What is it?
This is it, then – but not really. The new Lamborghini Aventador LP780-4 Ultimae is the last version ever to use 12-cylinder power alone, but it won’t be the last time we see an almighty V12 in the bowels of something hand-made in Sant’Agata. The Aventador’s imminent successor will also be V12-fired, with electric aid but crucially still no turbos. So this is an end but also a beginning.
Instead of dwelling on the demise of the purely V12 Lamborghini, whose time, you could reasonably argue, has well and truly come, let’s therefore focus on exactly how a car as momentous as the Aventador is bowing out. Momentous because it was such an epic statement of intent when it arrived in 690bhp LP700-4 form in 2011, when CEO Stephan Winkelmann described it as not simply one generation on from the Murciélago but effectively two. Dramatically improved ergonomics, a super-stiff carbonfibre monocoque to replace the steel lattice frame and an all-new, lower-slung (being dry-sumped) V12 all saw to that.
And momentous even now because the £345,000 Ultimae is no cynical run-out special, as it could have been. Mixing the best bits of the recent line-up, this is the most compelling Aventador of all and one of the great V12 Lambos, and it starts in the engine bay. Betrayed by the big-bore exhaust tips, which erupt high (although, ridiculously, still only at knee height) through the open-worked rear, and bronze cam covers, this car’s 6.5-litre heart is a transplant from the Aventador SVJ, only with even more firepower. All 769bhp is offered at 8500rpm, a scant 200rpm before the redline demands a reload.
What’s it like?
What ensues is ballistic performance for something so large: 62mph goes by in 2.8sec and the claim is 221mph flat out, making this the fastest Lambo we’ve yet seen.
The chassis is essentially straight Aventador S, although the Ultimae weighs 25kg less than that car, probably due to the new exhaust, the titanium in the SVJ engine and the reduced, Centenario-style rear bodywork and associated diffuser. Heavily rear-biased four-wheel drive (with the front axle engaged via a Haldex clutch pack only when necessary) and four-wheel steering both feature. So does the ISR gearbox that dates the Aventador more painfully than anything else, with the possible exception of the Audi-sourced infotainment switchgear.
How does the Ultimae feel? Much like the S, only subtly sharper – and faster. Yes, clearly the S already has more shove than any right-minded person knows what to do with, but on an empty straight during our test drive in the Modenese hills, with the Ultimae already pulling at an obscene rate, I was shocked to discover just how much pedal travel remained. This SVJ-lite is bewilderingly rapid beyond 6000rpm – perhaps even more so now in terms of perception, because the uncorrupted engine seems so mechanically raw and rich compared with turbo alternatives. The same applies to the artificially sharp throttle response you get from strong electric aid, as in the Ferrari SF90 Stradale. In the Ultimae it’s just you, and the oversquare V12 bellows at your back.