- A greatest hits of all the Aventador models
- Limited-edition run of 600 cars
- Carbon fiber tub, all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering
- Did we mention 769 horsepower?
Driven: 2022 Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae, Last Hurrah for The Don V12
Louder and prouder than ever
The Lamborghini Aventador is a supercar legend, but it's a decade old. To send it out with a bang, Lambo has come out with the Ultimae. It has the most powerful version of the howling 6.5-liter V12, fancy chassis gear seen first in the Superveloce version, and styling shorn of the big wings.
The result is a car-collector's dream — all 600 are sold — but also one of the most awesome sensory-overload drives in motordom.
What is it?
As the Ultimae 780-4 name implies, this is the final edition of the Lamborghini Aventador. The V12 engine's wick is wound up to 769 horsepower, and it's paired with all-wheel drive. The Ultimae also has rear-wheel steering, plus front steering that varies its ratio according to speed, drive mode and other parameters.
Acceleration claims are 0-62 mph in 2.8 seconds (without rollout) and 0-125 mph in 8.7 seconds. The top speed number is a catchy 222 mph.
The Aventador has always been one of the top-dog exotic supercars. It sits just half a rung below the super-rare limited-edition hypercars. Its V12 and single-clutch robotized transmission are mid-mounted in a carbon fiber structure, and the suspension is race car-like with its pushrod activated, horizontally mounted springs and dampers. Exotic enough for you?
Previous Aventador editions, such as the SVJ, have had madder-looking aerodynamic devices. But here the rear airfoil hides out of view until needed. That helps draw attention to what is after all a body that remains astounding in its proportions, surfaces and silhouette.
Lamborghini planned on making 600 copies of the Ultimae, of which 350 are the coupe and 250 the removable-hardtop roadster driven here. All sold. Then 15 were lost 10,000 feet beneath the Atlantic in the Felicity Ace shipping disaster. Lamborghini promises to replace them.
Why should we celebrate a dying powertrain?
You don't need a 6.5-liter V12 to make this sort of power. Indeed there are several motors that do it with fewer cylinders, aided by turbos and hybrid power. They're lighter and more compact and less thirsty. But they don't have the Lamborghini engine's soul-stirring sonic signature, or its spine-tingling immediate responses.
It's an operatic baritone at low rpm. The throttle is surprisingly controllable because there isn't much torque down there — the peak of 531 lb-ft of torque doesn't arrive until way up at 6,750 rpm. The thrust builds quickly but wonderfully progressively as the rev display swings round, the noise hardening and sharpening with that characteristic V12 resonance. After that torque peak you've still got 2,000 rpm to go, and it disappears in a warp-drive mania as the roadway visually narrows and spins a-blur.
Once you're using the powertrain seriously, the single-clutch seven-speed automatic can dish out the gearshifts with a satisfying near-instantaneous thwack. But at urban speeds, the transmission hesitates like a driving-school neophyte. Still, the ride comfort isn't absurdly punishing, and the car has a nose-lift for providing more clearance for ramps and speed bumps.
But an Aventador Ultimae isn't just about the engine
The V12 might be the star of the show, but the chassis is a strong supporting actor. Our drive was on roads in Northern Italy, so a full track test must wait.
Even in hairpin turns, you can get the Aventador Ultimate to swivel determinedly around the arc. The extra nimbleness provided by the rear-steer system is a definite help here. It feels natural, despite the digitally controlled cleverness. Corner-exit traction is all but supernatural.
In faster turns, the steering feedback from the tires gives you huge confidence. Directional control is eager and pin-accurate. The chassis damping and general sense of solidity are a joy, and the carbon-ceramic brakes never give you a moment's pause.
That doesn't mean it's not showing its age
On introduction, it was novel that an Italian supercar had a navigation system at all. It came from parent Audi. But that was then. Its gritty resolution, slow responses and baffling control logic belong in a museum. Miraculously, Apple CarPlay has been patched in, but with no touch-screen you're back to that clumsy controller.
Part of the Aventador's drama is the proportion of its body that's surrendered to the regal powertrain. That leaves little for your flesh and blood, wedged into the nose. With the roof off, getting into and out of the roadster isn't too bad, but roof on, it's a contortion. And with that styling, and those upward-opening scissor doors, you will inevitably have a crowd watching.
Edmunds would say "get it while you can." But you can't, as the 2022 Lamborghini Aventador Ultimate sold out in the blink of an eye. And anyway there's the small matter of accumulating the $500,000 (or more) you'd need to buy one.
However committed you might be to the environmental benefits — and rapid smooth performance — of electrified powertrains, it's impossible not to be overwhelmed and seduced by the sheer charisma of this V12 and the drama of the car it comes wrapped in.