2017 Lamborghini Aventador S first Drive Next-level Lambo

We’ve never complained that the Lamborghini Aventador is too slow. It produces 690 hp and hits 62 mph in 2.9 seconds. Not bad. The new Aventador S, at 730 hp, is more powerful and, Lamborghini says, no heavier, but there are also no stated improvements to acceleration times  even the 217-mph top end is static.

But that’s not what you take away from driving the Aventador S. Instead, it’s the newfound agility that puts a gulf between the two: A new rear-wheel-steering system is key here. Rear-wheel steering has been around for decades — 1980s Honda Preludes and R32 Skyline GT-Rs ran it — but it’s back in vogue, notably with the Porsche 911 and the Ferrari F12tdf. Similar in concept to those cars, the Aventador S’ version turns the rear wheels opposite the fronts up to 3 degrees below 81 mph, virtually shortening the wheelbase and adding agility. Above 81 mph, the wheels turn up to 1.5 degrees in the same direction to effectively elongate the wheelbase, increasing stability. Lambo claims lower-speed steering inputs are reduced 30 percent with a variable-rate steering system.

To underline the point, Lamborghini let us drive an Aventador back to back with the new S on a slalom at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain. The original Aventador never did fulfill its dynamic potential—it feels dim-witted and cumbersome, veering from left to right through the cones. In comparison, the S jinks and shimmies, feeling lighter and more energetic, and you sense the tires on tiptoes, hungry to change direction. You’re also more aware of the weight of that mid-mounted V12 shifting around behind you.

Of course, the Aventador fundamentals remain. You can see the carbon-fiber monocoque when you swing up the extravagant doors; there’s still a riotous, naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 behind your head; and there’s carbon-ceramic brakes and exotic push-rod suspension at each corner. The bat-costume body and fighter-jet cockpit looks unchanged at a glance, though exterior modifications evoke poisonous fangs, add 130 percent more front downforce and increase cooling in line with the extra power. A new TFT display morphs to match the driving mode but always looks like you’re playing a retro arcade game. In a good way.

Crucially, though, adding rear-wheel steering necessitated completely redesigning the chassis. There’s new hardware to account for the turning rear wheels, the springs are 20 percent stiffer and the magnetorheological dampers have been recalibrated. The Pirelli P Zeros are new, and the AWD system has been reprogrammed to shift more torque rearward. A new brain — Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Attiva — makes sense of it all. It’s why those monster 355/25ZR-21 rears get up to 90 percent of the torque in sport mode. There are also strada (street) and corsa (race) modes, while the new ego mode allows you to mix and match the other settings.