Review: Lamborghini Aventador Roadster

Two things happened within hours of my getting behind the wheel of Lamborghini’s exceedingly angry and absurdly powerful Aventador Roadster.

First, 70 people (yes, I counted) gathered around, snapping pictures, shooting video and invariably asking “How much?” and “How fast?” This made it quite difficult to get out of the city, but after an hour, I finally hit the road–only to have a cop stop me for speeding. In Manhattan. As if.

Such is your fate when driving anything from Lamborghini, which has for 50 years built excessive exotica young men dream about but only rich men buy. The company seems to exist merely to push the bounds of design, speed, cost, and taste. The Aventador Roadster does all those things, gloriously.

The first thing anyone asks about a Lamborghini is how much and how fast, so let’s get that out of the way. The topless version of Lambo’s top-of-the-line model will set you back $441,600 (my tester eclipsed $480K) and propel you to 217 mph if you have the space and the courage. It puts down 700 horsepower and does zero to 60 in a mind-bending 3.0 seconds.

The roadster is, like the coupe, an angry, angry car. It’s all angles and creases, inspired by the F-22 and F-35 jets. The “roadster” nomenclature is odd, given that every other drop-top from Santa’Agata is called a spyder. But then, this isn’t a convertible so much as a Targa. I might even call it a T-top. The two-piece top, made entirely of carbon fiber because it could be, weighs just 13 pounds and comes on and off in a snap.

The top may be the most pedestrian thing about this car. Italian law dictates that exotics must be wider than they are tall, and, as with all things, Lamborghini takes it to an extreme. The Aventador’s roofline is no higher than your hip, yet the car is a comically wide (approximately 80 inches). It’s a big car, too: 10 inches longer and 9 inches wider than a Porsche Carrera. It’s also more than four times as expensive, so there’s that.

Pray to the Deity of Your Choice

While the Aventador’s carbon fiber and aluminum bodywork is gorgeous, it plays hell with your sight lines. Even with the top down you can’t see a damn thing. But then, rearward vision always tends to be an afterthought with exotics. The sliver of glass behind your head is almost pointless, and changing lanes or merging with traffic requires checking the mirrors repeatedly while praying to the deity of your choice.

Few things are cooler than a Lamborghini’s scissor doors. They rise slowly, with the faint “whiiiiisk” of a hydraulic valve. The interior is every bit as excessive as the exterior. It too was inspired by fighter jets, right down to a bright red starter switch covered by one of those cool hinged covers. Anything that isn’t covered in two-tone leather is wrapped in Alcantara, the numerous switches and knobs have a retro-cool vibe (though they’re straight from the Audi parts bin) and the digital display behind that fat steering wheel is the sharpest thing this side of a 4K TV.

Driving an exotic in winter may not be the best idea, but that’s exactly what I did. Though the temperature hovered around freezing each morning, the Aventador’s massive V12 fired up without complaint. There’s a turbine-like whine followed by a glorious bark that turns heads in the next county. If you think it’s loud, drop the windows, blip the throttle and feel that glorious rumble rattle your brain. That’s loud.

Speed comes in many forms. In a Bentley, for example, it washes over you effortlessly, the engine providing no sense of how hard it’s working. In the BMW M6, it’s got a harder edge but you’re still buffered from the road.

In a Lamborghini, it comes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the forehead. Even with a battalion of electronic nannies watching your back, this is not a car for the weak or the stupid. Jab the accelerator like a moron and you’ll pay for. This is a car that demands smooth inputs, lest you risk snapping your neck. That kick in the ass is fun, but I had serious neck pain for two weeks after driving this car and had to visit a chiropractor. The Aventador is like a small child: You must pay close attention to what it’s doing at all times.

This Baby Punishes Fools, Rewards Skill

But the best thing about this car isn’t its ferocious thrust or maximum velocity. It’s the driver involvement required to make it really perform. Any idiot can mash the gas, hold on and pray. But true driving demands skill, something the Aventador rewards. It is challenging to drive at all speeds, not just at the limit.

Due to the extreme structural rigidity of its carbon fiber monocoque chassis, the mighty Lambo is an extremely sharp tool for carving corners. The engine delivers power ferociously and without the slightest hesitation. It accelerates right now. Three driving modes (strada, sport, and corsa) unleash increasing levels of crazy. The seven-speed sequential transmission — please, don’t call it an automatic — ensures you’re always in the right gear and shifts in as little as 50 milliseconds. You’ve got to climb into an F1 car to get a gearbox that shifts faster than that.

The Aventador Roadster is a bit high-strung around town. Shifts are labored, the drivetrain twitchy and the car just generally in a funk. This is common with single-clutch automated gearboxes like the Lambo has, and you just learn to live with it. Embrace it and it becomes an endearing quirk.

Worrying about fuel economy in a car like this is almost pointless, but even Lamborghini must be mindful of rising efficiency standards in the EU and US. Therefore, the Aventador Roadster sports a suite of fuel-saving tech. The stop-start mode, which cuts the engine at stoplights and such, is seamless, if largely moot in a car that gets 10 mpg (combine city and highway). Cylinder deactivation turns the V12 into straight six1 by shutting down one bank of cylinders at speeds below 84 mph in “street” mode. Of course, if you want it all, all the time, choose “sport” or “corsa” and stomp on it.

And who are we fooling? If you have a Lamborghini, you’re gonna stomp on it, as often as possible. That’s what cars like this are for. The Aventador Roadster embodies the ultimate automotive dream. It’s wildly exotic, insanely fast, and highly exclusive. It’s far from perfect — the interior switchgear is obviously from lesser Audis, the interior gadgetry already seems dated and you can’t see a damn thing — but then, it doesn’t have to be. It’s a Lamborghini, and for those with the means to buy one, that’s enough.

Photos: Sean Smith/get-gadget

1CORRECTION 19:00 hours 02/11/14: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the cylinder configuration during cylinder deactivation.

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