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Bullfighting In Valencia

​Arriving beaten and battered at Valencia International Airport mid-afternoon late in January, the long-haul plane ride was a small sacrifice I had to make for this trip to sample the new Lamborghini Aventador S. Nonetheless, I was picked up by a sharp-dressed gentleman from Lamborghini. “Welcome to Valencia Mr. Thomas. I am your driver and I will take you to the hotel now,” said the good man as he escorted me out to the car park to jump into a polished, gray Audi Q7 to be transferred to Hotel Los Arenas in Valencia town.

Bright and early the next morning, we were all transferred via Lamborghini’s in-house shuttle bus to the race track, Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo. It is named in commemoration of Spanish GP motorcyclist, Ricardo Tormo who died two days after Christmas in 1998. A year later, the track was opened and has since operated as a sanctuary of speed lovers, complete with a juicy 876-metre main straight. Formula One fans will find the name familiar as the race track is often used by teams for testing because of the mild temperatures that visit in winter. This time around though, as we were informed by Lamborghini, the previous batch of media had some really bad rain when they rushed out on track with the new Aventador S a few days earlier.

Similarly, by the time we arrived there ourselves, we too were being watched over by some very gloomy clouds so naturally, none of us journalists were even going to attempt to break the circuit’s best time of 1 minute 8.540 seconds. Disembarking the shuttle bus, those gloomy clouds suddenly seemed to prove irrelevant as we were all greeted by twelve sparkling yet menacing looking Aventador S parked up front at the back of the paddocks. There they were before me, Lamborghinis in shades of white, blue, green, red and yellow, each one with its own stable master standing next to it as if to keep an eye on them in case one of those monsters decided to break from its shackles and come charging out at us puny bystanders.

I had already swallowed the spec sheet whole the night before as dessert and it was a sweet after-taste; 740 hp, 690 Nm of torque, 2.7 seconds from naught to hundred and a flat-out maximum speed of 350 km/h. The lengthy press sheet also noted some interesting new inclusions to the Aventador, most prominent were the inclusion of rear-wheel steering and what would turn out to be my favourite bit, the “EGO” mode. So trust me, when I stood facing the string of Italian Raging Bulls, it was a moment where the big Lambos seemed to be sizing us all up like predators marking their prey. What made things more nervy was that instead of the new Aventador’s launch proper taking place first, we were told that we’d begin the morning straight away with our first track session, seeing as the weather was unpredictable. “Damn, I need another round of coffee for this!” I thought to myself.

​First impressions out on track were immediate with the Aventador S. For a massively-sized V12 supercar, pulling out of the pitlane even in Strada, I sensed the improvements that were spoken about earlier to us in the press lounge at the time. As you can imagine, there is a lot more power housed under this muscular new Aventador S so, aerodynamics have been tweaked by the smallest of details to gift a significantly improved performance in terms of air flow.

The aggressive nose and longer front splitter on the S are vividly different from the tamer, standard Aventador. These new appointments are in line with the coupe’s overall reduced weight which grants the Lambo improved engine cooling and increased cooling to the radiators since the mill has been tuned for brutal road performance. The flagship Lamborghini now comes with a black diffuser at the rear which can be fitted in pure carbon fiber on option of course. It is characterized by a number of vertical fins that amplify the airflow effects, reduce drag through pressure recovery and generate more downforce.

There is an active rear wing that is moveable in three positions depending on speed and driving mode. This was another hint at the Aventador’s improved sense of balance. All in all, Lamborghini carefully briefed us that front downforce has been improved by more than 130 per cent, with over 50 per cent more efficiency at high downforce achieved when the rear wing is in its optimum position, and in low drag by more than 400 per cent compared to the previous model. When I tried to translate those numbers into sensation during the warm-up laps, it felt as if this new Aventador is a very lean machine, especially when you consider the amount of adjustments and fittings that have gone into it.

