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More Rage, Less Bull - Lamborghini Aventador SV-J

Resident Contributor Andre Lam Samples The Aventador SV-J.

P: Wolfango Sparcelli, Ingo Barenschee, Tom Salt, Charlie Mcgee

In July of 2018, Lamborghini decided that the swan song for the Aventador should be a record-breaking lap of the Nordschleife, and they did exactly just that. At 6 minutes and 44.9 seconds, this car sliced 2 seconds off the Porsche 991 GT2 RS's time and a whopping 15 seconds over the Aventador SV's time. This said car is the Aventador Superveloce-Jota.

The Aventador SV-J takes its name from the 1970 Lamborghini Miura Jota. It was a single test mule developed by then test driver Bob Wallace with the interest to go racing, but Ferruccio Lamborghini would have none of it. He was not interested to follow how Ferrari races to sell cars. He believed that the market wants a better-built, more stylish supercar. 

Though the Miura Jota was largely vapourware except for that one example, that did not stop Lamborghini's VIP clients demanding that their Miura SVs be re-commissioned as SV-Js because the lightweight techniques had shaven about 400 kgs off from the Miura's kerb weight in a process prescribed by a FIA racing regulation referred to as Appendix J, governing the conversion of road cars into race cars.

Having been encouraged by the stunning performance of their Huracan Performante at the Nordschleife because of the ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva) system, Lamborghini decided to apply it on the Aventador's swan song, the SV-J. The result was that astounding record lap by Lamborghini driver Marco Mapelli. 

The aerodynamic downforce is a 40% increase over that which is available in the Aventador SV - reaching 350 kgs at 300 km/h. The ALA system does not rely on a movable wing to alter downforce but instead it carefully introduces disruptive airflow (as in the case of the rear wing) to the underside, to detach laminar air flow from the wing, reducing downforce by 20 percent but also improving drag as such that it is actually 1 percent better than the standard SV.

At the front there is a pronounced front splitter that helps increase downforce. The active ALA elements are a pair of flaps that are shut for high downforce. To change this to a lower downforce and better drag, the flaps in the splitter simply open and air is diverted to the underside of the car. 

While you may liken the ALA to the DRS of the F1 cars, the ALA has one more party trick – it can vector rear downforce. What it does is reduce downforce over only one half of the wing – the outer side away from the apex. Maintaining slightly more downforce over the inner tyre counters the tendency for it to lift at high speeds, as the car leans outward with increasing lateral G forces during cornering thereby maintaining traction.

While the aerodynamics has been playing an increasingly important part, there is still value to taking away weight and adding power. The Aventador SV is already a lightened version and while there is no difference in weight between the two, it does not mean they did not try. There are new carbon fibre parts like the rear engine cover or super lightweight Nireo wheels that saves weight but any reduction is offset by beefier components for engine cooling or the extra aerodynamic addenda. At 1,525 kgs dry it is respectable for such a large coupe. 

What they did to compensate was to push out an additional 70 hp from the 6.5-litre V12, which is a significant 10 percent more. Also this is not just a peak reading, this improvement is available from idle to the red line. To achieve this sort of power increase meant a change in cam lift and duration. To get the valves to snap open further and stay open longer the valves had to be made of lightweight titanium rather than steel.

To increase efficiency and efficacy, the internal friction in particular between the cylinders and the bores has also been reduced. The exhaust system has been tuned to reduce back pressure and lightened. I wont be surprised they achieved this by simply removing the innards because it sounds like the exhaust is passing straight through sounding like the good old days of Formula One. 

The ISR (Independent Shift Rail) automated manual has come in for a lot of criticism but when the Aventador was being developed in 2008 there was no reliable lightweight DCT that could fit in the rear packaging of the Aventador without pushing the rear axle even further rearwards or adding another 60 kg of weight. For 2018 it has been tweaked a little, but the characteristic shift shock is evident. However it does suit the hardcore nature of the SV-J.

