The Italians are known for their masterpieces. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Now, centuries later, the automotive world has two Italian masters of its own, Ferrari and Lamborghini. In 2011, Lamborghini released the Aventador, a masterpiece of modern engineering with Formula 1 suspension technology and a carbon-fiber monocoque. Entering the 2020 Aventador SVJ, offered both as a coupe and a roadster, which updates the Aventador to include what Lamborghini calls its “five masterpieces” of engineering.
The Aventador SVJ needs all these goodies because it’s wickedly fast. The 6.5-liter V-12, a masterpiece in its own right, also helped cut those 15 seconds. It wails and thrums as only a naturally aspirated V-12 can as it throws 759 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque at the mountain-road pavement. That’s 30 more horses than the Aventador S, and it launches the car from 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 217 mph. The power arrives immediately upon corner exit, builds quickly into extralegal speeds, and stays on boil until 8,500 rpm. With the top off or the tiny rear window down, the V-12 becomes a raucous sound system playing classic hits from MTV’s “Metal Mayhem.”
The Lamborghini SVJ has four drive modes, adjust the AWD system’s behavior. In Strada (Street) mode, 60 percent of the power flows to the rear wheels. In Sport, 90 percent of the power goes to the rear and the stability control loosens up to make the SVJ feel like a rear-drive drift machine. In Corsa (Track), the rears get 80 percent of the power, which Lamborghini programs in conjunction with stability control to make the car as fast as possible around a track. The fourth drive mode, Ego, allows me to vary the behavior of the steering, powertrain/AWD system, and suspension between Strada, Sport, and Corsa settings to tailor the driving experience to my tastes.
2020 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ RoadsterThe Aventador SVJ Roadster relies on more than just the five masterpieces to handle these twisty desert roads as easily as a Mercedes handles a casual Sunday drive. Its ultra-quick steering ratio (as fast as 10:1, as slow as 18:1) teams with the F1-inspired horizontally mounted springs and adjustable magnetorheological dampers—the first masterpiece—to make the Aventador dive into corners with the immediacy of a West Point cadet. Its massive, sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires (255/30R20 up front and 355/25R21 out back) provide the grip of Darth Vader’s Force choke on the Deathstar commander, while its 15.7-inch front and 15-inch rear carbon ceramic brakes bring all that momentum to a halt like a baudy joke in church.
The Aventador is a big car at 194.6 inches long on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, but the SVJ uses its second masterpiece, rear-axle steering, to tackle the lower-speed, tight stuff like a smaller car.
The interior feels like a fighter pilot’s cockpit, but with much nicer materials. Alcantara, leather, then Alcantara again cover the dash from top to bottom, polished carbon fiber makes up the entirety of the door panels, and Alcantara and leather cover the flat, hard seats. The SVJ stands for Super Veloce Jota. It pays tribute to the one-off Miura Jota, a model that test driver Bob Wallace modified in 1970 to meet the FIA’s Appendix J rules.
The scissor doors are silly and difficult to close, but they’re so beloved that they are as much a part of this Lamborghini as the V-12. The Aventador remains, by far, the most civilized of the 12-cylinder Lambos. The driving position is good, there’s room for even tall drivers to stretch their legs, and the seats are supportive and shaped to accommodate just about anyone. The steering wheel is manually adjustable for height and reach. The shift paddles are in the right place even when the steering wheel is sawing about catching a lascivious powerslide. But, like in any old supercar, actually seeing anything out the rear window isn’t an option.
The SVJ roadster looks as though it were chiseled out of a block of petrified cash, and it roars as if the exhaust were composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Shockingly impractical, spectacularly theatrical, it’s altogether maniacal. It cost $667,661 which it is about two-thirds of a million dollars, the sort of money buyers like to brag about having paid. We should mention that the price includes $14,800 for the paint, a $6400 gas-guzzler charge, and $3695 for destination.