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Last of the old-school Lambos goes out with a ’Ring record – and a full road test

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Not every week does an incumbent Nürburgring record holder face the rigours of an Autocar road test, and yet the Aventador SVJ is the second such car to do so in the space of 12 months. The second Lamborghini, no less.

This fact alone says much about the marque’s evolution from purveyor of obscenely loud and visually brash supercars to one whose wares finally have the dynamic bite to justify their bark. If the 6min 52.01sec Nordschleife lap time recorded by the Lamborghini Huracán Performante marked an abrupt parking of the tanks on Porsche’s lawn, the 6min 44.97sec subsequently set by this Aventador SVJ shows they have little intention of leaving. Not even the 911 GT2 RS, a track-bred colossus, could match such a time last July.

Bespoke Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres – which our car wore on the road – get stiffer sidewalls owing to the Jota’s increased downforce

Of course, as a road car, the Aventador SVJ must also be more thrilling than frightening, genuinely usable in places other than the widest, remotest and most perfectly surfaced A-roads, and rewarding at speeds well beneath the operating window of its sophisticated new aerodynamics. If not, the enviable status it holds as the only mid-engined V12 supercar on sale will count for little, and we can say straight away that you should instead plump for a Ferrari 488 Pista, a McLaren 720S or even the Performante.

That said, Lamborghini should have little trouble selling the 900 examples of this ‘Super Veloce Jota’, purely on the basis of its name. It originates from an out-of-hours project undertaken by fabled Lamborghini test driver Bob Wallace, who developed the Miura to unprecedented levels of hardcore before the sole prototype burned to a cinder on the autostrada.

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This is only the second time the name has been reprised since, and suggests Lamborghini is on truly unapologetic form. Too unapologetic? Let’s find out.

Price £360,000 Power 759bhp Torque 531lb ft 0-60mph 2.9sec 30-70mph in fourth 5.3sec Fuel economy 11.9mpg CO2 emissions 452g/km 70-0mph 40.8m

The Aventador range at a glance

Presently, the Aventador S represents the entry-level offering in Sant’Agata’s ageing, but no less awe-inspiring, line-up of mid-engined, V12 supercars. Available in both coupé and roadster guises, the S develops a ‘mere’ 730bhp.

The SVJ sees the V12’s wick turned up to 759bhp, and also gains a comprehensive roster of aero and chassis tweaks. As with its S sibling, the SVJ is available as both a coupé and a roadster. SVJ prices start at £360k, but can easily top £400k.

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Lamborghini Aventador SVJ 2019 road test review - hero rear

The SVJ is powered by a naturally aspirated 6.5-litre, quad-cam, 60-degree V12, and will be the last flagship Lamborghini not to use at least one electric motor to improve emissions. The high-revving L539 is by now a familiar engine, having been designed from scratch for the original Aventador LP700-4 in 2011 and subsequently sharpened for the Aventador LP750-4 SV, which lifted power from 690bhp to 740bhp.

Furnished with new titanium inlet valves and with less internal friction, for this latest application it reaches an all-time high, making 759bhp at 8500rpm and producing a flatter torque curve that peaks with 531lb ft at 6750rpm. A claimed mass of 1525kg without fluids therefore gives the SVJ a power to weight of 498bhp per tonne – a staggering figure, but somehow still adrift of the 488 Pista and McLaren 720S, which by the same measure each surpass 550bhp per tonne thanks to their smaller footprints, lack of front driveshafts and the use of forced induction.

SVJ gets the high-mounted, perforated exhaust tips of a style first seen on the Huracán Performante

Neither packs anything like the visual clout of the Lamborghini, however, not least because of a new Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva system of active flaps and air channels first seen Lamborghini on the Huracán Performante. With the system off, the SVJ generates almost 50% more downforce as the Aventador S, but with various vents open, it can stall the rear wing for reduced drag and greater straight-line speed. The wing’s inner passages also allow air to be ‘vectored’ from side to side, depending on the direction a corner takes. Lamborghini claims this means the SVJ can get its wide front axle into turns with less steering lock than would otherwise be required, which in turn allows its driver to chase the throttle earlier and maximise exit speeds.

