2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Review: An Aging Predator Still Has Fangs
It’s not good, but that’s what makes it great.
There's nothing more dangerous than a predator nearing the end of its life, knowing the end is near. An inescapable savagery mounts as the animal lashes out with righteous indignation toward its age, its lost apex status, and the unrelenting dark unknown. Rage, fury, and base instincts are all that’s left of a once more calculated animal.
Staring into that inky blackness is the 2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ. The bad bull’s time is ending—Lamborghini's signaled the Aventador's finality with the Sian, a hybridized supercar that's meant to allude to the forthcoming replacement—and future-proof competitors are clamoring for its throat. McLaren's 720S, Ferrari's F8 Tributo, and Porsche's GT2 RS are all next-generation killers out for the Aventador SVJ’s old-world blood, wielding new adaptations like hybrid systems and high-efficiency turbochargers.
But the aging Aventador is still staving off the inevitable with Einsteinian active aerodynamics and stocco-sharp performance to accompany its ostentatious looks and singular lycanthropic V-12 yowl. No, the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ will not go quietly into that good night, and nor will you be once bitten by this primeval Italian creation. Prepare to growl at strangers.
The 2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, By the Numbers
- Base Price (As Tested): $517,770 ($610,365)
- Powertrain: 6.5-liter V-12 | 770 horsepower, 530 pound-feet of torque | 7-speed single-clutch automatic| all-wheel drive
- 0-60 mph: 2.8 seconds
- Top Speed: 217 mph
- Quick Take: Lamborghini should give these out with straight jackets.
Kingdom, Phylum, Class
To better understand the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, you need to know the name. The Aventador honors a Spanish fighting bull like all modern Lambos; the real magic is in those three letters denoting something far more special than your average Lamborghini (if there is such a thing). You may have heard the SV appendage before—Superveloce—a moniker Lamborghini gives to its fastest V-12 supercars. But the J—Jota, as in the Spanish pronunciation of the letter—hasn't been used in a while.
Its meaning isn't quite as easy to puzzle out as a word that literally means "super fast." The name actually comes from the FIA's ever-denser rulebook; specifically Appendix J, which deals with the technical specs and regulations for cars entered in its pantheon of its sanctioned racing series. In 1970, Lamborghini borrowed the letter and gave it a Spanish twist to christen a special edition race-prepped Miura. The name later returned on the Lamborghini Diablo SE30 Jota in the mid-1990s, a factory conversion that turned the car into a track-only racer, and hasn't been seen since.
What we're saying is, that J is a rare little wink from Sant'Agata Bolognese that says We're not f*cking around here. The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is the brand's most hardcore, track-focused supercar on the street, a machine of such stomach-churning quickness that it owns the Nurburgring production car lap record with a blinding 6:44.97.
A Bio-Mechanical Heart
And nothing—not the twin-turbocharged flat-plane crank V-8s of the McLaren 720S or the Ferrari F8 Tributo, nor the wailing 3.8-liter flat-six in the Porsche GT2RS, and certainly not the grumble of the Acura NSX—can match the Aventador SVJ’s cataclysmic, naturally-aspirated V-12. The sound isn't as high and pitchy as a twelve-cylinder from Ferrari, nor is it a choral crescendo like Lamborghini's own V-10. The L539 V-12 emanates a more guttural noise fitting for its species that grows into a menacing howl to its 8,700-rpm redline.
Bridging the gap between the 12-cylinder engine, which has its firing order emblazoned atop the engine in true Lamborghini pageantry—1,12,4,9,2,11,6,7,3,10,5,8—and the Haldex-style all-wheel drive is a single-clutch, 7-speed, semi-automatic transmission. Why isn't there a dual-clutch like its closest rivals you ask? Essentially, it comes down to the Aventador platform's antiquity. When Lamborghini began developing the Aventador prior to its 2011 Geneva debut, dual-clutches were prone to disintegrate whenever prodded with Lamborghini-levels of horsepower. Dual-clutch units were also heavy. Given the apparent drawbacks, the choice between the two was a simple one for Sant'Agata.
An Exterior Befit of Psychiatric Restraints
Walking up to it, you’re struck by the lunacy of its appearance. Everything about the Aventador SVJ, whether it’s the hundred or so vents, active aerodynamics, razor-sharp angles, or its Rosso Mimir paint, is quintessential Lamborghini. There’s no mistaking it for a Ferrari, McLaren, or Porsche. Lamborghini could tell me the Aventador SVJ's designer escaped a mental institution and broke into its design studio on the day pen met paper and I'd believe them. I'd then try to shake their hand or at least try as a straightjacket likely makes a handshake somewhat difficult.
That mad-as-a-hatter character continues inside. Billionaire doors open, the Aventador SVJ’s cockpit wouldn’t look out of place with one of the Navy’s freshest Top Gun recruits behind the wheel. It’s a vast array of buttons, switches, paddles, racing hard-backed seats, and a bright red flap mounted in the middle of the driver-passenger partition. Flip it up and either you’ve primed your missiles, readied its ejector seat, or you’ve located the Aventador SVJ’s starter.
