• Pinterest

We’ve never complained that the Lamborghini Aventador is too slow. It produces 690 hp and hits 62 mph in 2.9 seconds. Not bad. The new Aventador S, at 730 hp, is more powerful and, Lamborghini says, no heavier, but there are also no stated improvements to acceleration times — even the 217-mph top end is static. But that’s not what you take away from driving the Aventador S. Instead, it’s the newfound agility that puts a gulf between the two: A new rear-wheel-steering system is key here.

Rear-wheel steering has been around for decades — 1980s Honda Preludes and R32 Skyline GT-Rs ran it — but it’s back in vogue, notably with the Porsche 911 and the Ferrari F12tdf. Similar in concept to those cars, the Aventador S’ version turns the rear wheels opposite the fronts up to 3 degrees below 81 mph, virtually shortening the wheelbase and adding agility. Above 81 mph, the wheels turn up to 1.5 degrees in the same direction to effectively elongate the wheelbase, increasing stability. Lambo claims lower-speed steering inputs are reduced 30 percent with a variable-rate steering system.

To underline the point, Lamborghini let us drive an Aventador back to back with the new S on a slalom at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain. The original Aventador never did fulfill its dynamic potential—it feels dim-witted and cumbersome, veering from left to right through the cones. In comparison, the S jinks and shimmies, feeling lighter and more energetic, and you sense the tires on tiptoes, hungry to change direction. You’re also more aware of the weight of that mid-mounted V12 shifting around behind you.

Here's the difference between your base Aventador and SV

Of course, the Aventador fundamentals remain. You can see the carbon-fiber monocoque when you swing up the extravagant doors; there’s still a riotous, naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 behind your head; and there’s carbon-ceramic brakes and exotic push-rod suspension at each corner. The bat-costume body and fighter-jet cockpit looks unchanged at a glance, though exterior modifications evoke poisonous fangs, add 130 percent more front downforce and increase cooling in line with the extra power. A new TFT display morphs to match the driving mode but always looks like you’re playing a retro arcade game. In a good way.

Crucially, though, adding rear-wheel steering necessitated completely redesigning the chassis. There’s new hardware to account for the turning rear wheels, the springs are 20 percent stiffer and the magnetorheological dampers have been recalibrated. The Pirelli P Zeros are new, and the AWD system has been reprogrammed to shift more torque rearward. A new brain — Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Attiva — makes sense of it all. It’s why those monster 355/25ZR-21 rears get up to 90 percent of the torque in sport mode. There are also strada (street) and corsa (race) modes, while the new ego mode allows you to mix and match the other settings.

I choose sport to chase Lamborghini test driver Mario Fasanetto onto the track. The acceleration is mind-bendingly rapid. The V12 is now just 10 hp down on the 740-hp SV halo model Fasanetto is driving, thanks to a variable-valve system updated for extra overlap and a new airbox design. The two engines’ targets differ slightly, however, with more torque the goal for the S. So while both models produce 507 lb-ft at 5,500 rpm, the effective size of the S’ new airbox is manipulated by four driveby-wire throttles — more throttles for maximum air and performance, fewer for extra low-down torque.

We’re not using torque right now. The V12 yelps, yowls and crackles. It doesn’t yield full power until 100 rpm off the 8,500-rpm rev limit. An automated manual transmission, now said to offer smoother low-speed shifts, still selects the gears, but it remains light years behind the Ferrari F12’s more refined dual-clutch. At high rpm, though, the shifts engage like clicked fingers, a physical urgency stopping just short of brutishness.

Trying to keep pace with Fasanetto, we notice the same lightning turn-in from the slalom, but also how the AWD claws unbelievable traction from the surface and only understeers when we’re too early on the throttle. This car doesn’t tolerate fools, be warned, as there’s still a lot of movement to manage—go in too deep on the excellent brakes and the heavyweight V12 starts to swing the back end round like a mallet tossed handle first; the sharper steering and turning rears probably exacerbate the trait. Even off-throttle in sport mode through a tighter turn, you might need to add steering correction.

That just adds to a really unique supercar’s intensity —  the Lambo has no comparable rivals. When we pull into the pits to a thumbs-up from Fasanetto, it’s hard to imagine a similar experience with anything else.

The SV is still more white-hot crazy, but the Aventador is now the car we always thought it should be—old school and as deeply physical as ever, now with added finesse thanks to that S.

This article first appeared in the March 30 issue of Autoweek magazine. Get your subscription here.

By Ben Barry

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $421,350

Drivetrain: 6.5-liter V12, AWD, 7-speed automated manual

Output: 730 hp, 507 lb-ft torque

Curb Weight: 3,472 lb

0-60 MPH: 2.9 sec

Pros: No longer just a brute, it’s a balanced handler now too

Cons: Getting pretty close to half a million bucks