New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2018 Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster

The very best of Old Lamborghini

Split personalities are, mostly, not at all like they’re portrayed in the movies. In reality, the condition is called Dissociative Identity Disorder, and it’s a serious affliction, not a fun premise. At Lamborghini, the reality is somewhere between the two. On the one hand, there’s the razor-sharp performance and impressive bandwidth of the Huracan, from the rear-drive LP 580-2 to the ‘Ring-mastering Performante. On the other hand, there’s the Aventador. Both are completely Lamborghini, but neither will ever be mistaken for the other.

If the Huracan is the distilled essence of New Lamborghini, the Aventador is the flaming spirit of Old Lamborghini, and Old Lamborghini has always been a bit wacky. That’s not a criticism—on the contrary, the completely out-there style of the Countach launched beyond even the eroticism of the Miura to cement the brand from Sant’Agata as a global icon. The progeny of the Countach—Diablo, Murcielago, Aventador—carry on that legacy. The latest model to extend the line is the Aventador S, which is now available in Roadster form.

Updates include the full S treatment given to the coupe in 2017: a power upgrade for the 6.5-liter V-12 engine increases output from the first Aventador Roadster’s 691 hp to the S’s 730-hp rating, four-wheel steering is added, as is a new dynamic steering ratio system, and a revised suspension tune. The result? A car that’s still totally wacky and is now a bit better to drive.

That’s still not to say it’s good, in the supercar sense of the word, especially in today’s incredibly competitive context. When it first debuted, the Aventador’s handling was most closely modeled after a full-size pickup minus the body roll, or so it seemed to me. The Aventador S improves substantially on that starting point; it now drives somewhat like a midsize crossover, minus the comfort.

The problem is, basically, everything. The Aventador’s carbon-fiber chassis has never been the lightest thing around, and it was tuned from the outset for manageable but infinite understeer. That’s not changed with the S’s improvements, but it’s lessened somewhat. The new four-wheel steering does make the very wide Aventador considerably nimbler, and able to make tighter-radius turns. But driven harder at speeds where the four-wheel steering is turning out of phase (in the direction opposite the front wheels), there’s a perceptible delay between steering input through the wheel and the rear end responding to that input, despite Lamborghini’s claimed 5 ms response time. The result is that a few hundred milliseconds after you turn in for a corner, the rear end turns more, making you dial out a bit of steering angle, then dial it back in once the rear wheels respond to the secondary input. Then rinse and repeat until the corner is finally over and the Aventador S Roadster can do what it really wants to: go straight, really fast. The 3.0-second 0-60 mph time and 217 mph top speed are not jokes.

Worse still, there’s the dynamic steering ratio, which alters the amount of steering wheel input required to achieve a given steering angle at the tires, based on vehicle speed. If you should chance upon a corner that has a long, arcing entry that just begs for a bit of trailing brake, a constant amount of steering wheel angle results in a constantly varying amount of steering angle at the road surface. Combine this behavior with the four-wheel steering’s lag time, and you have a reason to use your favorite map app to find the straightest route possible to your destination.

The one significant improvement to the Aventador S Roadster’s handling and finesse comes from the transmission. Tuned so brutally in its first iteration, the Independent Shifting Rod single-clutch automated manual is now just a touch more refined, allowing hard upshifts during acceleration without the extreme jarring to the driveline and jostling of the passengers—which, in turn, allows for smoother driving nearer the limits.

But handling was never the point of the batshit end of the Lamborghini spectrum. Furious power, sound like Thor’s hammer striking the Liberty Bell, and an image that would make an anime hero blush were the metrics, and the Aventador has scored 150% in each of those categories since day one. The S Roadster moves the needle to 200 percent.

A slight exterior redesign gives the S Roadster a sharper visual edge, and the extra power puts a deeper bite to the unrivaled bark of the big V-12, but a great deal of this Italian super-stallion’s appeal is timeless; it’s theater in motion. The Roadster version of the Aventador keeps all the over-the-top design, but pops the top, letting the Master of the Universe behind the wheel see and be seen—a key mission for any Lamborghini halo car.

Pull up to any valet at any hotel, restaurant, or country club anywhere in the world, and the Aventador S Roadster becomes the instant star—even if the display lot is already full of Bugattis, Ferraris, and McLarens. Give it a quick rev as you depart, and the whole building will know you’ve left. Even in jaded, gridlocked, Tesla-worshiping Southern California, the sheer visual and auditory presence of the Aventador S Roadster is a force potent enough to inspire (friendly!) honks, waves, thumbs-up, and, wild gesticulation amounting to sign language for “Rev it hard!”

Cruising Highway 1, the Pacific on your flank, you’re happy to oblige, blipping the throttle like a kid in a supermarket race-car ride, grinning madly, disappearing into the sunset. You don’t need record Nordschleife lap times just like you don’t need a poster on your wall. You are the poster on the wall brought to life.

2018 Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $460,247 (base)
ENGINE 6.5L DOHC 48-valve V-12/730 hp @ 8,400 rpm, 509 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed single-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, AWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE 10/16 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
L x W x H 188.8 x 79.9 x 44.7 in
WHEELBASE 106.2 in
WEIGHT 3,785 lb (est)
0-60 MPH 3.0 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 217 mph

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