A column-mounted TFT dash relays everything you need to know, things like coolant temperature, oil temperature, fuel level, oh, and that pesky speedometer. The dash also has a near full-screen tachometer stretching from end to end with a teasing 10,000 RPM at the far end. In addition to the dramatic starter, the central column holds all the HVAC and audio controls—archaically, the Bluetooth connectivity doesn't include music streaming—and the driving mode selector to dial up Strada (Street), Sport, Corsa (Race), and Ego (Personalized).
Unfortunately, while fighter pilots canopies are open and airy, prepare to polish your head smooth in the Aventador SVJ if you're over 6'2". The supercar is a mere 44.7 inches off the deck at its tallest point, which is actually the trellised carbon fiber wing out back and not the cabin. Interior space is at a premium. At 6'4", I ended up sitting akin to Formula 1 driver, practically laying down with my legs slightly elevated and the steering column quite close to my chest. Even then, I still had to scrunch my neck.
But hell, I certainly didn't care. As soon as you flip that red flap and jam the starter button to unleash the V-12, you might as well come to grips with your impending night in jail. It's a plain and simple fact that it is going to happen in this car. At least you'll be laughing all the way to the slammer.
Teeth Gnashed, It's Ready to Hunt
Though the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is tamer in Strada, it's still a barely-caged thing that even Siegfried & Roy would have second thoughts about nuzzling. The adaptive suspension is nicely firm and steering is easy at low speeds thanks in part to the rear-wheel rig that can pivot the back tires to virtually decrease its wheelbase. You can tell the SVJ's not particularly pleased with slow-speed life, but it's not unmanageable by any means. At high speeds, well, I hope you're in good stead with your personal higher power.
Corsa Mode selected, you can hear the valves in the engine and exhaust open, the thrum deepening into a low and steady snarl. A blip of the throttle sends the digital rev needle toward redline so quickly your eyes barely keep up. Everything in the supercar feels tensed and ready to go after an unknowing antelope grazing on the Serengeti. A click of the right paddle and the car lurches an inch forward; there’s weight behind its archaic single-clutch transmission. And it’s immediately clear why every other supercar manufacturer has switched to dual-clutch setups. Changes are neither seamless nor pleasant no matter the direction, each eliciting a momentary pause bookended by pure concussive violence.
Likewise, the ultra-stiff suspension in Corsa will give you chiropractic problems. But like my fitment issues, it didn't matter if I never walked again. The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is that good.
Acceleration en route to its (untested by us) 217 mph top speed is simply awe-inducing. Handling limits are three times what you’ve witnessed in other supercars. That supreme stickiness is due to the Aventador’s all-wheel steering, its inherent mechanical grip, and Lamborghini’s active aerodynamic system dubbed ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva). It's the real star here; unlike other active aerodynamic systems, which mostly consist of an actuated rear spoiler like McLaren’s 720S, ALA opens and closes air channels along the side, underbody, and rear of the Aventador SVJ to aero-vector the chassis in turns. It also uses electronic actuators rather than hydraulic pistons to make it far lighter than a conventional system.
From the driver’s seat, ALA is a heavy metal chain attached to the Lamborghini’s door and some invisible giant pulls it toward each apex. Prepare for warped brain cells. In a long lineage of Lamborghinis that are “just ok” in a curve, this SVJ is frightfully sticky, a matte-red, bewinged slot car devouring apexes. It does make you work on pockmarked pavement, the steering wheel chattering in your hands as you swing it to and fro. But the car simply does not come unglued. It just goes ever faster.
What Do We Say to the God of Death? Not Today.
There are those who say I'm mad—my editors among them—but the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is one of my favorite cars of all time. I don't fit, the gearbox is ancient, it drinks fuel like water, and it has all the subtlety of a switchblade pressed against your jugular, but damn if that all doesn't make it something special. We're on the precipice of a new era where supercars will be electrified and full of technology that makes them more accessible than ever to inexperienced drivers. Manufacturers like Bugatti, McLaren, and Aston Martin are already building ones that can legitimately double as daily drivers. But that misses the entire point.
Lamborghini, as the progenitors of the supercar, understand the coming schism, that it too will have to adhere to new regulations and rules and politically correct bumper heights. But it doesn't have to yet, which is why the Aventador SVJ exists. It's an anachronism, an endangered species, a soul out of time, and Lamborghini knows that makes it all the more precious. It stares death in the eye and throws its head back in laughter—that ridiculousness is why I love it, all the way down to those Lambo doors.
That love does come at a cost that eclipses everything else in the Aventador SVJ’s performance class. Starting at $517,000 and with an as-tested price of over $610,000, the carnivorous supercar is nearly twice the starting price of similar supercars from Maranello, Woking, Stuttgart, and Gaydon.
But there's nothing quite like this one. In the end, why settle? Why go quietly?
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