The Lamborghini Aventador always deserved better. Any car that counts the F117 Nighthawk among its design inspirations and an in-house 690bhp V12 as its power source ought to live permanently in the upper echelons of our affection. But it doesn’t. Not even close.
The Murcielago’s replacement was too crude and uncommunicative from the get go; as fast as a theme park ride, certainly - but it was a ride you were as happy to get out of as to get in.
Lamborghini has addressed these problems in a manner wholly typical of its traditions: by heading to a track and making the Aventador go faster and faster with the steady application of money, power and added lightness.
Even more typically, it has then called the car something slightly different, jacked up the price and offer a Roadster version. Fortunately, the Superveloce badge already means a great deal to the Lamborghini faithful. Meanwhile, the 50bhp gain at even higher revs, combined with 50kg less where it counts, had Prior in a twist when he tried it round a circuit.
The resulting near-500bhp-per-tonne sounds suitably outlandish, but pace was never the problem. Feel, comfort and finesse were the Aventador’s deficiencies, but early suspicion is that these have been straightened out, too. The SV’s overhaul incorporates an improved dynamic steering rack, adaptive dampers, a recalibrated all-wheel drive system and a fixed rear wing that generates enough downforce to apparently make the V12’s extra grunt necessary beyond 125mph.
The interior certainly sets the right tone. Huge swathes of the letterbox cabin are trimmed in Alcantara, which gives it a tactile fleeciness that makes a pleasing if somewhat superficially soft epidermis for the bony lightweight carbon fibre tub in which you’re sitting. While the instrument cluster is dominated by a liquid crystal display showing all the key instruments in Lambo yellow.
The new SV-branded bucket seats and flat-bottomed steering wheel look great and play their part in an eccentric, pared-down cabin of utter splendour, from the machined, screwed-down, gorgeous austerity of the floormats to the lacquered carbonfibre skins of the scissor doors.
The V12’s ignition button is still nestled under a red safety catch, and although its starter has the charismatic noisy whine, the engine’s idle tends to get lost beneath the maelstrom of radiator fans that kick in to variously chill the SV’s components.
The car gets underway graciously, though, and the hydraulic nose-raiser is so quick that you can operate it between speed humps. Its fitment is a fitting reminder that while Surrey’s busy roads don’t necessarily show a supercar at its best, they are nevertheless the sort of place that many will spend their lives.
As the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and McLaren 675 LT proved, this ought not be any impediment to their enjoyment. Both of the SV’s rivals managed to be acutely involving away from a track, such was their marshalling of their respective talent.
It was precisely this ability to conjure vivid sensation at sane speeds that was missing from the standard Aventador. Its general clumsiness made it easy to mash the V12 into hyper-frenzy, then call time at a corner because the car was as feelsome as a brick-wheeled rocket sledge.
Over the same ground, the SV is dramatically improved. In fact, it’s nigh-on phenomenal. For a start, and despite the appearance of those huge alloys and its sibling’s reputation, it rides with unanticipated élan.
Where the standard car fumbled and thumped at the asphalt like an amateur panhandler, the lighter SV sieves it through its new dampers with genuine dexterity; filtering out the nastier intrusions so that, at speed, just enough patter resonates in your nether regions for an informative reading of the road. The ride is tensioned up like a guy-wire, but gratifying with it.
The chassis functions best in mid-intensity Sport mode, which is doubly marvellous because that’s the mode in which you’ll want the V12 almost permanently situated. Leave it in Strada and you’ll need a built-up shoe to get the good stuff, so dialled back is the first half of the throttle response. In Sport, the long-travel pedal goes from emulsion roller to watercolor brush.
Macromolecular increments produce different accelerative effects, maturing from hot hatch to sports car to hypercar within an Achilles tendon-worth of travel. It is easily delicate enough - and the higher gears long enough - for you to macerate your licence in a single ratio simply by half-hustling the V12 through its range of impressions.
Flat in second and third - all the public highway and sanity can bear - it’s dazzling; striding past most fast-car adjectives to the silliest end of the scale. Neck-snapping. Expletive-fuelled. Mind-bending. Only the gearbox keeps its high-rev pyrotechnics earthbound. Infuriating before, its overhaul upgrades the transmission to tolerable.
In Sport, the automated manual is still quite lazy with the clutch, and therefore needs you to either come off the gas or else endure the familiar nod of disapproval. The former is preferable but tricky to time right. Alternatively, you can opt for Corsa, where the transmission upshifts at full chat; although, like much else in the setting, it’s easy to think the engineered surge too violent for the road.
More often than not, the momentary lift-off between ratio changes gives you a handy split-second to decide how hard to the seatback you’d like to be pinned - because, chances are, the chassis isn’t going to be the limiting factor. The Aventador generates huge, fail-safe levels of adhesion. It did before. But whereas previously it felt incapacitated by the steering, the SV’s new composure is right at your fingertips.
The revised steering is now organically weighted and superbly accurate. A different class of feedback encourages you to tap into the colossal grip levels, and even without the room to severely challenge it, there’s no impassivity to the chassis.
The throttle may still be emphatically linked to all four wheels, but its meticulous control surfaces, lightened agility and surging direction changes make the SV about as expressive as it’s possible to imagine the Aventador ever getting.
The car’s not quite in the same thrill-seeker league as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS or McLaren 675LT, although the fact that it’s still worthy of mentioning in the same breath ought to speak volumes about just how good the big Lamborghini now is.
Clearly, that improvement comes at a colossal price: the SV is getting on for three times the cost of the Porsche. That’ll be academic for most Aventador buyers, though, and for the exhibitionists among them (a majority, one would think), the car is a grandstanding presence pretty much without equal.
The standard model’s over-reliance on its show-stopping appearance and gob-smacking V12 was one of the things that limited its appeal for us. The SV fixes its underlying lack of dynamic sophistication in a stroke.