Beneath the body panels and mounted to aluminium subframes themselves rigidly attached to a carbonfibre monocoque tub, the SVJ retains aluminium double-wishbone suspension controlled by pushrod spring-and-damper units housed inboard. The car’s relatively gentle spring rates are unchanged from the Aventador SV, but the magnetic dampers (50%) and anti-roll bars (15%) are dramatically stiffened with a view to track driving.

Four-wheel steering works in tandem with the car’s variable-ratio electrohydraulic rack, and the central Haldex coupling now distributes a further 3% of torque to the mechanical limited-slip differential between the 355-section Pirelli P Zero Corsa rear tyres. Our car was tested on track with the optional Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres, which are said to have won the SVJ roughly 10 seconds on that lap of the Nordschleife. Carbon-ceramic brakes are standard.

If there is an obvious weakness to an otherwise spectacular mechanical package, it is the transmission. Ferrari stopped using robotised manual gearboxes almost a decade ago, but Lamborghini persists with its seven-speed ISR, although claims to have further optimised the set-up.


Lamborghini Aventador SVJ 2019 road test review - seats

Should you never have the opportunity to slide aboard an SVJ, you can simulate the procedure by placing a child’s booster seat underneath your kitchen table. The roofline of this car is extraordinarily low – 60mm lower than a McLaren 720S – and the carbonfibre tub demands the seats are set deep within the broad footprint.

Considering how roomy and approachable a big-bore supercar like the 720S has been made to feel, it’s almost as though Lamborghini has wilfully crafted an ambience that is dark and intimidating.

This is a supercar best enjoyed if you’re under 6ft tall. Driving it with a helmet on, to set our benchmark handling lap times, I had to slouch in the seat, bandy-kneed around the wheel (I’m 6ft 3in)

Which, of course, it probably has. From within, the SVJ oozes drama. It is defined by its outlandish personality and is nothing if not single-minded: there are tight pouches flanking the broad, raised ‘transmission’ tunnel, but these hold little more than a passport and, elsewhere there is no dedicated stowage – not even a glovebox.

You might squeeze a couple of soft-shell jackets behind our car’s fully electric, heated seats, but the only realistic option is to use the awkwardly narrow cavity beneath the bonnet, which can barely accommodate a pair of full-face helmets. Even the 488 Pista, with its theatrical bonnet scoop, does better in this regard.

The cabin itself is little changed from previous iterations of the Aventador, albeit with more Alcantara and vast slabs of glossy carbonfibre for the door cards replete with leather pulls. There is good adjustability in the steering column and plenty of room for busy elbows, though head room is unforgivably poor and if the seats slid closer to the rear bulkhead, it would benefit taller drivers considerably.

While the Huracán has now graduated to a sizeable touchscreen display mounted on the transmission tunnel, the Aventador persists with the same meagre 7in readout it first launched with in 2011. That and the MMI switchgear are still clearly pilfered from the Audi parts bin of the time. The graphics are mediocre by today’s standards and the set-up desperately needs a clean-sheet redesign. Sat-nav and Apple CarPlay are available as a no-cost option, however, and allow you to bypass the unintuitive standard menus.

The TFT digital dashboard is larger and more impressive, if less sophisticated than what Porsche now provides. The readout alters its skin depending on driving mode, culminating in Corsa, where the tachometer is theatrically spread almost the entire width of the binnacle. As in the Huracán Performante, you’re also kept abreast of what the ALA system is doing, by way of a small graphic.

Lamborghini offers its Sensonum premium sound system (£3156), which performs reasonably well given the lack of cabin insulation. There is, however, an even better audio device that comes as standard, which we think you’ll prefer.

Much of the switchgear is the same found in Audi models two or more generations since departed, and so the central touchscreen from the recently released Huracán Evo cannot come soon enough. Certainly, the Aventador is feeling its age, both in terms of hardware and ergonomics.

And yet all the above pales to insignificance relative to the driver’s inability to see out of the SVJ. With such an elaborate engine cover, the effective rear blindspot encompasses anything behind the driver’s ears (mind you, Lamborghini didn’t even bother to fit a rear-view mirror to the Diablo Jota). The fiercely raked A-pillars might as well be Roman columns, and the windscreen is so low, you’ll struggle to observe traffic lights at anything closer than 20 feet. That said, while it can be tough to acclimatise to all this, the rewards for sticking it out are simply spectacular.


