When I was 12-years-old, my father crashed our modest Datsun in spectacular style. I was in the back seat and the front of the flimsy Japanese car folded origami-style as it connected with the iron fist of a Jaguar, driven by a man wearing yeti boots. To be honest, it was almost certainly my dad’s fault – although he was in sensible shoes and the other bloke only had a pair of ridiculous fury feet to stand on. Names and numbers were exchanged. It later transpired the driver was newspaper magnate Eddy Shah.
I didn’t know who Shah was, although years later I briefly worked for one of his newspapers where the security guard was also the arts critic. But I always remember the yeti boots and the fact he had a charisma to match his fancy footwear. My dad wasn’t impressed, neither was the insurance company.
Which got me thinking about the type of footwear I would choose to drive the ultimate Lamborghini convertible, the new Aventador SVJ R. If you haven’t heard of it – or bought a Porsche GT2 RS thinking it would be the fastest production car on the planet – last year the coupé version of SVJ broke the Nürburgring lap record with a time of six minutes, 44 seconds.
Piloted by Lamborghini factory driver Marco Mapelli, the track-focussed SVJ was more than two seconds faster than the GT2 RS. We know for certain that Signore Mapelli definitely wasn’t in flashy yeti boots, which is a shame because they are just the sort of flamboyant footwear an Aventador SVJ R driver should wear and would certainly have annoyed the folk from Stuttgart, a lot.
Any Lamborghini from year dot – except for perhaps the relatively utilitarian Urus SUV launched last year – is a car not to be driven in sensible shoes. Both the current Huracan and Aventador, for example, are total show-offs, a cacophony of stage fireworks and sound effects not seen since the pyrotechnical, high-heeled era of the Kiss concert.
The SVJ R is the most powerful Lamborghini ever to leave the Sant’ Agata production facility
So this hardcore, convertible version of the Aventador SVJ then promises to be more crazy, more astonishing and even more bonkers. I’ve polished up an old pair of in-yer-face Ermenegildo Zegna trainers specially to drive it – and also because the footwells in any Aventador are a tad too snug for yeti boots.
The most sophisticated and powerful Lamborghini ever to leave the Sant’Agata production facility is more than likely a swansong for the company’s titanic V12 unit. A hybrid Lamborghini has reportedly been shown to potential customers behind closed doors. To mark what could be a defining moment, the naturally aspirated block has been modified to the edge of reason for the SVJ R. This is surely its final act.
The raft of changes designed to squeeze 759bhp from a 6.5-litre motor include titanium valves, redesigned cylinder head and a lighter flywheel. These help to reduce the weight of the enormous but low-slung SVJ R to not that much more than a bog-standard Ford Focus.
Consequently, the SVJ R revs to beyond 8,500rpm and offers a wider band of torque, served up through a permanent four-wheel drive system that has been tweaked for more rear-axle bias. I doubt many Lambo owners ever lift off the rear-mounted, carbon-fibre engine cover to peep at the engine but it’s exquisite. On paper, 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 218 mph match a car as menacing as a great white.
Perched on top is ALA 2.0 – the latest version of Lamborghini’s active aerodynamic spoiler system that attracts attention like a radar beacon. The rear-wing increases downforce by more than 40 per cent compared to the previous Aventador SV, complemented by two self-adjusting flaps at the front of the car and one atop the engine lid.
It’s ingenious stuff but requires either a Venn diagram or more column inches than I’m allowed here to explain the system properly. On a fast corner, the forces created by the rear wing can be deflected left or right too, helping to increase grip over the inside rear wheel where it is most needed.
While ALA deflects air brilliantly, it won’t stop a trail of car spotters gathering in your wake, camera phones pressed to the windscreen. It’s that sort of machine, the SVJ R. At least the central pillar supporting the spoiler has been perfectly placed to block any visibility through the back screen. You might as well throw away the rear-view mirror and shave a few extra ounces off the kerb weight.
A blast from those sonorous twin tailpipes brings admirers from all directions. A stab of the throttle unleashes a guttural snort like Brian Blessed suffering an asthma attack. There’s no neighbour-friendly setting for those awkward, early-morning starts either, so don’t expect a barbecue invite from number 17.
There’s also no folding roof – the two lightweight roof panels have to be lifted off individually and then stored under the front bonnet. Not as fiddly as it sounds but not exactly practical, either.
For sheer spectacle and larger-than-life appeal, the SVJ R is the automotive equivalent of Concorde. It’s also equally as tight inside, once the wing doors have been swung upwards to reveal a riotous mix of suede and leather. The bucket seats, borrowed from the Spanish Inquisition, are almost painful on a long journey, while visibility and headroom were an obvious afterthought.
There’s nowhere to stash a phone let alone my spotted handkerchief and the eccentric dashboard layout was based on the switchgear in Doctor Who’s original Tardis. The flip-up cover over the starter button is borrowed from a fighter jet. It’s a talking point for new passengers but has a knack of catching a shirt cuff at the most awkward moments.
At least Lamborghini has dispensed with those silly indicator buttons on the steering wheel. Impossible to operate at night-time, the tiny switches have been replaced with a conventional stalk off the column that’s enormous, unsightly and clunky to operate.
For sheer spectacle and larger-than-life appeal, this is the automotive equivalent of Concorde
There’s nothing easy or straightforward about any Aventador – even climbing in and out is a Houdini-type feat designed to scalp the forehead of passengers more then six foot tall. The sound system is so tinny it sounds as if every DJ is playing vinyl, while luggage space under the front bonnet has to be supplemented with the passenger footwell.
Worst of all, the single clutch gearbox is so ridiculously antiquated it’s almost comical. There’s a fore and aft head-nodding workout at low speed, accompanied by cries of ‘it’s not my crap gearchange honest’.
But who really cares about any of that, because you’re driving a LAMBORGHINI. Straight-line performance is simply epic, while heading into a corner, each high-revving downshift on those huge paddle-shifters is pure drama, especially on a wet British road in Winter. This amount of power, performance and grip takes some getting used to.
Supplemented by an old-fashioned V12 soundtrack, the SVJ R is a sensory overload rarely found in any car. Even modern, efficient Ferraris and the clinical but slightly soulless McLarens can’t hold a candle to the vibrations and resonating thrills of the supersonic SVJ R.
In any other circumstances it would be right to suggest the Aventador is a two-seater convertible that’s reached its sell by date. But what Lamborghini has done here is turn an ageing supercar into something even more spectacular. Just for one last spin, for old times’ sake – and it doesn’t matter what shoes you want to wear, either.
For more information, see lamborghini.com