We’re late. Very late. Our morning shoot in Nashik has stretched to early afternoon, hand-feeding the Lamborghini 70 litres of Speed 97 has taken too long, and we’re so far off schedule, we have almost no hope of making it on time.
Nothing to do then but go for it, and that’s perfect in a way. The drive up to Nashik the previous day had been peppered with all manner of TV and still camera-related stoppages, so getting down to Mumbai in one smooth, fast flow today is something to look forward to. Then we get even more delayed. Not only do we have to baby the Aventador over the roads leading out of Sula’s postcard-pretty vineyard, we soon get mired in plenty of impromptu traffic of the Lamborghini’s own making. One thing’s for sure, on a list of cars to arrive incognito in, the Aventador places dead last. Attention seekers, this is the one, your Mount Everest, your Chomolungma. It really does look like it’s come from another planet.
Flight plan and take off
Finally, however, we are free of clutter, chaos and craters. Before us now smooth, freshly laid tarmac, creamy white lines and kilometre upon kilometre of long, fast corners. This road has only recently fully morphed from a single-lane hell to a wide dual carriageway and it needs to be celebrated. And what better way to do it than in a screaming, eardrum-piercing V12 Lamborghini.
The first part of National Highway Three or NH3 that leads from Nashik to Mumbai is flat and fast. And the scenery is gorgeous. This is big sky country and the towering flat-top mesas and buttes in the distance give you the feeling that you are coursing through the set of a Spaghetti Western somewhere in Colorado or Montana.
Seeing the road stretch out to the horizon in a lazy arc, passenger Ouseph – who had been driving the car the previous day – starts hopping up and down in his seat. “Corsa, Corsa!” he yelps, and puts the Lambo into full track mode (I initially look for an Opel). All plans of breaking gently into this car’s manic ‘full afterburner’ zone fizzle instantly. Now 690bhp is a serious, serious amount of power, enough to power half a dozen cars, and I really do want to step on the gas hard just to experience the explosion of power, but the trepidation is formidable – like there’s a grenade sitting below the right pedal.
Soon, however, I give in to temptation and really step on it. There’s an instant whack from the downshifting gearbox, my head makes contact with the headrest and it feels like we’ve been shoved in the back by a bulldozer. The tachometer needle jumps up into the meat of the powerband, the note of the 6.5-litre, 48-valve V12 goes from loud, guttural buzzsaw to heavy metal scream, and as four fat tyres claw at the tarmac, the scenery around the cabin goes from pin-sharp to blurred very quickly.
Then things get really serious as the V12 gets into its demonic top end. 6000, 7000, 8000rpm – I’m expecting the thrust to taper off mildly, but no. It gets stronger, harder, and even more disorienting. My hands stiffen on the wheel; the driver’s seat tries its best to swallow me as I get squeezed deeper and deeper in. I involuntarily go “Ohhh shhhiiii...” as the gearbox upshifts – BANG, back into the powerband with absolutely no letup. It feels like we’ve been dropped off a wing and someone’s lit the rocket motor! And what makes things even more intense is that, sat so low, the tarmac just rushes at you like you’re in some sci-fi movie.
Then, since we are on the wrong side of 200, some way off I instinctively come off the throttle and slow down. But there’s really no need. We practically have the road to ourselves so it’s game on till I get to the next little clump of traffic. Pull back twice on the left paddle, plant right foot firmly on 691bhp and look far into the distance, as Lambo goes from supercar to rocket. And the physically brutal assault continues. Just to put things in perspective, as the Aventador gets off the line, it pushes you back in the seat with a force of 1.2g. That’s an accelerative force of more than 9.6 metres per second squared, and this thrust means 200 comes up in just 10 seconds. The further away from Nashik we go, the better the road becomes – the long flowing stretches and mildly cambered long corners are exactly what this car needs. I’m more accustomed to the car now, and my brain has been properly re-wired, so our screaming lunges into the stratosphere become longer and harder. But still, even 15 minutes into our hard charge, this car still has enough explosive acceleration to daze me after every run. I also soon realise that I’ve been involuntarily fighting the g’s and tucking my chin into my neck every time the Aventador gets into its stride. Be in no doubt, using this car as everyday transport would be like using a chainsaw instead of an electric razor.
Manas Resorts in Igatpuri signals the start of the Kasara Ghat, where the road dips down and turns in much tighter on itself. Now that the road is a dual carriageway it isn’t however as tight and twisting as it used to be, and that suits the Lamborghini just fine. Big, heavy, hypercars like the Aventador are better suited to fast, open corners. But though this car is undeniably big, it’s not really heavy. The carbon-fibre tub helps it weigh a mere 1575kg, and that’s featherweight for a car with a six-and-a-half-litre V12 and four-wheel drive. The light weight helps give it a very favourable power-to-weight ratio of 438.7bhp per tonne, and Lamborghini has used the stiff carbon-fibre chassis, pushrod suspension, four-wheel-drive system and carbon ceramic brakes to prevent it from flying off the road; a serious concern here. So even in the tighter stuff, the ground-hugging Aventador is pretty well accomplished. Body control, first and foremost, is fabulous. The stiff chassis and race car suspension give it the feeling of being well welded to road, the four-wheel-drive system allows you to exercise the big V12 more than you normally would and though the steering is light and lacking in general feel, the car turns in reasonably well too.
Initially I merely concentrate on getting a feel for how much grip the car has and how well it transfers its weight. There’s a nice flow to the corners on the one way down from the Kasara Ghat and the Aventador seems to tuck in pretty nicely, allowing me to add power smoothly even on the way out of corners. And once it’s pointing straight-ish, I quickly ramp up and give it the beans. This of course means the pace soon turns manic, as all those horses are unleashed along the fairly short straights, the Aventador exploding from one stretch to the next. And as you can well imagine, this feels like we are attacking corners on a race track and requires full concentration and quick reflexes.
The real trick is to make this manic pace feel nice and smooth, and the Aventador’s strong and well-weighted ceramic brakes allow you to do just this. So you can get on and off the brakes smoothly, but still lean really, really hard on them, and that’s just what you need. As you push harder and harder, however, you do experience some – whisper it – typically Audi Quattro-like understeer, which ultimately does take away a bit of the intensity. But that’s better that than the sudden 180-degree sideslip regularly performed by this car’s nutty predecessor, the Murcielago. At least you can really drive this
Floating back down
Such is the searing pace of the Aventador on the empty NH3, we are actually ahead of time, the Lambo seeming to have performed some space/time miracle. Come to think of it, we were regularly 50, 80 or even 100 kilometres an hour faster over any given stretch of road, and that makes a difference. Soon, however, its time to say goodbye. We slip the black, skintight nylon cover over the car, caress its flanks, wedges and scoops and say a quick goodnight to the wildly impractical, insanely appealing and totally unforgettable Aventador. The perfect car for a quick blast upto Nashik and back; who in their wildest dreams would have thought that?