First Drive: 2013 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 Roadster
Let's play a game of pretend. Let's pretend that the dude who's able to drop a half-mill-something for the top-of-the-range, screw-sanity Lamborghini Aventador Roadster actually cares about how it drives -- about throttle tip-in, the ministrations of the differential, how strenuously the back end wiggles under brain-pan-smushing decelerations. Let's pretend that he won't drop $445,300 (and maybe $70K in options) and head straight for South Beach to see how many halter-top-wearing hotties he can cram into the leather passenger seat before Miami's vice squad takes notice.
Lamborghini launched the topless version of the Aventador in -- claro que si! -- South Beach. Italians have never been afraid to embrace cliche, especially when it's working for them, and under the vast umbrella of the VW Group, Lamborghini is doing quite well indeed, thank you. The headed-for-pasture Gallardo was its bestselling model ever, and more than 1200 examples of the Aventador can be found bedazzling locals from Boston to Beijing.
Fortunately, before crabbing along in auto mode on bumper-to-booty-packed Ocean Drive, we opened up the Aventador's 691 hp at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And? Well, in the grand tradition of monster Lambo flagships, the Roadster is kind of a hot mess. And in the continuing tradition of said monster flagships, we're kind of all right with that.
The Roadster sees a few changed mechanics from the original coupe, including cylinder deactivation and an auto stop/start system on the 6.5-liter V-12. (Oh, the gas savings! Eh...) Those changes are being ported over to the coupe as well, so the internals are the exact same.
The top of the carbon-fiber monocoque tub was guillotined away, and extra reinforcements were added to the sills to compensate for the loss of stiffness. The result is an additional 110 pounds.
Unfortunately, the springs and dampers have also been tweaked to give a softer ride on both models -- a result, Lambo execs say, of customer input. (Read: complaints from butt-sore spouses.) This makes the ride more palatable on questionable asphalt and/or Ocean Drive, but on sweepers with heavy cornering loads, the suspension goes squishy, even when riding on optional Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. The Roadster's wheels, by the way, are 20 inches up front, 21 rear, so as to look even more awesome around South Beach.
As expected, the car is steroidal and maniacal, excellent qualities when your hands are totally open on the steering wheel, your gas foot sucked to the floor and the right paddle triggered at every redline. Top down, it's your own personal wind tunnel, flipping eyelids inside out. Sixty-two mph comes in three seconds, top speed is 217 mph, even with the top off.
Nuance just ain't its thing. That massive mid-mounted engine has enough torque to topple oak trees (509 lb-ft at 5500 rpm), but using it in any measured way is a curious business. In Sport and Corsa modes, the gas pedal has two essential characters: off and blunderbuss blast. There is very little in between. It's impervious to moderation. Try easing into the throttle, and you'll be met with a short, lumpy pause -- hello? -- before a concussive slap of power causes the entire frame to unsettle. Lamborghini execs aren't unaware, and the software may see future tweaks. Add this to the tendency for this big, wide car to understeer, and big, slow corners become a lesson in Taoist patience. Or you can get a little sneaky.
Sport mode oddly allows more slip than Corsa, channeling 90 percent of torque bias to the rear wheels, versus only 80 in track mode. We found that the fastest way to conquer slow corners was to stick to Sport, get all braking done extra early -- and the brakes are phenomenal -- then come completely off both pedals as you round a big turn. At the apex, goose the gas to induce that sledgehammer torque, setting up just enough slip to get the nose pointed the right way early. Then, slam it.
Along the way, there will be lurches, bucking, and very wonderful exclamations from the twelve-cylinder perched behind your noggin. The entire operation isn't always pretty, but it is guaranteed hoot-worthy. After all, if you were looking for al fresco delights married to ideal dynamics, you'd be rereading the review of the McLaren MP4-12C Spider, which is like a too-perfect dinner guest compared with the Lambo's lampshade-on-the-head buffoonery.
Besides, the Aventador's primary purpose, the place where it lives, is to entertain. And that it does. Start with the design. It is unquestionably an Aventador -- wider than a barn, shorter than a Hobbit, edges sharp enough to give paper cuts. Scissors doors, but of course. The reality-defying, Barbie-esque proportions are compounded when the roof is off. The car is simply bad-ass in real life.
The rear engine hood has been reworked. Stacked glass plates cover the engine, with a spine running down the center. It is a show stopper. But retaining the peek-a-boo view to the engine meant that the top could not be an automatic. Instead of a folding hard top or canvas covering, we get two carbon-fiber pieces (each weighing 13.2 pounds) which snap into place. In other words, it is human operated, just like a Camaro T-top of yore.
Snapping the roof on or off isn't an easy-peasy process. But it's child's play compared with storing the two pieces in the front trunk, where they're ensconced in an overly elaborate shelving system. Think of a real-life game of Tetris, with you blind folded and a sizable crowd gathered to watch.
We see a lot of future divorces beginning here. "You bought a half million dollar car and you can't even figure out how to get the roof back on?"
No worries there. The newly single owner can simply return to South Beach in his shiny Aventador and begin the wooing process anew. The Roadster is made for that.
2013 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Roadster
Price: $445,300/$482,820 (base/as tested)
Engine: 6.5-liter DOHC 48-valve V-12
Horsepower: 691 hp @ 8250 rp
Torque: 509 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed auto-clutch manual
L x W x H:188.2 x 79.9 x 44.7 in
Headroom: 36.6 in (top up)
Legroom: 36.8 in
Curb Weight: 4180 lb (est. )
Fuel economy: 11/18 mpg (city/highway, est.)