By Hannah Elliott, Los Angeles
Now that pretty much everyone has started down the long road toward electrification, it’s become increasingly rare to experience a production car truly unadulterated in its pursuit of power and speed.
It’s even rarer to find one without the efficiency-minded crutches of turbo- and supercharging.
The 2021 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster is one such unicorn.
It has a naturally aspirated V12 engine made by Automobili Lamborghini Holding SpA, at the Lamborghini factory in Bologna, not shared as is so often the case with the Audi-Bentley-Porsche siblings under Volkswagen AG’s maternal wing.
Here’s proof it doesn’t give a fig about your tree-hugging, Prius-driving, kale-eating environmentalism: The Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 9 mpg in city driving. Nine.
That’s half the efficiency of my long-wheelbase Rolls-Royce sedan from 1975.
Those guys in Miami and Dallas and Hollywood who drove Lamborghinis in the 1980s? They’d scoff at the Huracán with all its modern niceties and mannered driving style.
But they’d love this undomesticated monster.
When I drove the SVJ Roadster for four days recently, it brought me the closest I’ve felt to the supercars of Lamborghini’s past since one afternoon in Nice, France, years ago when a hot tailpipe seared a perfect crescent into the skin of my calf.
Talk about up close and personal with Italy’s raging bulls. That had been an Aventador, too. I still have the scar.
The Biggest Bull of All
We’ve seen multiple variants of the Aventador over the years, including coupes and S versions, for incrementally more aggressive driving and more exclusive aesthetics.
They each have the long, extremely low body, angular sides like origami, and futuristic air vents and aero kits that make them look like characters from Transformers; all have the scissor doors that open up like insect wings.
This SVJ, which stands for superveloce jota, or “Superfast J” in Italian, is the top of the line. At a starting price of $573,966, it is by far the most expensive of the Aventador lineup and most other Lamborghinis, too.
It’s also considerably more expensive than most of the other things that get dropped off at my place, including those from Bentley, Ferrari, and Rolls-Royce.
I admit I felt the pressure of ensuring nothing happened to it as I backed it out of the driveway one painful inch at a time so as not to scratch its underbelly.
I found myself compulsively checking the rearview and side mirrors every time I left. Anything to make sure one of those God-awful electric ride-share Bird scooters cluttering L.A.’s sidewalks and bike lanes wouldn’t ding this baby as I pulled onto the street.
Which is to say, don’t buy the Aventador SVJ Roadster if you want something nice for rolling slowly down Rodeo Drive and casual club nights.
The logistics of navigating parking, valet, speed bumps, turning radius, and practically zero visibility from inside the car of anything behind you will make for an embarrassing entrance or exit in front of your friends and frenemies. Every time.
The inescapable roar of the V12 engine, even when it simply turns on, will call attention to the most minute slip in your parking and driving skills. This is not a relaxing car to drive at any speed. That it’s an open-top vehicle makes the exposure even more profound.
But, as I quickly found drilling down Interstate 5 toward Orange County one morning, if you can afford the price tag, the SVJ offers plenty to justify the expense.
With a 770-horsepower engine and 531 pound-feet of torque, the SVJ will get to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds—it’s the special feeling that seems as if a hammer is pounding you back against your seat. It has a top speed of more than 217 mph, which I came nowhere near approaching, officer.
Drive modes, as in the other Aventadors, include Strada, Sport, and Corsa; Ego mode allows you to personalize settings for powertrain, steering, and suspension. In Sport mode, which sends 90% torque to the rear wheels for maximum sportiness on curving roads, everything I saw on the highway I dropped like a bad boyfriend.
In Corsa, the so-called track mode, there’s simply no comparison for sheer speed, nimble handling, or instant power darting at 70 mph through traffic.
As with the Ferrari 812 Superfast and Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport, this is one of those cars you’ll never come close to maxing out on public roads; if you want to feel the full might of the SVJ Roadster, you’ll need to find a track.
A big one. And a driving instructor to make sure you don’t crash yourself in the process.
Not for the Faint of Heart
A few nitpicks that I don’t think will deter anyone seriously interested in buying this car: The interior itself is extremely close to the ground and not suitable for those with a large belly or a short skirt.
The infotainment system, with its tiny screens, dated graphics, and sluggish integration, is starting to feel long in the tooth. The cabin seems less modern than recent contemporaries at Ferrari.
You must pay $1,400 extra if you want a glove box; cup holders come only as part of the “travel package” (a net and a cup holder), which costs $1,100.
The rear pillars of the car limit the visibility behind your shoulders as you drive.
The roadster top is rather challenging to remove, requiring some quick-release levers and storage under the hood in front. And, as I mentioned, the abysmal gas mileage will have you stopping much more often than you want to fill ’er up.
None of which I cared about as I sailed past everyone on California’s winding warren of interstates. It’s better that I don’t own this car. I couldn’t afford the speeding tickets.
All those things—especially the magnetism for California Chippies—make this Aventador feel like a true sibling of the glorious and difficult Lamborghinis of the ’70s and ’80s.
The SVJ Roadster is as loud, mean, powerful, hot, awkward, big, and fast as the most legendary supercars always have been.
It doesn’t bow to the dictates of polite society; it defies them—with integrity and a devotion to the original Lamborghini dream that make those fancy new electric sedans feel like appliances in comparison.