The moment a thing becomes practical is the moment it risks becoming boring. Ease is the end of excitement. Italians seem to understand this very well. Look at an Ettore Sottsass bookcase. All wonky surfaces, it is, frankly, amazing that it can hold any books at all. Similarly, it seems unfathomable that anyone could actually walk in a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo’s vertiginous heels. The Castiglioni brothers’ famous Arco Lamp is so delightful because it permanently looks as if it’s about to tip over. Lamborghini also understands the crucial importance of impracticality.
Contorting yourself to fit inside the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster — the most extreme Lambo money can buy, limited to just 800 cars worldwide — you immediately feel that practicality was not a priority. Your legs are stretched out, your back is too upright, the infotainment screen has all the graphic fidelity of Microsoft Windows 98, and your head, even if you’re not especially tall, will graze the carbon-fibre roof. There are no carpets; they’re too heavy and too practical. Instead, the bare carbon floor is covered with what looks like a skateboard’s grip tape. There’s no storage, not even a real cupholder (which is probably for the best because any drink would surely explode all over the expensive Alcantara trim as soon as the car hits any sort of bump in the road). In other words, this SVJ Roadster is a perfect Lamborghini.
The car’s starting sequence requires pressing hard on the brake pedal, flicking open a bright red protective cover on the centre console, and thumbing the “Start Engine” button. There’s a whirr, a buzz, a vacuum, then the mechanical cacophony of 48 valves opening and closing on 12 cylinders. It’s 6.5 litres of pure anger. Prod the throttle and a sharp, mean sound shoots through the cabin. That’s the sound of 760 naturally aspirated horsepower. As far as engines go, this is one of the all-time greats, and Lamborghini treats it like a jewel, making it visible through a narrow window.
This being a Roadster, the roof comes off — but, of course, it’s a wildly impractical two-person job that involves heaving two huge carbon slabs off the roof and into a cubby in the car’s front. But once that’s done, you can experience the thrill of wind in your hair at more than 350 km/h. It gets loud, but at least now there’s plenty of headroom.
The SVJ Roadster was not meant for this world. Or, rather, it wasn’t meant for public roads or for transporting people and their things comfortably from A to B. Its automated single-clutch manual gearbox (there’s no clutch pedal, only paddle shifters) is still extremely jerky at low speeds, even though it’s a noted improvement over the first iteration, found in the original 2011 Aventador. You must learn to anticipate shifts — or do them yourself using the paddles — and ease off the throttle ever so slightly to smooth it out. It’s a real skill, rewarding when you get it right. If you can find space to let the Lambo stretch its legs, you’ll notice the gearbox is much happier when the car is going flat out. Shifts bang through the car, but be warned: a few seconds at full throttle in this car is enough to land you in jail in most places in Canada.
The Aventador, a hairy old-school supercar, was always a difficult car to drive fast. The Aventador S gained agility and some eagerness, but was still no shrinking violet. The SVJ Roadster is the most extreme evolution of this platform. It adds lightness, as well as a hefty dose of active aerodynamic downforce courtesy of Lambo’s ingenious ALA aero-vectoring system.
On a racetrack, the SVJ Roadster requires extreme commitment. There’s simply no room to think about anything other than corner apexes, what your tires are doing, and the next braking zone. There’s less turn-in understeer and better balance mid-corner than in older Aventadors, meaning you can trust the SVJ more and push faster. Just as you imagine the car is about to understeer, the ALA system sucks the car to the ground. Get on the throttle early and it’ll bite, but be patient and the car dials in a couple degrees of oversteer and powers out like an old Formula One car. Even the soundtrack is similar. It’s a car that dares you to go faster and rewards bravery as well as talent.
Back when the SVJ coupe was introduced, Rouven Mohr, Lamborghini’s head of vehicle development, said, “The goal is not to build the smoothest car with maximum perfection; we want some deliberate imperfections. This is Lamborghini; we want to provoke.” Mission accomplished. The SVJ Roadster is a pure thrill, more akin to big wave surfing or bungee jumping than it is to driving a car. Of course, that makes it incredibly impractical, but it’s also why there’s never a dull moment in the Aventador SVJ Roadster — or in any Lamborghini, for that matter. And that’s the point, isn’t it?
All images courtesy of Lamborghini.