Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: February 25, 2020
Just when you thought the SV was bonkers enough, in comes the tenth letter of the alphabet to give the aging Lamborghini Aventador a juicy shot of adrenaline to fend off extinction. This is the SVJ, code name for Super Veloce Jota. It might as well stand for Seriously Vicious Jet given how quickly this mad bull will rearrange your internal organs. You see, Jota is a moniker that Lamborghini sparingly uses for only their most hardcore vehicles. It’s like McLaren with their Longtails, or Ferrari with their GTOs. Jota showcases the most track-focused models and upgrades, and have only been shared with the Miura P400 Jota and the Diablo SE30 Jota. So yes, this is the most extreme Aventador that Lamborghini has ever created.
With new titanium intake valves, a lighter flywheel and clutch, and a lighter exhaust, Lamborghini has managed to massage out an extra 19 hp from the shrieking naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12 to produce a grand total of 759 hp. The torque remains at 531 lb-ft but it has now been spread further around the powerband, peaking at 6,750 rpm. Not bad for an engine without any turbochargers. Sending that power to all four wheels is a single-clutch automated 7-speed gearbox. Furthermore, Lamborghini has made the SVJ even lighter than the SV, like that was even possible. That meant more carbon fibre, center-locking wheels, different suspension components, and a shorter mid-mounted exhaust.
When all is said and done, 0-100 km/h comes in 2.8 seconds, curiously the same as the Aventador SV, but that’s not the point of the SVJ. It was built to dominate the race track, and it has. The 2019 Lamborghini LP770-4 SVJ Coupe (yes that’s its full name) currently holds the production-vehicle Nürburgring record, besting the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Ferrari 488 Pista, and even hybrid supercars like the Porsche 918 Spyder. Much of that comes down to the SVJ’s active aerodynamics system, codenamed ALA, short for Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva, and works in the same fashion as it does in the Huracan Performante. Along with a new front splitter and massive rear spoiler, there are active flaps around the body that will adjust downforce on the fly, and will open and close to reduce drag depending on the conditions. Distilled to its most simplistic explanation, ALA allows for 40% more downforce than the SV, which equals more grip in corners, and faster acceleration in a straight line due to reduced aerodynamic resistance.
Now, strictly speaking, evaluating these track-focused alterations and performance upgrades within city limits is tricky business, especially in the middle of the brisky Canadian winter. Shod with Pirelli Sottozero snow tires on all four corners, we have essentially transformed our SVJ into a $700,000 purple snowplow. The wet, damp, and cold tarmac did not give us much confidence to do so either despite the four-wheel steering system that allowed us to athletically navigate through tight corners and three-point turns. The adaptive suspension in the most comfortable setting also made the drive quite tolerable. Its substantial mass (relative to supercar standards) is not immediately evident, and whether or not you will feel the active aero working at these speeds remains a big question mark.
But the fact of the matter is, you don’t need to drive fast to experience a Lamborghini. Throw all those pesky specifications out the window. All it takes is one crusade up to the 8,700 rpm redline to truly understand what the brand is all about. This V12 may not be as effective as a twin-turbo flat-plane crank V8 from a McLaren 720S or Ferrari 488 Pista, but holy hell does it make an entrance. The theatrics are undiluted and without peer, and the SVJ roars louder and more emotionally than the current batch of Formula 1 cars.
Depending on the driving mode, the flap in the exhaust will open at certain RPMs. In Corsa, it opens sooner, and you want it to stay that way until the end of time. The resulting apocalyptic noise is nothing short of intoxicating. You can hear the mechanical clunk of the throttle bodies opening and hissing, the intake roar as air rushes in, the wail of the twelve cylinders as they catch fire and turn fuel into noise, the artillery salvo of pops and bangs on overrun, and the distinctive clunk as the next gear engages. This cornucopian feast of noises will send a tidal wave of dopamine straight to the reward centres of the brain, and even spit fire if you even ask it nicely. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video to hear it for yourself.
Still, driving within the speed limit will offer you glimpses of the SVJ’s masterstroke. The common Lamborghini complaints of understeer are horse-uhh-manure. The SVJ is as neutral as Switzerland, carrying with it unflappable poise, crisp steering that remains faithful to the road, and a gas pedal that commands respect. Push too much, and god knows what dimension you will end up in. The one they call prison, I bet. You thought your Porsche 911 Turbo was fast? The SVJ is on another level. Floor the throttle and the inertial force pushing you into your seat back will be nothing like you have felt before. Think of that roller coaster feeling but amplify it by a thousand bulls pulling on their leash. It’s an apex predator that sees red everywhere, and charges forward without thinking twice. Luckily, the Haldex all-wheel drive system keeps the front nose pointing in the right direction, and is a sufficient enough guardian angel to keep you from slamming into a light pole, Mustang-style.