Lamborghini Aventador SVJ 2019 road test review - engine cover

For the benefit of our telemetry, Lamborghini fitted the SVJ with a set of the semi-slick Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres it offers as an option.

The car proceeded to record a series of numbers neither the McLaren Senna nor the Porsche GT2 RS were able to match during their own road tests; at least until 90mph, when the £750,000 McLaren begins to gently edge ahead.

The centre clutch now disengages under braking for a more natural feel – a first for the Aventador and demonstrates that this Jota is much more than an outrageous bodykit

The propulsive savagery of this 6.5-litre engine – which turned out 0-60mph in 2.9sec, 0-100mph in 6.1sec and 0-150mph in 13.2sec – is rendered all the more extraordinary by the car’s dawdling, clunky single-clutch transmission; the fact that, at 1770kg, as weighed, the whole show is considerably heavier than the rivals above; and the fact that there is no forced induction.

Admittedly, that last element does eventually tell. Though the SVJ has a torque curve usefully both higher and flatter than that of the SV, its best tractive efforts remain a second or so behind the quickest in this class for the 30-70mph haul in fourth gear – our benchmark for mid-range performance.

And yet it matters not a jot. With that lighter flywheel comes a lack of inertia and scalpel-sharp response for which you would trade seconds of outright performance, let alone tenths. Not that those adequately committed will ever need to. Hold your nerve to wind this fabulously linear motor out to its 8500rpm sweet spot and the SVJ accelerates madly – 60-80mph in second gear is dispatched in a mere 1.3sec – with a soprano howl evocative of F1’s glory days.

Out on the road, this sonic assault, along with the car’s girth, contrives to somehow make it feel even quicker still. Fortunately, the SVJ is not under-endowed in the braking department. Carbon-ceramic discs of 400mm (front) and 380mm (rear) stopped our car from 70mph in 40.8m, and they are easy to modulate at road speeds.

In terms of outright stopping power on a dry surface, the Lamborghini split the Senna (37.4m) and another naturally aspirated V12 Italian whose performance closely resembles that of the SVJ: Ferrari’s 812 Superfast (42.1m).


Lamborghini Aventador SVJ 2019 road test review - on the road nose

It is hard to envisage a setting more alien to the SVJ than a typical British B-road, and with the ever-present temptation of such colossal performance, at first it feels like a match made in hell. The driving position does not inspire confidence, certainly not in tandem with the car’s dimensions, which seem to swamp what limited breathing space there is between the white lines and demand that you process any intricacies that lie ahead faultlessly. Concentration is required.

But with familiarity comes speed and an appreciation of the phenomenal accuracy of the steering, which is light but communicative and beautifully geared in Corsa mode, when the ratio finally becomes fixed. Where at first it seems enough simply to get so heavy a car slowed down for corners and then to pour its massive bodywork towards the apex before winding on the power again, the steering gives you the confidence to begin trailing the brakes, picking up the throttle early and exploring the character of this unusually long, inordinately wide chassis.

Four-wheel steering and stability control systems work well to recover the situation if you’re ambitious with your entry speed or late with the brakes

One thing quickly becomes apparent – because of its inherent stability and lateral grip, on the road the SVJ’s limits are almost incomprehensibly high. Anything remotely near the car’s true cross-country potential is unsustainable for anything more than a few seconds, and you’ll need a long line of sight.

And yet, the handling is just about engaging enough to offer satisfaction at nothing more than an enthusiastic flow. In the lower gears, you will invite understeer if your entry speed into corners is too high, and the power required to neutralise that is greater than for a McLaren 720S, but beneath the He-Man persona, the Jota is car of surprising balance, poise and subtlety.

The pushrod suspension is acutely responsive to a lift of the throttle mid-corner, whereby the nose will sling itself inwards and tighten the line, and the four-wheel steering – often a fraction too keen on turn-in, admittedly, especially with the onrushing momentum of the engine – will sustain a lovely on-the-cusp-of-yaw stance through slower corners. This latest take on the Aventador still doesn’t offer the last word in mid-engined dynamism, but it’s now good enough for a car whose métier undoubtedly resides elsewhere.

