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The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster is One Wild Open-Top Child

Brutal and intoxicating are feelings only a select few cars in the world like the SVJ Roadster can deliver.

Mike FloydWriter, PhotographerThe ManufacturerPhotographer

We've both been waiting for this, the Rosso Efesto-red Italian bull and I. It's been snorting and bucking, desperate to unleash its power and fury. I'm just as desperate to oblige. A delightfully desolate stretch of road opens up, and as I pound my foot down on the accelerator, its 12 cylinders roar from the rear of the car and bore into my cranium as the crisp mountain air whirls into the cabin. It's immediate, brutal, and just plain intoxicating—a feeling only a select few cars in the world like the 2020 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster are capable of delivering.

There are cars you can drive like a maniac and then dial it back and happily cruise along when you want, and then there are cars like the Aventador, especially the SVJ, which roughly translates to Super Veloce (aka Super Fast) Jota (aka the super crazy awesome track version). The Aventador SVJ absolutely hates being driven slowly. In its baseline Strada (Street) mode, the SVJ Roadster will unhappily buck with each shift of its semi-automated, single clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. It's not suave in operation, but when you're bolted to a Lamborghini derived, 6.5-liter V-12 with 759 horsepower and 531 lb-ft of torque (no turbos or superchargers here), you need a transmission that's able to send all that power to all four wheels without detonating in the process.

Pretty soon though, you'll find yourself switching to using the shift paddles in a more aggressive mode like Corsa, better to keep the beast on the boil. Deploying a more aggressive mode like Corsa (or Sport, or the adjustable Ego) will also engage the Rice Krispie exhaust on steroids: all snap, crackle, pop on the overrun. Just in case the SVJ's bodacious rear wing and cornucopia of angular splitters, diffusers, and intakes aren't enough to announce yourself to everyone as you rip-snort up to the stoplight.

Then there's the roadster part of the SVJ Roadster, which essentially consists of two carbon fiber T-top-esque pieces (minus the T brace in the middle) that you pop out without much fuss using the latches behind the seats. It's an analog approach similar to that of the Corvette. They stow easily in the frunk, which itself could stow a couple small duffel bags if said tops aren't in there already. Lamborghini says the SVJ Roadster is about 110 pounds heavier than the hardtop model thanks to some additional bracing and structural work deemed necessary to help offset its slight loss in rigidity. We can think of no earthly reason why anyone would ever have the top pieces on, especially when that wicked V-12 rises to its 8,500 rpm peak power crescendo (redline comes on 200 rpm later). OK, maybe you'd affix them if you were going to take it to a race track or stuck in a downpour.

If you are one of the lucky 800 (that's all they're going to make, starting at a cool $577,661 a pop) who end up buying an Aventador SVJ Roadster and you do decide to unleash it on your favorite circuit, be advised: You're getting a wickedly capable machine with all the latest in Lambo's go-as-fast-as-you-can hardware. Among the more impressive track-improving elements are its four-wheel steering system and the 2.0 version of Lamborghini's ALA active aerodynamics management. ALA helps optimize downforce and drag depending on the situation by using a motor system that adjusts airflaps at the front of the car (the splitter also adjusts automatically) and the base of the rear wing, effectively changing airflow on the 500-millisecond fly as the situation warrants. Lamborghini says it can even direct more air to one side or the other of the Aventador SVJ under hard cornering. There's a cool graphic in the instrument cluster that shows when the system is active. In all, Lambo engineers claim the SVJ is capable of 40 percent more downforce than the SV models.

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Other ride and handling updates include recalibrations to the car's magneto rheological suspension and its dynamic steering system, which augments the hydraulically assisted setup. Lambo engineers also claim the SVJ's anti-roll bar stiffness is 50 higher than that of the Aventador SV Roadster. Its carbon ceramic brakes are big and strong (as they should be) at 15.75 inches at the front with six-piston calipers clamping down on the rotors (they're four-piston and roughly 15 inches in back). Wheels are 20s up front and 21s at the rear, and are shod with massive Pirelli P Zero Corsas (255/30 ZR20, front, 355/25 ZR21 rear). Track-attacking Corsa R tires are available as an option.

But absolutely none of that matters when I pop up the scissor door and hop out of the car along the Redondo Beach strand next to the Pacific Ocean in L.A. 's South Bay to take in the day and snap off some photos. The moths immediately circle the Rosso red flame and dance around it, asking the usual questions: How fast? Around 2.8 seconds to 60 mph. How much? Around $577,000 and some change. Can I take a picture with it? Yes!

There are precious few cars in the world that consistently attract the attention an Aventador does, especially so the SVJ, with adornments and a honking rear wing that certainly add to its celebrity appeal. On a more philosophical level, the Aventador is the last link to Lambo's storied wild child cars: Countach, Diablo, Murciélago—all V-12 powered monsters that terrorized roads and tracks and served as dream machines for generations of enthusiasts. None of them are perfect. The Aventador's interior, for example, despite a $14,700 Ad Personam treatment that spices it up with top-shelf materials and SVJ touches, has become dated after the better part of a decade, although the instrument panel display is still pretty darn cool. The car also has a tendency to shift into neutral when you're stopped at a light, a behavior that caught me unaware more than once. And the aforementioned transmission can be a bear when you're rolling along the strand in Strada.

So yeah, don't expect perfection. Don't expect a car that drives you when you want it to. What you can expect is to feel unbridled exhilaration when you have the top off and mash the throttle and you're hurtled forward by that magical 12 behind you.

Eventually Lamborghini will replace the Aventador—and likely soon, as the SVJ model is usually about as far as Lamborghini will go with its top model, short of one-off creations. While the V-12 will most likely live on, it's almost certain it will come with some form of electrification to pair with it, no doubt changing its character forever. But it's the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster's analog nature that makes it so special, and why the 800 of them will live on in automotive lore long after the last one is sold.

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2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $577,661
ENGINE 6.5L DOHC 48-valve V-12; 759 hp @ 8,500 rpm, 531 lb-ft @ 6,750 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed single-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, AWD roadster
EPA MILEAGE 9/15 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
L x W x H 194.6 x 82.6 x 44.7 in
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
WEIGHT 3,725 lb
0-60 MPH 2.8 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 217 mph