculpted flanks, and underneath the car to the massive rear diffuser. Its hydraulically adjustable rear wing assumes a near-horizontal position for high-speed runs, but it can tilt to improve downforce by up to 180 percent.
Here at Nardo, aerodynamic stability makes all the difference between grip and slip. Through the ultrafast fear-devours-courage corners, the Centenario often gains a few feet on Fasanetto's SV, a dark blade sketching even darker rubber arcs on the sizzling tarmac.
The Centenario's rear-wheel steering system has a profound effect on the Aventador's abilities; turn-in is much quicker, sharper, and more positive. While that playful creaminess at the limit has been scaled back, you benefit from a more focused and faster cornering attitude. How much faster? The difference in lap times between the Centenario and the SV, which also has rear-wheel steering, is a scant 1.5 seconds, but the base, 690-hp Aventador loses up to 5 seconds because its more pronounced understeer causes the front to heat up more quickly.
Although the 759-hp special edition is no quicker off the mark than the SV, its overall setup is more aggressive. A marginally faster flow through Nardo's esses is the reward for using adaptive aerodynamics, steel chassis mounts rather than rubber ones, and a slightly meaner adaptive damper software. The trade-off is a firmer ride.
Unlike the more modern manettino-equipped Huracan, the Aventador and its most exotic metamorphosis want you to dial in your preferred driving mode—Strada, Sport, or Corsa—by pushing a button in the center stack. Since Strada is less interested in grip and g-force than the other two programs, we start in Sport. And Sport it is: a dash of liftoff oversteer, a hint of full-throttle tail slide, and front- and rear-wheel drive turn on and off to create precise all-wheel drive. The Centenario has a more entertaining rear-bias torque split and a more lenient traction control tuned for a quick flick of opposite lock. Even with plenty of runoff terrain, it takes someone truly brave to fully deactivate DSC.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Corsa is sort of a stealth proposition, totally dedicated to its task. Expect quantifiably faster lap times (the Centenario features an in-dash stopwatch and two onboard cameras), a less heroic but no less rewarding driving style, a more transparent breakaway attitude, and subtly enhanced dynamic efficiency. Upshifts kick butt with more vengeance in Corsa, downshifts from the seven-speed ISR semi-automatic transmission move closer to redline, and throttle response is telepathic. No, there is no torque vectoring to fine-tune the line, no fancy driver assistance systems, no active roll bars-this is a high-end sports car without artificial additives and preservatives.
This dramatically oversexed mauler from Emilia Romagna is a manifesto of excess, which can easily be quantified by a set of numbers. Take the 23.5 seconds it takes to accelerate from 0 to 188 mph, which is a mere 6 seconds slower than the Bugatti Veyron. Or consider the stopping power of the carbon-ceramic discs, which decelerate the roughly 3,900-pound Lambo from 60 mph to zero in less than 100 feet. More numbers? Each of the 20 coupes are listed at 2.2 million euros ($2.4 million at current exchange rates), the 20 roadsters cost 2.4 million euros ($2.6 million) apiece, and the optional full carbon pack is 100,000 euros ($111,000) extra.
The key ingredients of the Centenario LP 770-4 will be carried over to the updated 2018 model year Aventador. According to those in the know, the drag resistance is going to be even lower thanks to more active flaps and rudders, the 740-hp SV engine will likely become the mainstay powerplant, and the brand-new infotainment system pioneered by the Centenario will make it into all future Lambos. The most significant revision is rear-wheel steering, which joins the list of standard features. Working at a maximum angle of 3 degrees, the system switches from counter phase to parallel phase within a 20 to 60 mph window. Around town and through slow corners, the car feels shorter, nimbler, and more maneuverable. At speed, enhanced directional stability is the main goal.
We started driving around Nardo at 6 a.m. and kept going until the track closed midday. That glow in our eyes never went away, and in some daydreams Fasanetto very nearly ended up in second place. The attraction to the Centenario should not be reduced to presence, image, personality, and power. It has an alluring defiance defined by traits like noise, heat, harshness, and space limitation, and its shrill looks, eye-watering full-throttle urge, and exciting escapes to the limit will no doubt give those lucky 40 drivers goose bumps whenever they press down on the gas.
2017 Lamborghini Centenario LP 770-4 Specifications
|On Sale:||Now (sold-out)|
|Price:||$2.4 million-$2.6 million|
|Engine:||6.5L DOHC 48-valve V-12/759 hp @ 8,500 rpm, 507 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm|
|Transmission:||7-speed auto-clutch manual|
|Layout:||2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, AWD coupe/roadster|
|EPA Mileage:||11/18 mpg (city/hwy) (est)|
|L x W x H:||193.9 x 81.2 x 45.0 in|
|Weight:||3,500 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH:||2.6 sec (est)|
|Top Speed:||217 mph|