I must admit that I don’t know all that much about cars. I know I like to drive them. And those who know me or who’ve ridden in my car know I like to drive fast. It’s not that I intentionally speed; I just believe in being efficient with my time. Plus, I like the revving sound my turbo engine makes when I press my foot on the gas.
So last week when I learned about the opportunity to get behind the wheel of Lamborghini’s newest flagship sports car, the Aventador S Coupé, I agreed without hesitation. Drive a 740-horsepower icon with a top speed of 217 mph that can go from zero to 60 in 2.9 seconds, all while being encouraged to go faster? I mean, what’s there to think about?
Before Monday, the most luxurious car I’d ever driven was a Tesla when they were hosting test drives at NorthPark. Lamborghini would be on another level. I pulled into the parking lot at MotorSport Ranch in Cresson, Texas, an hour and a half southwest of Dallas, and there they were. Three Aventadors lined up, perfectly spaced out and aligned, silver, white, and red. But the most majestic of them all, the yellow one, stood alone under the pavilion. It didn’t need company. That’s the one, I thought.
I met some of the other writers and editors as we gathered for a brief presentation prior to embarking on our journey round the track. Most of them were auto writers who already knew a thing or two about cars. Some of them had driven Lamborghinis before. Me, well, I just nodded along and tried to bury my impending nerves. How hard could it be, anyway? It’s just driving. I do it every day.
The time had finally come to lift up the scissor door, slide down into the driver’s seat, and figure out how to actually make the dang thing go. One of the Lamborghini specialists there was very patient with me in explaining the basics a few times, just so I could be completely sure I wouldn’t kill this very nice, very expensive piece of metal—the basic version without bells and whistles will set you back about $420,000. I don’t know how to drive manual (yet), but thankfully the Lambo had an automatic setting option—I used the Strada mode, perfect for people like me who don’t have a clue what a “push rod magneto-rheological active front” means. (Seriously, does anyone?) Unlock the parking brake. Press the brake pedal down. Pull the right paddle behind the wheel toward me to shift from neutral to first gear. Make sure the A for Automatic was on at all times. Don’t lose focus. Good. Got it.
The first of two outings on the track would consist of a few nice-n-easy laps and some slalom exercises through a row of orange cones. I timidly pressed the accelerator, following the instructor in the lead car, and made my way onto the track. In a car with that sort of engine, you feel like you’re going much faster than you actually are. You hear everything and feel everything. This new Aventador has a redeveloped suspension and new aerodynamics. Four-wheel steering, four-wheel drive, four active suspension. I won’t bore you with all the details of the upgrade, mostly because there are so many and I’d be lying if I said I understood them all, but no translation was needed when I was whipping around the pavement. It took me a few minutes to find my rhythm, but by the last lap and slalom run, I was feeling pretty confident. I hugged the curb on turns and drifted to the outside on straightaways. I was looking ahead and not right in front of me. But I hadn’t gone that fast. Yet.
We went back to the pavilion to give the next group their first turn. When they came back, it was time to throw on the Daft Punk helmet and go for several real heart-pounding laps, without stopping and without the cones. The training wheels were off.
As I rounded a sharp curve, I could hear the instructor talking on the radio inside my helmet: “Let’s pick up the speed now. Don’t let up.” My hands gripped the wheel, and a trickle of sweat dripped down my neck. This was my chance to go fast. Cruising into the straightaway, I lowered my foot until the gas pedal couldn’t go any lower. I listened to the engine roar and watched the speedometer climb. For a moment, I was flying down a track, in a Lamborghini Aventador, at 100 mph.
After I slowed down and safely parked the beast, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d managed to drive a Lamborghini and not hurt anyone (or the car, for that matter). I still don’t know all that much about cars, but I do know that no other Monday morning will ever live up.