Running with Lamborghini’s raging bulls
We take Lamborghini’s bulls around the race track at Kyalami
When an invitation to drive a performance vehicle on a racetrack arrives in our inbox, it immediately piques our interest, and when the car in question is an Italian sportscar bearing a raging bull on its snout, we jump at the opportunity.
Lamborghini SA, now a subsidiary of LSM Distributors, also the importer of Porsche, invited us to experience the Huracan sportscar and flagship Aventador S at Kyalami.
The Huracan RWD (rear-wheel drive) is essentially the entry point into the Lamborghini sportscar fold and, unlike its heavier four-wheel drive sibling, it pushes all its power to the rear wheels only.
It is powered by an atmospheric 5.2l V10 engine that revs to 8,500r/min and churns out 426kW and 540Nm through a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.
As far as engines go, this is still one of the most soulful currently available on the market and while many a manufacturer is opting to turbo charge, there is something charming about a big capacity atmospheric engine that revs to the heavens.
Slipping behind the wheel of this slinky sportscar is easy and the cabin layout is geared to the driver’s whims.
Firing up the V10 that responds with a glorious bark before settling into an ever-so-raucous idle, is something to behold. Switching the drive mode to the default Strada (Street) then to Corsa (Racetrack) not only alters the engine’s note, but stiffens the dampers and slots the gearbox into manual mode.
Pull the right steering wheel-mounted shift paddle to engage first gear, ease the throttle and we’re off.
With an international Squadra Corse instructor in the Aventador S ahead to guide us, we first do a sighting lap to familiarise ourselves with the circuit, before opening up the taps.
Coming into the long straight having hooked second gear, I squeeze hard on the throttle and the V10 nestling behind my head sharpens its horns, clears its throat and charges down the flat bitumen at a lick, while immersing me in the glorious noise of 10 cylinders mixing air and fuel.
Third gear is summoned and, before I know it, I need to shift up to fourth, at which point the Huracan is travelling well over 240km/h before I jump on the anchors for the hairpin bend.
What is most impressive about this model is its sense of agility that has it breathing down the end of the more powerful Aventador S through corners and tight sections of the track.
Then there is the surprisingly prodigious grip that belies the vehicle’s rear-wheel drive configuration. It allows you to take more liberties with the throttle out of corners and shoots you to the next one.
The Huracan RWD is a superbly balanced, nimble and efficient package that will appease even novice drivers.
Then it was time to jump into the foam-at-the-mouth bull of bulls, the Aventador S.
This was my first encounter with the vehicle, so I was looking forward to seeing what this 6.5l, normally aspirated V12 with 544kW and 690Nm could muster on the track.
The Aventador is seven years old and while it remains a dramatic thing to behold, there is no denying the fact that some of its technology lags behind that of its newer rivals.
Still, it has some interesting technology such as the robotised sequential manual gear-box and the push-rod suspension inspired by Formula One cars and it remains a purpose-built machine.
However, I found the gearbox somewhat clunky and slow by today’s standards, where twin-clutch gearboxes are in vogue and the rear-wheel steer means the rear of the vehicle is constantly moving about, which is rather unnerving. It is a feeling akin to pushing a shopping trolley backwards and steering it into shopping aisles.
While this is meant to make the vehicle more agile, I’m afraid it is not to everyone’s taste and I’m not a fan.
Going through the essses at Kyalami, you get the feeling of an unsettled, slightly skittish car that doesn’t inspire confidence. Perhaps it is a different case out on the public roads.
We will be driving the more track-oriented SVJ version of the Aventador in September in Portugal. It is said to have a great deal of aero inspiration from the Huracan Performante and hopefully will prove to be a more settled vehicle.
That aside, winding up that engine close to 9,000r/min is something very special.
It quickly puts distance between it and its smaller Huracan sibling on the straights. One can understand why it still commands a great deal of attention from most quarters.
However, of the two, it was the Huracan RWD that impressed me most with its nimbleness and accessible performance. It is a fitting introduction to the Lamborghini sportscar fold.