Lamborghini Aventador, from £266,040
ONE DAY, many years ago, a penguin must have landed in the frozen wastelands of Antarctica and thought: “Hmmm. It’s a bit cold but there are no polar bears trying to eat me and the sea is full of fish, so I reckon I’ll stick around.”
Now if we are to believe the teachings of the baby Jesus, he’d have lasted about five minutes before freezing to death. Or he’d have jumped into the sea, where he’d have immediately become a tasty frozen snack for a hungry leopard seal.
Luckily, however, there’s such a thing as evolution, which arrived in the snowy wilderness and with a heavy but loving, parental sigh took charge of the situation, giving Mr Penguin bigger lungs and a fat tummy and turning his wings into flippers.
We see this kindly benevolence everywhere. When people started to live below sea level in what we now know as Holland, evolution arrived and quietly made sure they grew to be very tall so they’d be OK when the place flooded.
Then there’s Australia. It was designed to be a faraway dustbin for all the animals that were really too dangerous to live anywhere else, so evolution had to make sure that when people decided to live there too, they’d become hardy souls with a belief that anyone who has tear ducts must be a Pom.
I like to think that evolution lives on something a bit like Tracy Island, waiting to drop everything and help out when a tortoise decides it wants to live in the sea, or when people decide they want to keep dogs as pets. Secretly, it thinks: “Why would you want to do that, you imbeciles? Dogs are dangerous carnivores.” But it rocks up anyway and turns what’s basically a wolf into a spaniel with floppy ears and a cute, waggly tail.
We see evolution at work in the world of cars too. When we were all called Terry and June, we were happy to drive around in four-door saloons, but one day we woke up, started naming ourselves after various white wines and decided we would only be happy if our car was 15ft off the ground and called an SUV.
One day everyone wanted a hot hatchback. We liked them. We thought they made a great deal of sense. And then we decided for no reason at all that we didn’t want to go quickly any more. We wanted to save fuel. We are worse than otters, which, of course, started out as fish, then decided they liked the land and then decided, just after evolution had turned their scales into fur, that actually they wanted to be fish again.
One day we woke up, started naming ourselves after various white wines and decided we would only be happy if our car was 15ft off the ground and called an SUV
But despite our otterishness, the car industry has kept up, giving us what we want with remarkable speed.
However, occasionally evolution is caught out. Thanks to the teachings of the great American scientist Michael Bay, we now know the dinosaurs were wiped out by a giant meteorite, which means that one day they were walking through the woods thinking: “These plants are awfully dusty today.” And the next they were sitting there thinking: “Why am I so dead?”
Evolution didn’t even have a chance to put down the crossword and slip into its Thunderbird suit before the whole planet was carpeted with decaying carcasses. And we are seeing a similar sort of thing today in the world of supercars.
Back in the mid-1960s, Lamborghini decided to put an enormous engine in the middle of a car that was about the same height as a piece of paper. It called its creation the Miura and the supercar was born.
There have been many imitations over the years but they’ve all adhered to the same basic recipe: dramatic looks, enormous power and, er, that’s it.
Now, however, Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren have taken the unusual step of using hybrid technology to get even more power from their road rockets. The combination of electricity and petrol is as potent as it sounds. These new cars are phenomenally fast and have therefore arrived in the supercar arena like three extinction-event meteorites.
Honda is next with a hybrid, all- wheel-drive NSX, which I hope will be more successful than its efforts in Formula One. And BMW is said to have an improved i8 in the wings. And that takes us back to where the whole genre began: Lamborghini.
Lamborghini is a division of Volkswagen, which because of this ludicrous emissions saga will not be spraying much cash around in the foreseeable future. Which means Lambo will have no funds to develop a hybrid supercar of its own. Which means it will be stuck with what it’s got now for quite a while.
Which in many ways is no bad thing, because what it has got now is the best car it has yet made: the Aventador.
Oh sure, even by dinosaur standards it’s not the best supercar to drive. It feels big and heavy. And if you go for a hot lap of a racetrack, you’d better not even think about doing another, because the brakes will fade and then fail. It’s all very well saying that this cannot happen because they are carbon ceramic, but I know it does.
There’s more. Inside, an Aventador is very dramatic, with a starter button that hides under the sort of red flap that you normally find over the Fire Missile button in the cockpit of a fighter jet. But if you actually look at all the stuff carefully, you’ll notice it’s been lifted straight from an Audi TT.
And who cares? Because — let’s be honest, shall we? — nobody has ever bought a supercar because they want to get round the Nürburgring in four seconds. Supercars are capable of going at 200mph, but they’re bought mainly for doing 1% of that speed in Knightsbridge. And when it comes to prowling, nothing looks quite as good as the big Lambo. It’s a masterpiece.
And why are you bothered about the “I started wi’ nowt” Audi underpinnings? What would you prefer? Italian electrics?
Yes, it’s soundly beaten both in a straight line and round a corner by the new breed of hybrid hypercars, but, while they make a range of unusual noises, they can’t compete with the raw, visceral bellow of the T rex that lives under the Aventador’s engine cover. Ungodly. That’s how it sounds.
And another thing. The new McLaren P1 is very difficult to drive fast. If you make even a tiny mistake, it will kill you. The Lamborghini isn’t like that. Thanks to its four-wheel-drive system and the fact that it’s more for show than go, it’s on your side when the outside world gets blurry.
The new breed of hybrid hypercars are faster, but, while they make a range of unusual noises, they can’t compete with the raw, visceral bellow of the T rex that lives under the Aventador’s engine cover
I love this car. I love its clunky, old-skool manners and its honest-to-God, shepherd’s-pie approach to the business of getting down low and going quickly.
Will it die in the face of the modern competition? Well, look at it this way. When steam power came along, horses were no longer necessary. But instead of melting them down — which is what I’d have done — we turned them into pets.
And that’s what I hope happens with the big old Lambo: that after the meteorite of hybrid power has struck, people will continue to want it precisely because it suddenly appears to be lumbering and old-fashioned.
Certainly, if I were given the choice of any supercar, this is the one I’d buy. I respect and admire the P1. But which would you rather have as a pet: a clever and sophisticated electronic robot? Or a bloody great brontosaurus?
My case rests.
2015 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 specifications
- PRICE: £260,040
- ENGINE: 6498cc, V12
- POWER: 691bhp @ 8250rpm
- TORQUE: 509 lb ft @ 5500rpm
- TRANSMISSION: 7-speed sequential automatic
- ACCELERATION: 0-62mph: 2.9sec
- TOP SPEED: 217mph
- FUEL: 17.7mpg (combined)
- CO2: 370g/km
- ROAD TAX BAND: M (£1,100 for first year; £505 thereafter))
- RELEASE DATE: On sale now