Realizing dreams, souls and tire smoke in a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster
I thought it was broken. I mean, I knew they were meant to be aggressive, but this violent? SNAP, went another, as my right fingers twitched, orchestrating a twelve-cylinder symphony that resonated more powerfully than one of Pink Floyd’s lead guitar solos. The vertebrae in my neck tingled, and the sun rising over the mountains impaired my vision to the point where I would go blind if I didn't turn back. Powering next to cliff faces, nestled within a carbon-fiber cocoon, I continued. I wasn’t going to turn back. Not ever. I felt like Keith Moon circa 1968—on top of the world, and yet perilously close to the edge.
That’s what driving a Lamborghini does to you.
When I was six, I dreamt of playing left wing for Manchester United, scoring the winning goal against Arsenal in the UEFA cup. I never did that. Primarily because I didn’t like soccer — an aversion that developed shortly after realizing that I wasn’t very good at it. I also dreamt of being President of the United States. But once I learned that politics involved more than just making smart decisions and leading a nation, my enthusiasm dropped. Plus, I’m British. That probably wouldn’t have gone down well.
In the end, I became a professional race car driver; the dream I’d dreamt most about since age three. I got to race in the Indy 500, drive a McLaren Formula 1 car, win awards, sign autographs and pretend to be important. It was all very fun.
And yet, despite this, I never had the opportunity to drive a dream within a dream — one that was plastered to my bedroom wall: The iconic Lamborghini Diablo.
I was six when the Diablo debuted, and by the time I was eight, to me, it was everything — wild, loud, impractical, imposing, and above all else, special. Who knows whether I'll ever wheel a Diablo, but until recently, I'd never driven any Lamborghini at all. Ferraris, McLarens, Porsches—sure; Mercedes, Bentleys, Aston Martins, Maseratis, absolutely.
But never the brand that graced my bedroom walls.
My smile was obvious from the other side of the parking lot. A group of early workers were already beginning to form: “Is this yours?” they’d ask. “Are you famous?”
A 2013 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster was parked outside the Yahoo offices in Sunnyvale, Calif. I stood in disbelief at the attention we were both getting. Most of this derived from me pulling up in a white Nissan Altima, shaking hands with a stranger, signing my name, and then grabbing the keys to a $445,000 supercar while the man strolled off into the distance without so much as a goodbye.
One guy said to me, “You must be a drug dealer.”
“And a good one at that,” said another.
It was time to drive. While this wasn’t a Diablo, it was a spiritual successor and mechanical descendent. It’s the Diablo of today; a car as savage and formidable as the one it replaces. The surrounding crowd, now topping 15, proved this, desperate to hear the car roar. Or score some cheap weed.
I pulled out of the office block, petrified I’d ding a curb. I could see nothing except protruding wheel arches, a hulking rear-end housing a 700-hp V-12, and a dashboard akin to a F-16 fighter jet. It was totally foreign. And yet I felt at home.
Bumps in the road shattered my spine into a thousand shards. The cabin vibrated like the stage at a Nirvana concert. I had the roof section removed, allowing the fall breeze to whip me in the face like an old principal's rattan cane; an attribute fetching an additional $65,000 over the Aventador coupe.
I clumsily navigated stoplights, clunking along in a flush of expectation. The Aventador is not a car for daily driving; its trunk space holds no more than a gallon of milk, and you’d be an idiot if you attempted to buy any — it’s too low, too wide, too preposterous, too brash. You’d have to park about a mile away to find a space in which you’d fit, and then you’d be greeted by a sea of young boys clambering on the hood, capturing the ultimate selfie.
As I continued to cruise, I noticed everyone watching me. People missed junctions, wandered across lanes, and drooled on their laps like a pack of hounds. This is what Lamborghini buyers want: To make a statement. Something about themselves. Their wallet. Their trouser size.
I, on the other hand, wanted to hit the nearby mountains. I knew a road so quiet it makes Spain look busy. There, I could develop my own personal statement. One involving burnt rubber, sweat, and whole lot of noise.
The roads aren’t exactly smooth, nor do they have any leeway for mistakes. They’re punishing, twisty, yumping stretches of tarmac, strewn across the edge of Silicon Valley’s cliffs. As I hit the gas, the power was immediate. I felt timid to start, unsure of the car’s temperament. The noise wasn’t as loud as I’d expected. But it sung a song like nothing else, humming in the wind like a Gibson Les Paul.
“Life’s OK,” I thought.
The all-wheel drive system ensures the back tires remain glued. The grip level is almost too much to evaluate on public roads. Did I mention the power? It kicks you in the head like a hit of atropine mixed with kerosene. I’ve driven faster machines, but a 0-60 mph time of 2.9 seconds never gets old. Nor do you ever get used to it.
I had the car’s transmission settings in "Corsa" — the most aggressive of the three drive modes Lamborghini offers. In "Strada" and "Sport," I found the shifts too clunky. But in "Corsa," as I yanked the paddle to change gear, the car snapped violently, like it was throwing a Tyson-sized right hook. I knew its gear changes would be savage (it’s a trait all Lamborghinis possess to add "emotion" to the experience) but I didn’t expect it to be like this.
It was fun, in the same way wrapping bubble wrap around your head and banging it into a door is fun.
After a while, I began to feel like I was winning (or at least losing less). At times, I broke so hard into the turns the tires chirped; I entered bends with confidence and immediately went back to full throttle with no hesitation. However, in fast “S” bends, the car would float during quick transitions, like the suspension forgot which shock is expected to accept the load next. This left me feeling unsure: Is it going to swing another punch, or will it surrender?
It’s not a McLaren; its handling is not in the same league. It’s uncivilized. It’s pushy. It fights you as much as you fight it. But if you can work together, you learn to accept one another, like an old married couple. You love her, despite her flaws. And she loves you back.
You wouldn’t change a thing.
I couldn't help but smile. The Aventador possesses a distinct character, one that's spiked with hostility in the most desirable of ways. I had learnt what makes Lamborghini special. I didn't need to drive a Gallardo, Murcielago, or even a Diablo. I get it. Entirely.
It’s an emotion that’s engineered into cars, constructing a vehicle that's more than a machine. It engages you beyond explanation. Creating this goes deeper than simply manufacturing parts, writing some code and bolting it all together. It’s about crafting a soul. And on that day, flying along the glorious mountain roads of Northern California, I felt Lamborghini's soul. Thank god I didn’t go into politics.