IT’S ALMOST SPOOKY. THE DRIVING environments couldn’t be more different: one elevated on an extreme-looking but nicely squishy seat, your legs bent as they would be in a saloon car, visibility easy and reassuring; the other set behind a vast, raked-back windscreen, seat just a carbon shell with some woefully unsupportive padding and set bolt upright, your legs splayed beneath the fully extended steering column, widescreen door mirrors filled mostly with intakes and huge, sharp-edged wheelarches, and a whole lot of carbonfibre aero addenda visible through the venetian blind-style engine cover when a little more of a rear view might be welcome.
Yet as the road wiggles into the gloom, puddles clawing ominously from the edges of narrow lanes and hiding God-knows-what, these two wildly different machines have the same appetite and enthusiasm; they summon the same unbelievable speed. Extracting it is an exercise in restraint, occasional moments of fullthrottle joy and many more in a kind of blind panic as tyres skate over standing water and bumps shuffle the cars off line in a heartbeat. Two cars so extreme they seem to have wholly forgotten about the real world. Especially when it’s gripped by winter.
Of course, you could argue that the Lamborghini Aventador never cared too much for the real world. Despite the quantum leap it represented when it replaced the Murciélago way back in 2011, its dynamic qualities always felt as though they looked to the past for inspiration. As Ferraris became ever more useable, embraced electronics to make good their inherent hyper-agility and deliberately prised open their operating window, Lamborghini surged ahead with material technology and pushrod-operated suspension but kept the driving experience resolutely old school. The Aventador was always vast, intimidating, deeply uncomfortable at low speeds and seemingly created for a 30-minute blast of adrenaline rather than a regular dose of more cerebral thrills.
Things change. A little. Magnetic dampers, introduced with the SV in 2015, improved lowspeed ride and high-speed control, the purity of the spectacular shape has gradually been supplemented by tricks, flicks, splitters and spoilers and each variant has focused increasingly on track performance. The latest and final of these, the Aventador SVJ you see here, even set an astonishing lap record around the Nürburgring, only to be beaten by a Manthey-modified 991 GT2 RS and, latterly, by the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series. The Aventador has been around a full decade but those terrifying 6 minutes and 44.97 seconds demonstrate it’s still relevant in a world of 765LTs and SF90s. At least on a track in the Eifel forest.
Here and now the weather feels distinctly Eifel. Persistent drizzle hangs everywhere, fog comes and goes in great patches and gusts of wind rattle the bare trees and pelt water at the windscreen in great sheets. Later, we’ll thwack and thump around London for photography, but for now the Lambo’s job is to keep four round taillights in sight on wickedly slimy roads built for cars a size smaller.
Those lights belong to the GT-R Nismo. Another last hurrah, this time for the oldest performance car on sale today. Unbelievably, production of Nissan’s gamechanger started in December 2007. It’s a teenager. Which might explain the fact that it seems so difficult to reason with, refuses to fall in with convention and is so belligerently angry. The SVJ’s 6.5-litre V12 may have 759bhp but hell hath no fury like a hormonal teen. Those tail lights are starting to edge into the distance…
So it’s no ordinary match-up. These cars aren’t ‘rivals’. In fact, neither of these cars has rivals. You don’t choose a GT-R Nismo over, say, a 911 Turbo S. Any more than you weigh up the pros and cons of stretching to an Aventador SVJ instead of a 765LT. You buy them because you can, and because they speak to you. More than any other performance cars on sale today, Nissan’s ultimate GT-R and Lamborghini’s maddest of madmen are statements of devotion. We’ve brought them together not to rationalise their existence, but to remember why they command such affection in the first place.
What’s surprising is that familiarity doesn’t breed even a trace of contempt. Not for me, anyway. How could it when both of these cars specialise in the extraordinary – and do it completely on their own terms? If you don’t smile when you heave the door of the Aventador upwards and then duck beneath it to drop into the cold, hard embrace of the carbonfibre seat, then you’re beyond hope. The GT-R doesn’t require such ceremony but there’s something about the size of this car, the lofty seating position and the blocky, unsophisticated architecture that has a drama all of its own. A Porsche collector poring over shades for the leather-covered air vents on their 14th wildly overthought limited-edition 911 or a Ferrari client perusing Atelier options wouldn’t get it. Which is exactly the point. The GT-R Nismo comes in red, white, black or grey. The interior is black and red. There are no options. You pay what they ask for and, erm, there aren’t any choices to make.
In return you get a GT-R that’s benefited from well over a decade of evolution and is now laser-focused. The big numbers are 592bhp at 6800rpm and 652Nm from 3600 to 5800rpm, a top speed of 315kmph and a kerb weight of 1703kg. The little ones are 0-100kmph in 2.8 seconds and a whole host of incremental weight savings and other measures introduced to cut response time. The new turbochargers are lifted directly from the GT3 racing car and each turbine wheel has ten vanes, one fewer than previously. Those vanes are also 0.3 millimetres thinner. In combination, this reduces inertia by 24 per cent.
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