Last in a decades-long line of mid-engine, V-12 supercars, the Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae is a magnificent beast, but its era is drawing to a close.
Things don’t go on forever. Circuit City isn’t selling DVD players, Adam-12 was canceled, and new Oldsmobiles won’t be in early this year. Horse collar technology has stalled, Microsoft stopped updating MS-DOS in 2000, and here is the last pure Lamborghini V-12-powered supercar. After the 2022 Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae—of which Lambo will knock out 350 coupes and 250 roadsters—Sant’Agata won’t make them like this anymore.
Ever since 1967, Lamborghini’s mid-engine monsters have embodied automotive decadence. The formula is straightforward: thrilling V-12 engine, a roofline that rises only as high as a supermodel’s thigh, sounds that shout mating calls of profligate wealth, and an unfathomable capacity for speed—the kind of stuff that tempts the impressionable into lives of crime and pornography. The names Miura, Countach, Diablo, Murcielago, and Aventador will live on for as long as there are humans who remember internal combustion. So, a few more months.
What the Ultimae fixes from previous Aventadors is not a damned thing. It’s still a car that demands athleticism to get into and out of; pulling down the doors means risking a shoulder muscle tear; and the starter whirrs up like the auxiliary power unit in the back of a 737. Shut it down, and the fans keep roaring as if they were inflating a kids’ bouncy house.
What little view there is out the back is distorted by heat waves rising off the engine, and looking forward means peering up at the license plates of minivans and SUVs. The nose scrapes on anything taller than a flattened soda can, the ride is often brutal, and the only reason why the massive tires can’t be heard roaring is because the sound of everything else is even louder. Most egregiously of all, the seven-speed single-clutch automated-manual transmission still shifts with the subtlety of Lawrence Taylor hitting Joe Theismann.
But how it looks? It’s valet Fight Club at any casino. Merely seeing it instantly propels 12-year-olds through three years of adolescence. Pimples pop, pupils dilate, tendons tauten, and breathing gets so shallow that people fall into respiratory acidosis. It’s not beautiful; it’s startling. Catch a glimpse of it when unprepared, and your cerebrospinal fluid will boil off.
It doesn’t matter that this thing has been around since 2011. Most of the world has never seen an Aventador in alloy and carbon-fiber reality. And in the context of most ordinary people’s ordinary lives, it’s radically extraordinary.
So, the essential preposterousness of the Aventador is intact. What the Ultimae brings is a few new visuals tics, some interior design twists, and some additional power from the no-damn-turbos, no-hybrid-kludges 6.5-liter V-12. As the “780” part of its name implies, it’s now rated 780 CV (metric Euro equines), which translates to 769 hp (American horsies).
When the all-wheel-drive Aventador entered production, the same basic engine was rated at 700 CV (691 horsepower), so the new rating represents a more than a 10 percent increase in output. That’s about 1 percent per year of the car’s life.
But while 769 horsepower is a staggering number of hooves, it’s almost modest compared to more recently unleashed automotive studs. Forget for a moment all-electrics like the claimed 1877-hp Pininfarina Battista or already-classic hybrids like the 887-hp Porsche 918 Spyder and the 950-hp Ferrari LaFerrari. Instead, look at the Ferrari 296 GTB—the lineal descendent of “entry-level” machines such as the 308 GTB, F355, and 458. It uses a twin-turbocharged V-6 hybrid to provide up to 819 horsepower to even neophyte Ferrari buyers such as Saskatchewanian teenagers who’ve just signed their first NHL contract.
The Aventador Ultimae looks like the car of the future we all drew as middle schoolers sentenced to detention. But it is so much a car of the recently passed past. Still, it’s awesome when it starts up and that V-12 settles into its menacing idle. The start button is under a silly red cover and the entire starting sequence unspools like the overture to La traviata. It’s all so pretentious, and so what?
This isn’t about transportation, it’s about transcendence. The car fits tight to the driver, and the mechanical immersion is complete. There’s a massage function in the seats—they vibrate along with the libretto being sung by the V-12. Finding the reverse button on the center console is counterintuitive because, come on, going backward in an Aventador is not a good idea. The steering is heavy, the pedals take a determined right femur to operate, and leaving any parking lot attracts a crowd that may break out into spontaneous applause. Getting into this car may not be easy, but once you’re inside it mashes up time, space, sound, light, and Super Shell into one of the world’s great entertainments.
Make sure your donations to the law enforcement charities are well documented and well known, because the only way to truly understand this thing’s richest sensations is to treat it as if the law can’t touch you. At part-throttle the transmission shifts as if it were hauling intermodal containers around the Port of Long Beach. Every upshift feels as if you’ve knocked the Aventador into a curb and the engine stalled. Downshifts are better, but not perfect.
But at full throttle, the shifts come fast and furious and then even faster and furiouser. The Aventador is built to thrive when spurred, whipped, and prodded. Fly up a freeway on-ramp onto, say, the 405 in Southern California, and by the time the merging lane is ending, the speedometer shows triple digits, and blowing past a CHP Charger without even noticing it is a possibility. Scratch “possibility” and insert “likelihood.”
The sound as the V-12 approaches its 8700-rpm redline is audio fentanyl. There’s always an appetite for more.
On more accommodating back roads, the Aventador annihilates asphalt. It can’t match, say, a Porsche 911 for instantaneous reflexes or a Ferrari for tactile conversation, but what it brings is arrogant confidence. Dive into a corner at a scary speed and by the time the apex is reached, the driver knows that he could have gone through 30 mph faster. It would take Thor’s hammer plus two Incredible Hulks to knock this thing off a well-chosen line.
Though it’s enormously wide, has a long 106.3-inch wheelbase, and weighs in at close to two tons, it’s also equipped with effective rear steering that makes it drive smaller than it is. There’s so much grip married to so much mechanical will that once its limits are exceeded the expectation here is that the atomic structure of the Aventador would enter instant entropic dissolution and become nothing but randomized protons and electrons with a few stray neutrinos.
Some credit for this feeling of infinite traction goes to the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires wrapping 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels. But most of it is due to the chassis tuning.
So much of this car is inexcusable—the crappy infotainment system, insane fuel consumption, absurd lack of storage space, awful transmission—but it embodies all that big Lamborghini supercars have always been. Silly and stupendous. Revolting and riveting. And at $507,353 to start, expensive too.
Is the Ultimae the best Aventador? We couldn’t perform our battery of tests on this one, but Lambo claims a zero-to-100-km/h (62-mph) time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed just over 220 mph. But maybe a buyer would prefer the big wing on an SVJ? Or the more subdued (Ha!) S. Or the SuperVeloce. Or the seemingly endless tribute and special-edition models. Whatever.
But it’s time for the Aventador to go. The 21st century has left the 20th-century supercar behind. And while Lambo will likely still make V-12 something or others, they’ll be working through hybrid systems and better for it. And soon, the regulatory realities will make this sort of car virtually impossible to produce. The supercar has been redefined, and the big, V-12-powered mid-engine Lamborghini isn’t it anymore. We will all dream new dreams.
Meanwhile, maybe Adam-12 can come back?