We test a high-end driving experience coming to Dubai and drive a personalised Aventador S
Lamborghini's avent-garde artistry coming to Dubai
The first time I drive a Lamborghini Aventador S, I actively hate it. It feels unrefined; troublesome; grumpy, even. I actually can’t wait to get out of it, such is the force of feeling against the 730hp monster.
I’m in Edinburgh to try the Waldorf Astoria’s Driving Experiences, a 2017-spanning world tour of exotic-car-based fun that concludes in Dubai from November 16 to 18 to coincide with the International Motor Show.
It is only after clambering out from beneath its switchblade doors that I realise I am doing it all wrong, in terms of driving approach and expectations. More on that later.
In the Scottish capital, the choice of wheels comprises four of Bologna’s finest: the aforementioned Aventador S, in a muted silver, plus three Huracans in a rainbow of paint jobs, with both coupe and drop-top versions represented. They make for an impressive sight in convoy through the city’s narrow streets, albeit at photo-friendly momentum in a conurbation not exactly custom-made for these kind of capers. Indeed, the speed limit for the majority of the urban byways in Edinburgh is scarcely 10 per cent of the Lambos’ 300kph-plus capabilities. The levels of traffic are such that we barely get beyond the city limits during our afternoon drive before having to head back towards The Caledonian, Waldorf Astoria’s impressive property that overlooks the iconic Edinburgh Castle.
This year’s programme began back in January in Park City, Utah, to coincide with the Sundance Film Festival, with three further stops in the United States, and one apiece in France and Italy, in addition to the aforementioned Edinburgh dates, all tied to nearby cultural or sporting events. The only downside, however, judging by my Edinburgh experience, is that the Lambos come emblazoned with Waldorf Astoria branding on the doors, slightly ruining the megastar illusion for us humble drivers with pockets a mite too shallow to afford such luxuries on a daily basis.
Not that it stops legions of excited tourists and residents alike from firing up their cameraphones – the highlight being one knowledgeable teenage girl schooling a gaggle of rather clueless male pals on the differences between the Aventador and Huracan.
In Dubai, from the Waldorf Astoria on The Palm, Driving Experience participants will get their mitts on the rear-wheel drive Huracan Spyder and Aventador S Coupe. The drives, which feature professional drivers from Lamborghini, will be in 30-minute blocks. My second Aventador S drive is, coincidentally, in Dubai, piloting a specially customised car demonstrating the best of the manufacturer’s Ad Personam scheme, which is also available to make your Huracan unique.
The Raging Bull’s people trumpet the “infinity of possible combinations”, which may be mathematically dubious, but there is everything from hand-stitched logos on the seats to various leathers and gleaming carbon-fibre addenda, as well as an array of head-turning colours. Customers liaise with the Ad Personam Studio in Lamborghini’s Bologna headquarters.
My car is in a eye-arresting shade of matt yellow (called, with typical Italian flair, giallo horus), and features several stitching “giallo taurus” embellishments on the steering wheel, headrests and leather interior trim. The whole shebang doesn’t come cheap, naturally: the base price of an Aventador S is Dh1.4 million; the carmaker refuses to confirm the full cost including embellishments.
It is in Dubai that I finally discover the Aventador S at its best. My first mistake – and something not aided in Edinburgh by the limitations of the roads – had been driving a 350kph machine that can hit 100kph from standing in 2.9 seconds in Strada mode. Wrong move. The engine note is tamed; the throttle response nothing to write home about. There is no fun without fire from the Aventador, which arrives once you hit a confusingly labelled button to engage Sport.
That big V12 positively squeals when you give it some right foot; the downchanges reverberate the surrounding flora and fauna with shotgun volume. Stand behind the humungous rear exhaust duct while it is running and be prepared to have your legs scorched.
The second problem had been that after being behind the wheel of several Huracans, which are wonderfully composed examples of modern engineering, you might expect the Aventador to be similarly precise. Not quite. This is a supercar in the old meaning of the term: cantankerous, with an air of danger lurking around the corner. The ride is unforgiving on anything other than fresh tarmac. Many of the basic controls are counter-intuitive to most other cars, not least having to reach down into the footwell to open those charismatic doors.
The infotainment system is infuriating. Storage space is firmly in the “why would you need that?” category. There is not really even anywhere to place the weighty key. It is unrepentantly impractical, but when you give the accelerator some attention, it makes you remember why you fell in love with driving in the first place. The Aventador S might just be the purest-bred supercar in the world today. Bellissimo.
The Waldorf Astoria Driving Experience is available from November 16 to 18 for guests at the hotel chain's property on The Palm, Dubai. For details go to http://waldorfastoria3.hilton.com. For more on Lamborghini's Ad Personam programme, visit www.lamborghini.com