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Monday, July 14, 2014

Driving the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, with an astronaut at the wheel


2013 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster
                           2013 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster
When Drew called to say he was visiting, I thought about what I could do to top his already-amazing adventures in space — twice part of NASA's Space Shuttle crew, once on the Atlantis to service the Hubble Space Telescope, and the second on the last Endeavour flight in 2011.
 (He was the lead guy doing the space walk that “rebuilt” the telescope.) Instead of traveling aboard the 17,000-mph Space Shuttle, I asked Lamborghini for an Aventador Roadster to shuttle Drew around town for his official duties.

Astronaut Drew Feustel
Astronaut Drew Feustel

Our Aventador rocket ride for the weekend was dressed in spectacular metallic light blue that shimmers under the sunlight. Inside, the black instrument panel contrasts the beige handcrafted Italian leather.

 Picking up Drew Saturday morning at his hotel, he comments, “I liked it from the moment I saw it.” Unlike the usual sinister all-black, or even the flashier bright orange usually seen on a Lamborghini, our exotic roadster shows off the car’s bold styling lines with confidence without over-advertising it.

Often a convertible looks great in open-top, but turns into something awkward in closed form. Not so in the Lamborghini Aventador Roaster. The two-piece carbon-fiber top caps the car nicely, and doesn't detract from its overall styling.

 To take the lightweight hard shell off, simply unlock a few latches and store them inside the trunk underneath the hood upfront. One gripe: don’t look to take this car on long road trips as the hardtop takes all of the trunk space but room for maybe a baseball cap and a pair of shoes. And that’s it.

“I can say the interior feels a bit like a cockpit of a supersonic jet," Drew says. "The way the low-slung seats wraps around your body, surrounded by the high beltline door and center console really provide a secured, enveloped position.”

 Probably being as patient as one needs to be as an astronaut, after the rocket launch event, Drew finally quips: “So when do I get to drive this thing?”

With the Aventador Roadster’s 700-hp mid-mounted V-12 properly warmed up, Drew is more than ready to put all of the Lambo’s 509 lbs.-ft. of torque to use via its all-wheel-drive system.

 With torque split that varies from zero to 60 percent sent to the front wheels, plus a self-locking center differential at the rear to make quick acceleration out of a corner possible, the Aventador doesn’t exhibit heavy understeer characteristic as you might expect from an all-wheel-drive machine.

After finding a few open stretches of road and winding highway on- and off-ramps, Drew notes as he wrings out the car: “Just before I planted my foot on the throttle, I had no idea what to expect. That same thought crossed my mind when I first heard the words 5, 4, 3, 2…[on the Shuttle]. It’s called the fear of the unknown!”

The sonorous sound emanating from the back of the Lamborghini is addicting, and with the open-top you can hear it even better inside the cockpit. “Love the responsiveness of the gas pedal. My brain can’t make my hand shift fast enough to beat the redline limit. The all-wheel-drive gives the impression of the car ‘clawing’ at the pavement.”

While the Aventador’s gearbox shifts are not as smooth as other twin-clutch types, its authoritative and momentary pause (only 50 milliseconds) actually adds more excitement to the acceleration. “It is important to keep your head against the headrest in order to avoid the shift-whiplash!” he says.
After Saturday’s full day of driving and one full tank of gas, Sunday is much calmer, perfect for some last minute photography before Drew heads home. At a steep cost of $441,600, the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster is definitely an exotic sports car with an exotic price.

 “Probably the most lasting impression in my memory is the Aventador’s engine note. The sound is glorious, and gets even better with every additional millimeter of throttle input. Every time the gas pedal hits the floor, my ear-to-ear smile instantly snaps onto my face.”

Glad to see Drew had a great weekend. Maybe he will trade his ride with me next time I am in Houston.