The SVJ offers four driving modes - Strada, Sport, Corsa, Ego - that differ in the powertrain intensity, steering feel, and suspension stiffness. The latter mode, Ego, allows you to tailor the settings to your preference, but it’s a shame that you can’t touch the traction control setting, as it stays fixed with the powertrain mode. That means you can’t have a full-beans Corsa-tuned engine and transmission mapping with a more sure-footed and secure traction system.
That 7-speed robotized transmission is still a sore spot for the Aventador lineup. Like an M1 Garand, it fires off gears with a distinct pop and ping, followed by a satisfying burble from the exhaust, but it bangs through gears with an unforgiving ferocity, like sitting next to a teenager learning how to drive stick for the first time. When left to its rather horridly-tuned automatic shifting pattern, the SVJ lugs and lurches with each gear shift - not nearly as polished as the Huracan Performante, and miles away from the gentleness of a Porsche DCT. Row your own gears via the paddles and it’s much friendlier on your neck muscles, as does briefly letting off the gas before you shift.
Piloting the SVJ comes with excitement but also with stress. Potholes are the largest burden, as are train tracks and deviously high curbs, becoming a game of avoidance, prediction, and passive driving. Keep in mind that the kind of bumps that disturb an Aventador driver and quite different than the bumps that disturb the standard SUV driver. Thank goodness for the hydraulic front nose lift that allowed us to traverse over nasty bumps that other cars would simply shrug off like a fly on the windshield. It rises up rather quickly too, handy for those last-minute butt-clenching potholes. To put its low-riding stance into perspective, when parked next to a small Buick Encore, and all you will see are its wheel nuts from the side window. It doesn’t help that the blind spots are atrociously massive, and outward visibility from all sides is poor. There is a rear windshield, but it’s blocked by the engine bay and the rear spoiler, though the view of a massive V12 isn’t a bad one. As the engine warms up, you can even see the heat warping the air above. Though, I did find myself swerving to the left just so my side mirror can catch what’s behind me. Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when those distinctive Ford Explorer headlights pop into view.
On the bright side, there is a back-up camera and the display takes over the entire instrument cluster, much like it does in the Audi R8. And like its four-ringed cousin, the steering wheel spokes and massive elephant-ear paddle shifters constantly get in your way of the display. Side note: the SVJ comes with an engine cover window where you can peer inside and find the V12’s firing order etched onto the cover, because we really needed to know it goes 1,12,4,9,2,11,6,7,3,10,5,8. Anyone need a new email password?
You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the SVJ’s interior is also full of theatre. While not as modern as the Huracan or Urus, you will still find enough here to entertain the 10-year old child inside all of us, like the aviation-style switchgear, and the red nuclear-launch ignition cover. There isn’t even a proper door handle in the SVJ, rather a white leather pull strap in its place because, well, weight savings. Not bad for what is essentially a nine-year old interior. The Aventador still uses Audi’s old MMI infotainment unit with an army of plastic buttons littering the center console. At least they emit that satisfying action-figure click when pressed.
And it’s quite roomy for my six-foot figure, though there are the occasional ergonomic quibbles, like the signal indicator and wiper stalks that casually poke out towards your knees, or the lack of a cupholder, the latter of which I had to learn the hard way after a drive-thru adventure for my morning coffee. To be fair, one can be equipped as part of the Travel Package, but who needs caffeine when you have front row seats to a V12 orchestra? What the SVJ gains in flashiness with its scissor doors, it loses in accessibility and practicality. Countless passengers have bumped their poor heads and sprained their backs trying to duck under the doors and ‘hop in’. Climbing in and out is more of a strict choreography than a let’s-just-wing-it approach. We found that the easiest way of ingress was to take a seat on the overly large door sill and then gyrate your upper body like a BB-8 and gracefully fall inside.
The SVJ makes me feel emotionally alive and disappointed at the same time. It is inevitable that one day in the not too distant future, cars like this will cease to exist. Naturally aspirated high displacement engines will be a thing of the past, and titillating combustion soundtracks will become a classic hit, remembered but not replicated. With only 900 units being produced worldwide, the Aventador SVJ Coupe is the last of a dying breed, and it must be celebrated, it must be driven, and it must be savoured. This raging bull is the swansong of the free-breathing V12, and I would hate to see it go.
Model: 2020 Lamborghini Aventador LP770-4 SVJ Coupe
Paint Type: Viola Pasifae
Base Price: $631,680
Price as Tested: $680,380
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,943 / 2,098 / 1,136
Dry weight (kg): 1,525
Engine: 6.5-litre V12
Horsepower: 759 hp @ 8,500 rpm
Torque: 531 lb-ft @ 6,750 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed single-clutch automated with ISR (independent shifting rods)
Engine & Drive Configuration: Mid engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 26.1 / 15.7 / 21.4
Tires: Pirelli Sottozero; 255/30ZR20 front; 355/20ZR21 rear