Emails. Some can make, others can break your day. They can arrive to announce your long-lost relative in a distant land and, occasionally, there’s even some truth to it. Others offer you the best copier toner/printer ink/everlasting love that you’ve ever had. Most are mundane but, occasionally, they excite the senses. Even scanning the words in the subject line can trigger the countdown – “Lamborghini”, “invited”, “you”, “Miami”, “Aventador” “launch”. The mind races to put them in the right order and then it hits – the newest supercar, the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, a 700-hoursepower amalgam of angles, ducts and fury, will be “mine” on Homestead-Miami Speedway and the streets of Miami on a clear February day!
When Lamborghini does something, it’s done right. No “show up, drive, go home and write” for these guys. Even the emails from the Bologna-based travel agent are festooned with different photos of the Aventador (named, as is Lamborghini’s wont, after a famous fighting bull in the 1990s), taken with the eye of a photographer in love with its shape. And the theme continues, with the arrival at the W Hotel South Beach, where an Aventador is cordoned off by the front door, a bull corralled (for the moment) by red velvet ropes and comely Italian ladies dressed in appropriate Lamborghini-branded attire. Clipboard in hand, your name is verified and you’re escorted to the section of Reception reserved for Lamborghini’s guests. Check-in is quick (all pre-arranged by Lamborghini) and then there’s the scary part – signing the waivers. There’s the four-page Terms of Vehicle Delivery followed by the two-page Terms of Participation. The lawyer in me scans them quickly – hmm, all standard stuff here – and then comes the part where “governed by Italian law” and jurisdiction “exclusively in the courts of Bologna, Italy” registers. I know nothing of Italian law aside from “Divorce Italian Style” and I don’t want to be shot for denting a car. Nevertheless, I assure myself that all will be fine, blithely sign away my rights (and those of my heirs, whom I hope won’t be reading these documents anytime soon) and go on to the next step.
I am given my room key, the ubiquitous plastic rectangle found in all hotels but…this one has another glamour shot of the Aventador integrated into the card. No trick missed here. But wait, there’s more! Entering my terrific room, overlooking the luxurious South Beach and points beyond, I notice that the TV is on and a continuous loop is playing of…Aventadors frolicking on the streets and tracks around Miami, including the parade a few days before where the company’s cars cavorted with customers’ Lambos around town, thrilling the throngs. The Running of The Bulls. Pamplona meets The Real Housewives. And just when you think that you can’t take in anything more, there’s the goodie bag, without which no self-respecting event would be held. It’s swag time! Lamborghini books, hat, lanyard, name badge, thumb-drive and even something from Lamborghini’s watch partner, Blancpain. All this and the event hasn’t even started yet! I needed a cigarette and I don’t even smoke.
Of course, there’s a dinner that night, complete with excellent food and wine and a fashion show featuring the Lambo-branded shirts, pants, shows, jackets and more, all modeled by the attractive young Italian men and women who travel with the launch party. But it’s on day two where the rubber meets the road.
Up early (3:30 a.m. my time, as I haven’t shifted time zones yet), we have breakfast at the hotel. I am fortunate enough to share a table with Michael Lock, the new (since early 2012) head of Lamborghini North America. A Brit who’s the former CEO of Ducati North America and was with Triumph motorcycles at one point, we have lots in common – two blokes who both like cars and motorcycles. An easy guy to talk with, his passion for his cars is evident. We wax on about Lambos and Ducatis, of course, and he’s such a genuinely likeable person that it’s a great visit.
But no time to dawdle – load ‘em up, head ‘em out on the Lamborghini-branded bus (you were expecting Greyhound?) for the trip south to Homestead-Miami Speedway. But, being that this is a Lambo event, this is not just any bus ride. A bevy of Miami’s finest, mounted on Harleys, red lights ablaze, helps us wend our way through the Miami morning traffic. From the video looping in the hotel room through the rest of the event, it is clear that Lamborghini has done a lot of leg work here, cementing relationships with the local constables and politicians alike. A city that likes its parties, Miami sure knows how to treat its business visitors.
Reaching the race track, we’re greeted by a gaggle of Aventadors, in various hues, (some straight out Ken Kesey’s last road “trip“), lined up just so, all facing outward in vee-formation, each with a Lamborghini-attired footman ready to answer any question or set up a photo op. A short PR session was followed by a drivers’ meeting and then it was off to the races. Taking turns in one of the few dozen Aventador roadsters (pause here to let it sink in – millions of dollars of Italian iron, all waiting for us!), we hit the track in groups of four, each group led by a professional driver who, using a headset, gives instructions to each of us via walkie-talkies strapped in to the passenger seats of our cars. We couldn’t talk back but we were too busy trying to keep up to think about conversation.
The Homestead track, opened in 1995, has been the site of many NASCAR events (and others) and, as such, it has highly-banked corners (about 20 degrees). Hitting those corners at about 125 mph may not sound like much to a professional racer but to a weekend-warrior journalist who – you will remember – recently signed a waiver or two based on Italian law which may result in some serious financial impact for a Lambo-meets-wall encounter, that speed could bring up a mental calculation – Do I want to accelerate or keep my house? Fortunately, none of us had to make good on that formula, thanks in no small part to the wonderful sure-footedness of the all-wheel-drive 700 horsepower bull.
Finishing our multiple turns at the speedway experience, we had a quick lunch and then we were paired off, two writers to a car, to experience one of the great thrills of driving a supercar – touring the streets of town. I was fortunate enough to be paired not only with Don Sherman (long-time Automobile and Car and Driver editor and writer) but with his ace photographer, independent Charlie Magee, who was flown in from London by Lamborghini just for the event. Don, Charlie and I spent many hours that afternoon, exploring some of the most scenic locations around Miami and neighboring areas and obtaining lots of terrific shots of the cars (including those seen here and in the separate article elsewhere in this issue focused more on the car itself). The Aventador showed its good breeding well, never hesitating in traffic, running well within normal temperatures despite long periods of idling while we set up shots. Utilizing both the cylinder deactivation system (just six cylinders runs when there’s a light load) and the start-stop technology (re-starts in 180 milliseconds!) helps greatly reduce the CO2 production while the fuel consumption is about twenty percent less than last year’s Aventador coupe. Can you imagine – discussing MPG with a 700HP car that rushes 0-60 in three seconds!
While we’re on the subject of performance, a few items to note: computer-controlled flaps in the exhaust system give the Aventador a nice throaty sound during normal driving and am amazing howl at full blast; the paddle shifters actuate gear changes of the seven-speed transmission in 50 milliseconds using an extremely light single-clutch system that has three manual and two automatic “strategies” (street, sport and track); rather than using the standard suspension-mounted shocks, the Aventador utilizes race-car push-rod technology, so the spring and damper parts are fixed inside of the bodyshell structure, using relay levers make the suspension’s unsprung weight incredibly light. What does all of this mean to the pilot? It’s extremely easy to drive, very forgiving when pushed, docile when simply motoring and very comfortable on the track and the road.
Technological amazements abound in this car but the main thrust (so to speak) of this article is the experience, and what an experience it was! Whether at the track or on the open road, on a freeway or along city streets, the feel and sound of the Aventador are nothing short of wonderful. When coupled with Lamborghini’s unparalleled hospitality, the launch was nothing short of spectacular. I am proud to be a new member of the Brotherhood of the Bull. What phrase best describes the experience? How about “King for a Day”?
Photos by Charlie Magee, London