The era of the Aventador is coming to an end and how! Hormazd Sorabjee drives the most raging bull of them all.
It was one of those days that I knew would be hard to beat for a very, very long time. Beautiful weather, winding roads winding through beautiful Italian countryside and a shocking blue Lamborghini Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae roadster with the roof hidden, all to myself.
Exposed to the elements, the V12 engine roaring behind my ears, a deserted road ahead and clear skies above my head was a visceral driving experience, the likes of which only a Lamborghini can deliver. And it’s not just any Lamborghini.
The production of the Aventador Ultimae is limited to 250 roadsters, 350 coupes.
For over a decade, the Aventador has been the ultimate Lamborghini and the Ultimae (Latin for final or last) is the ultimate Aventador, the most extreme version yet. And true to its name, the Ultimae is not just the latest derivative of the monstrous Aventador, but the latest to mark the end of an 11-year run of this iconic supercar.
The Ultimae is also the last Lamborghini to use only V12 power. The next-generation Aventador, due in 2023, will also be V12-powered, but will have an electric motor for the company. Yes, future Aventadors will all be hybrids, and so the Ultimae, in that context, marks the end of an era of pure V12 combustion for Lamborghini. It’s an era that began in 1963 with the very first model of the Italian brand, the 350 GT. Subsequently, the legendary Lamborghini Miura was the fastest car in the world when it was launched in 1966 and the 1974 Countach, a supercar that seemed to come from outer space, all used V12 power, just like their successors – the Diablo and the Murcielago.
The legendary V12 presented under a glass cover recalls the glory days of internal combustion.
The V12 Aventador has also earned its place in the pantheon of great supercars by steadfastly sticking to the old-world values of its predecessors. So before the purity of the Aventador is watered down by electrification, Lamborghini is giving a few lucky owners a chance to own the unalloyed, undiluted Aventador at its naturally aspirated best. And to that end, Lamborghini, as a last hurrah, has taken the Aventador Ultimae to the next level so it can bow out in style.
Beast for the eyes
No supercar looks as fast or intimidating as the angry-looking Aventador. This very wide and long wedge-shaped supercar is more stunning than beautiful and leaves jaws dropping like nothing else on the roads, even in Italy where it’s a common sight.
Familiar Aventador design details still stand out today.
The Ultimae doesn’t have a massive aero wing or aero bits of the track-focused SVJ, and the bodywork isn’t as extreme or focused. What you get is an active rear wing that has three positions and retracts into the tail when closed. The highlighted rear diffuser contrasts nicely with the bodywork and, apart from being functional, is also a stunning visual element. The way the scissor doors open skyward is part of the Aventador’s drama, and the roofless roadster is even more gorgeous than the coupe.
Scissor doors are an integral part of the Aventador drama.
Removing the roof from the Aventador roadster is a complicated, manual process. You need to unfasten several latches, remove the pins, open the two-piece carbon fiber roof, and insert the two pieces into the front trunk. So why did Lamborghini choose this primitive system (for an Rs 7 crore supercar) instead of a simple power-operated bonnet, which, like in most roadsters, folds out at the touch of a button? ? A power-folding roof that retracts under the engine hood would have hidden the view of the glorious V12 sitting under three sheets of glass, and that’s something Lamborghini just didn’t want to do. And why would they?
The centerpiece of the Ultimae as of any Aventador is its magnificent 6.5 liter V12 engine.
It’s been massaged to produce a staggering 780hp, which is 10hp more than the already bonkers SVJ and 90hp more than the original Aventador LP700-4 launched in 2011. With that extra power, the Ultimae will go from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds, thunder passed the 200 km/h mark in a compressing time of 8.7 seconds, and given the road and space, will reach a top speed of 355 km/h. These numbers make the Ultimae the fastest and most powerful Lamborghini ever.
Driving an Ultimae Roadster with the top down is a raw and visceral experience.
The Ultimae’s V12 power output is pretty incredible considering it was achieved without the aid of turbos or any form of electrification and by natural aspiration only. It’s the equivalent of climbing Everest without oxygen and relying only on your lungs. So is Lambo’s V12 the Reinhold Messner of engines? Yes, but with more charm than the brave mountaineer.
The appeal of this long-running V12 engine lies not in the record power it produces, but in what it represents: a bygone era of engines unsullied by turbos and hybridization. This charismatic V12 relies on displacement to produce its colossal power and has an old school charm that few modern engines can match. The instant throttle response, spine sound and the way it turns embody the best of naturally aspirated.
The appeal of the V12 isn’t just about power, but what it represents – a bygone era of engines unsullied by turbos and electrification.
Push the long-throw accelerator pedal and the response is immediate. The Ultimae ricochets from corner to corner with frightening speed, the engine pulling with increasing vigor as the revs increase. Past 6,000 rpm, the Ultimae explodes, the V12 howling ecstatically to its 8,700 rpm limit. It’s an operatic soundtrack unlike anything you’ve ever heard, and with the roof removed, the mix of wind and engine noise has a delightful rawness that’s an assault on all your senses. The landscape rushes in a continuous blur and on these winding roads, the Ultimae is exhilarating and frightening at the same time. The only interruption to the relentless flow of power is the single-clutch gearbox. Every shift feels like it’s been struck by lightning, your head bobbing back and forth as power is delivered briefly and sharply between shifts. For some, the harsh gear changes are part of the Aventador’s charm, but for most, it’s one of the car’s weak points that hasn’t been addressed since its launch.
The Aventador isn’t an easy car to handle, even on an open racetrack, and on those tight roads with lumpy tarmac it was a handful even in the most relaxed Strada mode. Handling has improved over the years and the Ulitmae benefits from the latest chassis tweaks, but you should still treat this car with immense respect. Once you accept the dynamics of Aventador and find your own limit (always keep a huge margin), you will revel in the enthusiasm and commitment of the Ultimae.
Ultimae gets 20-inch front and 21-inch rear forged alloys.
The steering is full of life, has zero play and communicates every undulation at your fingertips. I was amazed at how eager the Aventador was to turn corners and that sharp front bite lets you place this super-wide supercar with precision on roads that seem to narrow around you. Even your slightest movement is greeted with an instant response, and it’s easy to get into a good flow on these winding roads through the Bolognese hills. Approach the limit and there’s a hint of confidence-inspiring understeer, but take off sharply and you can feel the big V12 wanting to pivot behind you. It can be a little disconcerting, especially in the most extreme Corsa mode, where the whole car feels cemented to tarmac and has little compliance.
New seat fabrics with stitched Ultimae logo.
It’s also when you’re driving slowly or stuck in traffic that you expose the Ultimae’s weak points. The gearbox is clunky and jerky, rear visibility is very poor and therefore keeping an eye out for those wide haunches while driving through narrow single lane streets when returning to Lamborghini HQ – Sant’Agata Bolognese – was quite painful.
The dated infotainment system (there’s no touchscreen), which looks like it came from an old Audi, also betrays the Ultimae’s lineage. But it’s a line that customers dream of.
Interior looks dated, center console makes it more apparent
It is therefore not surprising that the limited series of 600 Ultimae (250 roadsters and 350 coupes) are reserved. These wealthy few (including a customer at home) have deposited their money (over Rs 8 crore in India), knowing that this is their last chance to own the world’s last pure but unpolished diamond of supercars as well as a thrilling and exhilarating slice of a glorious past.