As we picked up the pace through each new lap, the coupe seemed to stick more and more onto the tarmac. Mind you, it was a wet track we rode out onto and there were still rain drops flirting with us. Expectedly, the new Aventador comes with a New Pirelli P Zero compound, engineered specifically for the new flagship according to Lamborghini. Even so, I felt the new aerodynamics fully at work because it seemed so at home passed the 200 km/h mark through the sweeping turns of Ricardo Tormo. That razor sharp seven-speed ISR gearbox, which facilitates gear changes 10 miliseconds slower than a Formula One race car, provides all the entertainment, harnessing some mad emotions from that muscular and naturally aspirated 6.3-litre V12. Its exhaust growls and grunts churn out goosebumps faster than a horror movie only, just more addictive.

As the session got us more familiar to Ricardo Tormo’s layout, I began to understand the art and behavior of new Aventador S through its suspension setup, a magneto-rheological active front and rear push-rod system along with horizontal dampers and springs. The setup is so in tune with the luxury car’s chassis that it is in fact an all-star orchestra performing ‘Phantom of The Opera’ on double time. This gives you that trademark and tasteful Lamborghini understeer experience that is designed to put some Italian flair into your drive, along with some other wicked sensations that brings out the weakness in the English language for having not the words to describe them.

The drive got more exciting when I shuffled around in the Aventador’s new ‘EGO’ mode, a custom driving map in which the driver can pimp his or her ride by rigging the engine, steering and suspension in either Strada, Sport or Corsa settings. This custom mode is a joy because one gets to explore the new Aventador’s wide range of abilities based on your own driving taste. Calling it ‘EGO’ is bang on point and I appreciated it because by searching for the sweet spot, I could basically feel so much of the active technology in this Aventador that was always at work to bring about this thrilling track experience. I finally settled with having the engine in Corsa, steering in Sport and suspension in Strada and my oh, my, “Que rico!” as they would say in Spanish.

In this EGO setting of mine, I was able to enjoy the fun track of Circuit Ricardo Tormo. Prowling in and out its turns and gunning the throttle on its sudden stretches of straight tarmac, I was smiling like a child with candy when I was not grimacing at the raw power of this Bull. It was in this speedy bout around Ricardo Tormo that I discovered how the coupe is an accurate blade, so precise that I’d say it’s a fairly easy car to manage, once you get used to its rowdy and raunchy soul. That is an opinion of taste but I loved how the Lambo was constantly ten steps ahead of my one. It challenged me to think faster and more efficiently and dipping down on the paddle shifters was pure porn to the senses.

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The main difference between this Aventador from the original production model of 2011 can be felt via its four-wheel steering, besides its lighter structure and the beefy engine. We got to sample this big difference out on a slalom exercise where we drove both the previous model and the S back to back. The older model seemed too sluggish and unrefined to take on a slalom at 40-50 kmh all of a sudden. It felt clumsy and unaware of its surroundings compared to the S. The S flowed so smoothly through the slalom because of that rear-wheel steering which basically faces the rear tyres in opposite direction to the steering angle, thereby virtually reducing the wheelbase. The subsequent reduced steering wheel angle instantly makes the S more agile with a reduced turning radius thus making it a very fluid and sharp knife through the course. This also explained why the coupe was so accurate, grounded and precise when we were whizzing around Ricardo Tormo at ungodly speeds, sometimes passed the 200 km/h mark. 

Out on track, the Aventador S is exactly what Lamborghini should have made a long time ago: an arrogant, powerful and no-nonsense road warrior. Not that the older model wasn’t close, but this Aventador S puts a muzzle on the mouth of critiques who have been berating the luxury marque for taming the tradition of the Raging Bull. Out under the pale heavens that engulfed Ricardo Tormo, the Aventador S made me feel like an unstoppable Greek god marauding the earth with a titan for a steed. I was destroying corners like Zeus would smash mountains into pieces with his thunderbolts. And on that long, yummy main straight of Ricardo Tormo I mentioned earlier, it felt as if Superman himself couldn’t throw a dart any faster than this Aventador ran.