Driving the Aventador SVJ to its true potential on circuit is a task that, by Lamborghini’s own admission, requires quite a lot more commitment and concentration than doing the same in Lamborghini a Huracán Performante.

The sheer size, weight and inertia of the bigger car are the primary reasons for that. Heavier and harder on its tyres than most mid-engined supercars, the SVJ still develops masses of lateral grip and good throttle-on balance to begin with on sticky Trofeo R rubber – though it ebbs towards understeer as that grip level degrades.

A brake pedal that can feel dead initially (if only for split second) and a four-wheel steering system that is particularly aggressive on turn-in make slowing the SVJ and getting it to the apex challenging at times. Likewise, those jolting gearshifts must be well-timed in faster bends to avoid destabilising the car.


Any notion of ‘comfort and isolation’ applies about as much to the Aventador SVJ as it does to a public flogging. And, you might argue for a car like this, that’s fine. To the best of our knowledge, the 96 decibels recorded from within the cabin at 8500rpm in third gear is second only to the McLaren Senna – a dyed-in-the-carbonfibre track-day device whose provision for comfort extends only to the bare legal minimum.

The Lamborghini does at least feature air conditioning to fend off heat soak from a V12 within arm’s reach of the driver’s seat, which is itself fully electric and heated, as you’d hope for £3000. However, without experience of Lamborghini’s other models, you might not expect these seats to be so exquisitely uncomfortable on anything longer than a reasonably short stint at the wheel.

Most people will easily find an acceptable driving position but, thereafter, the nature of the padding and shape of the foam seem to put undue pressure on the lower back. General discomfort is compounded by poor visibility, the blended din of the engine and the vast tyres, and finally the disjointed gearshifts, which mean rarely should you leave the transmission in auto.

And yet there is no doubt that this latest, apparently most uncompromising take on the Aventador rides British roads far more delicately than the early LP700- 4 models. So long as you don’t find yourself on gnarled old B-roads, in Strada mode the suspension remains alert but seldom is it harsh, and of course it improves with speed.


Lamborghini Aventador SVJ 2019 road test review - hero front

The Aventador’s status as the wildest, fastest, last of the unhybridised line of mid-engined V12 Lamborghinis ought, if there’s any justice, to deliver it a super-collectable reputation. And that should make the car’s asking price – which, on our test car, was far north of £400,000 after options – somewhat easier to stomach.

In point of fact, however, it’s still too early to tell how prized the SVJ will be among supercar owners. The slightly tentative pricing of cars already on the market (yours right now, it would seem, for very little after-options premium from independent dealers) would suggest there isn’t an abundant level of interest in the car, and so canny buyers should perhaps exercise some caution. Those well used to the financial glide path typical of big Lambos, however, probably won’t bat an eyelid.

Over four years and 24,000 miles, CAP predicts the Aventador will retain 57% of its original value

Standard equipment includes full digital instrumentation, a nose-lifter, sports buckets seats and, as a no-cost option, Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring – which is a more generous roster of equipment than you’d get on every other car of this ilk.

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Lamborghini Aventador SVJ 2019 road test review - static side

The most powerful and complicated road-going Lamborghini does not merit five stars, but we should make some things abundantly clear. In the age of electric assistance and forced induction, the performance from this stubbornly old-world but expertly honed, naturally aspirated V12 gives nothing away to more sophisticated rivals and offers an elemental soundtrack sure to live long in the memory of anybody lucky enough to sample it.

In Jota form, neither is it any longer satisfactory to think of the Aventador as a mere straight-line bludgeon for only the smoothest roads. The SVJ can reward and challenge its driver at sane speeds, and possesses far greater quantities of delicacy and precision than any previous senior supercar built in Sant’Agata.

Learn to speak its language and nothing else quite compares

Alas, Lamborghini has work to do for the next generation. The interior needs to make a quantum leap in ergonomics and technology (but preserve the intimidation factor, please), the driveline downstream of that magnificent engine needs an overhaul and the dynamics should be crisper still. Do this and the Aventador’s replacement truly will be a force to be reckoned with – and, we hope, every last bit as enchanting as this Super Veloce Jota.

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Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ First drives