It was 2.30am and I was at the Nardo test track in southern Italy. And the reason for our dead-of-night rendezvous was simple, but also properly covert; I was about to drive the all-new Lamborghini Murcielago replacement two and a half years before it was due on sale.
I drove it twice that night, both times on the 7.8-mile high speed circle, and both times at well over 180mph…
For some strange reason Lamborghini wanted to know what a handful of selected journalists thought of the new V12 prototype that would soon become the Lamborghini Aventador, and I was lucky enough to be one of them.
From behind a garage door emerged a long, low, matt black car, covered from floor to roof in tape. Its cabin was also chock full of wires and measuring equipment. But there it was, the first and – at the time – only prototype Aventador in the universe, featuring a carbon monocoque tub and pushrod suspension, plus, of course, a bleedin’ great 6.5-litre V12 engine in its belly.
I drove it twice that night, both times on the 7.8-mile high speed circle, and both times at well over 180mph. At the time it felt like an incredible privilege, even though the car itself was far from perfect in its set up.
Thinking back now I think Lamborghini must have been slightly mad to let us do what we did that night, although as a PR exercise it worked a treat because I have remained uniquely fond of the Aventador ever since, even though it had far from cutting edge technology beside the best of the best.
I say ‘had’ because the new and dramatically improved Aventador S – complete with four-wheel-steering, redesigned electronic suspension and yet more power and performance from its 730bhp V12 – has righted an awful lot of the wrongs of the original.
I drove it recently at Valencia, with the same engineers I’d spent those memorable couple of nights with at Nardo, and I came away pretty much gob-smacked by how much better it is, how much sharper to drive it feels, and how much harder you can push it as a result. A good car has become a great one in the Aventador S, and they look set to do the same thing to the Huracan next.
(P.S. The prototype pics weren’t taken by Steve, but were uploaded to Facebook around the same time he drove the car. Ed.)