“Sexy”, “bonkers”, “expensive” and “ohmyactualterrifyinggod” perhaps, but “tranquility”? Nah, surely not. But there is a link, and it’s not as contrived as you might think. Bear with me.
The story goes that 50 years ago, in 1963, Italian tractor magnate Ferruccio Lamborghini broke his Ferrari’s clutch. Narked by the prancing horse’s po-faced response to his request for a better replacement, he decided to start building sports cars at his factory in Bologna, and so was born a legend.
Nothing tranquil about that skirmish, so let’s shift our focus 1,500 miles to the north, to the Glenmorangie Distillery on the shores of the Dornoch Firth. Glenmorangie means “glen of tranquility” and in 1963, at the same time as Lamborghini was locking horns with Ferrari, distillery workers were quietly setting the seals on oak barrels brimmed with a spirit that, save for a switch into sherry casks at some point during the maturation process, would not see the light of day again for another 24 years. Upon its release in 1987, Glenmorangie 1963 was feted by whisky aficionados for its rich tones and depth of flavours.
The story might have ended there, but for a few bottles which, according to whose version of events you believe, were either held in reserve or completely forgotten about until very recently. That’s why, 50 years after those first casks were put into storage, a further 50 bottles of Glenmorangie 1963 have just been released into the wild.
This calls for a celebration – a joint shindig with that other half-centurion, Lamborghini. And so it was that Scotsman Motoring jumped at the offer to join Lamborghini for a road trip from Loch Lomond to the Highlands and a VIP pass to the party at Glenmorangie, the glen of tranquility. Now do you see the connection?
I’ll be making the journey in an Aventador Roadster LP700-4. In whisky tasting terms, it might be described thus: Heady notes of carbon fibre and leather, with swirls of super-unleaded. A body to delight the senses, yet deliciously light. Smooth to start with but packs a startling punch if you’re brave enough to try it undiluted. Intoxicating, very intoxicating.
The Aventador Roadster is pure theatre. Few things stop onlookers in their tracks quite as effectively as the sight and sound of it rolling by. With its composite roof panels popped off and stowed in the nose (a folding lid would ruin the profile), it resembles an open-topped stealth fighter. At £300,000, it’s a wee bit beyond the budget of most mortals, but you may feel it’s a price worth paying for the looks alone. The hard-up among us will just have to settle for the hard-top coupe and save ourselves in excess of £41,000.
It sounds like a stealth fighter too. As with the hard-top Aventador we tested last November, power, all 691bhp of it, comes from a 6.5-litre V12 mounted just behind the seats. Unlike the hardtop car, there’s no roof to get in the way of the sound it makes. Metallic and chattery at first, it builds to a glorious howl as the revs build and the Aventador clears its throat. If the Lamborghini is an Italian tenor at the top of his voice, the bonny banks of Loch Lomond and the sheer sides of Glencoe are La Scala and the Carnegie Hall. They’ll have no trouble hearing us in the balcony, 3,500ft up.
You might expect the trade-off for all this swagger to be horrific ride comfort, but no. The Aventador is built around a carbon-fibre chassis that’s as stiff as a board and keeps body flex to a minimum, even shorn of its roof, but the ride is surprisingly supple. Without an engine, the Lamborghini could be classed as a recumbent quadricycle, so low-slung is the driving position.
Four-wheel drive and fat tyres result in phenomenal grip in the dry, and the Aventador held a precise line as the A82 wound its way across Rannoch Moor. If its futuristic appearance seemed at odds with a landscape that has changed little since the Ice Age, the engine notes were a Cretaceous-era cacophony.
At Fort William, I am joined by Giorgio Sanna, Lamborghini’s chief test driver, for the second leg of the trip, through the Great Glen and across the Black Isle to Glenmorangie. Me, at the wheel of the wildest Lamborghini of them all, being watched over by the man who, perhaps more than any other, is responsible for the way these machines thrill the senses.
Too nervous – too starstruck – to think of anything meaningful to ask him, I open with an obvious question. “Do you have the best job in the world?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Some people say…” is all he offers. I take that to mean yes.
The rest of the journey is spent discussing what makes a Lamborghini special – “the feel, not the numbers” – about his racing career, about next year’s replacement for the Gallardo – “more proactive, less reactive” – about picking his kids up from school in a different hypercar every other day, the scenery and our chances of spotting the Loch Ness Monster. We hoped the mating cry of a V12 might have brought her to the surface.
No such luck, and no word about my driving abilities, either. If Giorgio thinks I’m a duffer, he’s too polite to say. Tellingly, though, as we get close to Glenmorangie, he encourages me to flick the drive setting switch from “Sport” to “Corsa”. Track mode, in other words. I’ve never “done” track mode in a Lamborghini before, because a) it involves tampering with the traction control settings, b) it almost always rains when I drive a Lamborghini and c) I can’t countenance the thought of planting a very expensive car in a hedge, possibly in flames.
Today, though, the sun is splitting the Highland sky and another reassuring shrug of the shoulders from Giorgio suggests I’ll be fine. We slow to a crawl, then plant the throttle. The Aventador surges forward quicker than I can think, bellowing and delivering a blow to the ribs as it races through the gears. There are seven ratios to get through, but I wimp out after four. That’s fast enough. Track mode really needs a track day, not a tourist-heavy trunk road.
I’m still buzzing as we pull off the A9 and into Glenmorangie’s courtyard, where we take our place in a six-strong line-up of Lamborghinis. The Glen of Tranquility is looking anything but subdued today. I could do with a drink.
CAR Lamborghini Aventador Roadster LP700-4
PERFORMANCE Max speed 217mph; 0-62mph 3.0secs
MPG (combined) 17.7
CO2 EMISSIONS 370g/km