The real joy came when we were allowed to unleash the Aventador S out into the amazing wild of Cheste’s hillside scenic roads that led up into the mountains. Unlocking the chains to the Lambo, I was partnered by some great coincidence with one of our contributing journalists, the seasoned Andre Lam from Singapore. Together, we both took turns at savouring the Aventador S in its intended habitat. I did the casual stroll up into the hillside, holding my breath as I felt the coupe root its massive tyres into Cheste’s country side. As the roads climbed in small altitudes gradually, through the narrow gaze from inside the Lambo’s cockpit, I was mesmerized at both Valencia’s winter-time beauty and the Aventador’s free-spirit on these roads. 

The same active technology experienced on track felt seamless on the flat and even Spanish roads. We charged our way up into the hillside in the Bull, learning its flair for tight mountain roads. I’m sure we woke a few helpless people up every time we performed a sprint, tapping the shifter down to allow the Aventador to rumble the Spanish countryside with its magnificent roar with the exhaust note in Corsa mode. That V12 engine seemed to enjoy the quick shifts we put it through and at all times. Its confident all-wheel steering would dig those Pirelli compounds into the road, shaking the ground and possibly uprooting plants and graves alike as we made our way up and down the blissful, curvy roads of Cheste, Valencia.

As we made our way into the city to chase back on our lost schedule, as anticipated, almost every eye would stare at the yellow Lamborghini we were cruising around with. Since we were on the road as well, we took the time to also explore the jet-fighter cockpit of the Aventador more consciously. Where on track, it was only the new TFT digital dashboard that I paid attention to, it was in the casual setting of urban Valencia where I noticed the finer details. As intimidating as it was when I first jumped into the Lambo, I soon realized the unique functionality of the Lambo’s interior. 

Everything was in fact, friendly when I thought about it with my only complaint being the lack of storage spaces for us folk to dump our mobile phones and power banks when need arises. Beyond that, when my gaze wasn’t being captivated by Valencia’s beautiful scenery, my eyes would be glued to the refined detail of the dashboard stitching that would continue onto the door panels. I’m sure a lot more can be explored in this area through the luxury marques ‘Ad Personam’ customization program. It is quite remarkable though how consistent Lamborghini have been with their craftsmanship in this area, and yet how they’ve managed to strike a zen-zone between pure luxury and ultra-sportiness. It was just a real shame that we had just over an hour of time to explore the Aventador S out on Valencian roads. Any longer, and the two of us would have ran away with the Aventador S, surely.

That night after our full day with the new Aventador S on track and road, we were kindly treated to a gala dinner by Lamborghini at the City of Arts and Science. It is a real spectacle at night and  right outside our dining area it was a dashing and polished Aventador S parked right in front with the car’s campaign tagline present: “Dare Your Ego”. That’s where I was fell inside and out for this Aventador S and the Lamborghini lifestyle because it is indeed about the ego.

‘Ego’ is in an alternative perspective; the self-confidence and charisma to know that you’re good at what you do, and you should give no quarter to those who say otherwise, just like how Lamborghini have done with the Aventador S. That is something I can appreciate because I relate to that on a personal level which is why I appreciated the ‘EGO’ mode of the new Aventador a lot. It connected to me on a humane, emotional level instead of the usual mould. Of Course, purists might be out with their pitchforks soon, questioning the Lambo’s overall ability and performance. They are also the toughest people to please and also the reason great brands like Lamborghini keep outdoing themselves time and time again.

After playing matador with the new Raging Bull on Spanish soil, and after experiencing the Lamborghini lifestyle, I can assuredly say that this is one of those cars that we’re going to remember for some time, at least until the Italian marque decides to dare our egos again. I raise my glass to Automobili Lamborghini in the end because you were absolutely right: when my ego met the ego of the new Aventadro S, I found the most powerful version of both and mama mia, what a blistering pair it was.

Images: Lamborghini  

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