Actively splitting the torque delivery between the front and rear is the Haldex IV center differential just like the SV but now has an additional 3 percent diverted to the rear axle because of the increased stability of the SV-J. Torque vectoring is also available via the braking system. 

The suspension may use the same springs as the SV but the rear anti-roll bar is 50% stiffer and the Magnaride suspension's dampers have been uprated 15 percent in the stiffest setting. Another crucial difference accounting for its spectacular lap time are the optional Pirelli Trofeo R tyres. However our drive impressions at Estoril were based on the new P-Zero Corsa tyres that come standard on the SV-J.

Also tweaked for the SV-J are the algorithms for the rear-wheel steering (LRS). It is now very nuanced compared to the Aventador S and SV. Not only will it counter steer at low speeds and in-phase steer at high speeds it will also toe-in during braking and can operate independently of each other to further stabilize the car in the turn-in, mid-corner and at the exit. 

All the independent systems like the ALA 2.0, AWD, MagnaRide suspension, LRS, engine and transmission are integrated by the master system called the LDVA 2.0 (Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Attiva). While the workings are so complex, the LDVA packages it into modes we are familiar with like Strada, Sport and Corsa.

Strada is best left for daily driving in town as it is unsuitable for track use. Sport mode is the most entertaining mode as the engineers have slackened the electronic nanny's grip on the handling to allow significant oversteer or understeer. It also sends most of the torque rearwards via the Haldex center differential so it behaves as if it were RWD. Corsa mode is the best for fast neat laps as it curtails lurid slides and tries its best to stay to mild understeer and to the chosen line by diverting some torque to the front axle. However the driver must shift manually as the auto function is disabled. 

We were given just twelve laps on the Estoril circuit and half of those were spent coming to grips with the SV-J's newfound prowess. Also the circuit owners had just resurfaced the track and contrary to popular belief, a new surface is not as grippy as the old one. It would need a lot of track time usage to lay down a layer of rubber, which helps with the available grip.

However rather than spoil the fun it actually helped. I could reach the limits readily and could ascertain the handling characteristics of the SV-J in the available drive modes. Forget using Strada at the track just start with Sport. 

In this mode it is clear the SV-J is throttle sensitive but it takes two laps to learn it is not about to send you into the hedges as long as you respect the limits. Lamborghini's engineers added this element of playfulness because they felt that all work and no play makes for a dull if rapid SV-J.

Corsa as I said gives the best lap times as the electronic nanny curtails playfulness and wants to focus on the job of getting neat laps. Rest assured it is hardly dull in Corsa mode. The SV-J immediately feels more stable and positive in how it moves and is significantly less throttle sensitive. 

At the cornering limit when one cannot get more response from the steering it still retains a measured degree of throttle sensitivity and a touch of a lift mid-corner will bring the car into line far more readily than the steering alone. Once this trait is learnt the fun begins but it takes familiarity and needs a track not the city streets.

Because the SV-J handles with finesse even when slipping and sliding, responding to both steering and throttle it has become the most enjoyable of the recent crop of supercars that depend so heavily on aerodynamic downforce. But as the record lap time at Nordschleife proves, the SV-J is not slow at all. 

Sadly its production limited to just 900 units and most are already spoken for but I applaud Lamborghini for not taking the lazy route and merely tarting up the Aventador's last hurrah as a bling-bling special. To take the more difficult and arduous route to set a record lap at the world's toughest circuit speaks volumes about Lamborghini's inner character. Yes they are loud and showy but inside resides real passion and engineering.

Car: Lamborghini Aventador SV-J

Engine: 6498cc, V12 Naturally Aspirated

Transmission: 7-Speed ISR (automated manual)

Power: 770 hp at 8500 rpm

Torque: 720 Nm at 6750 rpm

0-100 km/h: 2.8 seconds

Top Speed: 350 km/h

Fuel Consumption: 19.6 litres/100km (combined) 452 gm/km CO2