Ferrari 458 Italia 2014 review
The only way to map the outer edges of Planet Ferrari is to go exploring on a racetrack.
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On a childhood bedroom wall, a faded poster of a Lamborghini Countach once taunted its viewer to strive for wealth.It was the unobtainable car that represented success, power, beauty and for its driver, a certain element of bravery.
However beautiful the Countach is, in detail it's disappointing. Cabin trim is meagre and quickly deteriorates, the driver ergonomics are poor, ugly weld splatters dot the chassis tubes and paint overspray lurks in corners.
If it wasn't for that V12 engine, that low-flat and impossibly wide wedged body shape and the eruption of the engine when started, it may have become Italy's Edsel. A quarter of a century later, at the V8 Supercars circuit in Perth, Lamborghini invites a day with the Countach's successor.
I don't know if Aventador posters are available for 2014 bedroom walls and suggest time has dulled Lamborghini's radical styling formula first adopted by the Countach.
But it's still undeniably an arresting design. The Aventador LP700-4, now three years old and the replacement for the Murcielago - and before that the Diablo and then the Countach - sits at the top of the Audi-owned Lamborghini stable.
Beneath is the smaller Huracan (replacement for the Gallardo) which arrives in Australia next month.
I have a Lamborghini representative as a passenger but that's as busy as it gets because save for this sole red LP700-4, the Wanneroo circuit is empty. Flick up the engine starter button's red cover. Ensure the automated-manual gearbox is in neutral by pulling back on both gearshift paddles, long batwing-shaped slices of alloy mounted just behind the steering wheel.
Press hard on the brake pedal and press the starter. I'm prepared for the noise. It's mostly the exhaust rumble, sufficiently dominating to hide any mechanical clatter from the V12 engine that sits right behind the two seats.
Pull the right-side paddle back and the digital dash confirms first gear. There's a bump as the transmission meets the engine and a jerk as the accelerator pedal pressure causes the coupe to leave the parking bay.
It is so wide, compounded by poor visibility. To the front and side, it's acceptable. To the rear it's a matter of scanning the two wing mirrors. The Aventador would be impossible to parallel park.
The seat is narrow, firm and designed almost entirely to keep your body immobile while cornering. I'm up two gear shifts, the right-hander noted and the small steering wheel merely nudged to set the car up. It dismisses the corner so the next one is lined up quicker, which it ignores and so successive corners are increasingly quicker, increasingly easier to master.
A few more laps and I'm down to using only three gears, mostly just third actually, with fifth for the downhill 240km/h-plus run. Jump the brakes and immediately feel the weight you're carrying towards the corner. Doubts crush my thoughts. Can I slow this thing down to curve smoothly through the right-angle bend?
Under brakes, with a heavy foot and a trembling heartbeat, the carbon-composite discs are squeezed by 20 tiny brake pistons, sucking the coupe into the asphalt without a snigger. Down two gears, round the corner first under a trailing accelerator then, instantly, back on the loud pedal and ready for fourth, then fifth before the next corner repeats the process of euphoria, concern, doubt and relief.
Gear shifts take just 50 milliseconds – almost as fast as a Formula One car – and, in perspective, compare with the 120 milliseconds of the company's own Gallardo.
The V12, a complete departure from the previous 12-cylinder Lamborghini engine that had its origins in the 350GT of 1964, feels like its pool of power is depthless. Its flow is so strong I reach a point where I start to feel a bit scared. A bit like this animal is stretching the tether to breaking point.
Despite its startling 515kW/690Nm output and threatening 0-100km/h time of a mere 2.9 seconds, the car is remarkably forgiving and incredibly stable. Even despite that power arriving at a huge 8250rpm.
Its driveability is partly attributed to the all-wheel drive system that hydraulically moves power from the front to the rear wheels, sensing changing road and traction conditions. It's also because this is a wide, flat car. Like a hockey puck on ice, it glues itself to the surface and just never feels like it will ever let go.
They do, of course. One test last year on the same track with other Lamborghinis saw one suddenly fling itself off the track and pirouette through the grass. Cold tyres, a nervous driver and a poorly timed squeeze of the accelerator pedal were to blame. It can happen so easily.
The steering is firm but acceptable for the street. Though the seven-speed robotised automatic is made for the track or the fast European roads, it still works at lower speeds despite some uncomplimentary bumps between shifts.
|LP700||6.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$374,330 – 430,320||2014 Lamborghini Aventador 2014 LP700 Pricing and Specs|
|(base)||6.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$433,290 – 498,080||2014 Lamborghini Aventador 2014 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|LP700-4||6.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||No recent listings||2014 Lamborghini Aventador 2014 LP700-4 Pricing and Specs|