October 28, 2016

This is another one of those comparisons that sounds pretty nuts, until you really start to break down the numbers. Then it turns into a real fight between a shouty, wild-eyed hypercar that sounds like thunder and a whisper quiet four-door saloon.

It becomes a battle of opposites and an ideological war. It also starts to make perfect sense.

The Lamborghini is the dream car. It’s the pin-up that stars on small boys’ bedroom walls and it’s one of the last unapologetic petrol-powered hypercars. It’s dressed in designer gear, but it’s a tattooed hooligan at heart.

The Tesla is the mild-mannered antithesis, it’s the family man that just happens to go to the gym and practice martial arts. It’s strong, it’s fast and it doesn’t feel the need to tell the world.

But what happens when they have a serious fallout and go outside to sort it out?

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador USP

The Italian firm has railed against modern tech and even when the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche opted for hybrid flagships, Lamborghini stuck with the V12. That’s what defines this car, that beast of an engine.

Lamborghini Aventador 1

It’s brash, overpowered, expensive and over the top

The flagship Aventador is a rage against the dying of the light of the internal combustion engine. It’s a middle finger to the caring, sharing world that will one day render it obsolete. It’s brash, overpowered, expensive and over the top. It also makes a devastating impression with those razor sharp lines. It’s a car to be seen in, a special occasion on four wheels. That’s enough to earn it a place in select garages around the world.

Elon Musk has built the polar opposite. Yes the Model S looks good, but the P100D is all about the substance and the styling was more or less an afterthought. It’s an elegant car, but the main point is that it’s a zero emissions sedan that can slay more or less any car in the world off a standing start.

It is the flag bearing champion of the EV world and a symbol of everything the Lamborghini stands against. It’s the car that proved once and for all that there’s no sacrifice involved with the switch to electric cars and that the new wave could be even better than the ones we will leave behind.

tesla model s 2

In some way the Lamborghini is the Last Emperor and a car we could celebrate, like we look back with fondness at the Tyrannosaurus Rex and other creatures from a bygone age. It is one of the great warriors. The Model S P100D is the future.

It’s a subjective call, but we think Tesla has this one.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador History

Tractor builder Ferruccio Lamborghini started the Raging Bull in a fit of rage to prove a point to Enzo Ferrari after buying one of his cars and ending up deeply unsatisfied.

The company that went on to build some of the most insane supercars in history and one of the best automotive back stories in the world.

The Miura, Countach and Diablo are still thought of as motoring Gods and any car fan knows and loves them. But the really crazy thing is that this company, just a stone’s throw from the Ferrari empire, was almost always close to broke.

The whole world knew the cars but Lamborghini sold less than 1000 Miuras, less than 1500 Countachs and around 2000 Diablos. It just wasn’t enough. The Italian firm was high-maintenance and got passed from owner to owner. It came dangerously close to the end more than once.

Lamborghini Aventador 6

Finally, Audi bought the Raging Bull in 1998 and breathed new life into the company. Since then it has made better cars than ever, melding Italian flair with German engineering to create some of the most flamboyant cars that the world actually wants to buy. They still belong on bedroom walls, but they’ve found their way on to driveways too.

Italian flair with German engineering

Tesla simply hasn’t had time to build this rich tapestry of history, having started in 2008. One day we’ll look back on Elon Musk’s flirtations with disaster with similar sepia-toned nostalgia. His story has been every bit as dramatic as one man has basically brought the electric car back from the dead.

Musk, too, took some epic risks and Tesla has almost bought the farm more than once when the money threatened to run dry. He also made a technical package that was written off as unworkable into a great car, built an infrastructure that just wasn’t there and made the whole auto industry react with their own electric offerings.

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Tesla could change the world and is arguably 10 times more important than a little Italian car company with a German parent right now. But in terms of history and heritage, Lamborghini has to win.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador Design

We feel bad for the Tesla, too, when it comes to design. The Aventador makes just about everything on this planet look plain ordinary. The lines look like they were penned with a razor and the Aventador might just be Lamborghini’s best looking car ever.

It’s butch, it’s big and it’s angular. The hexagon features throughout the car and it’s a truly cohesive design. At a time when hypercars are getting fussy, the Aventador is a work of art. The side air intakes open up at speed, but otherwise the Aventador maintains its smooth lines.

The SV is the one to go for if you love wings and flicks, but the base car is one of the purest supercars in the world. It’s a work of art and one day we’ll look back on this car with real love.

How can the Tesla compete against that? It can’t, we’re not going to pretend it can. It’s an aggressive sedan that compares favorably with the likes of the BMW M5 and Mercedes E Class AMG. The fact that it can face off with an Aventador is a testament to the engineering, but aesthetically it isn’t in the same league.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador Interior

It’s almost hard to envisage two more different car interiors.

It’s almost hard to envisage two more different car interiors. The Lamborghini has two seats, a huge central tunnel that separates the driver and the passenger and an arsenal of switches. They include the fighter jet style starter button with a theatrical safety cover.

Lamborghini was one of the first to adopt a TFT screen instead of old-school instruments, so it is a little forward-thinking. That aside there’s an awful lot of switchgear and some of it feels a touch plasticky.

Lamborghini Aventador 10

Then there’s the Tesla, a totem to minimalism and comfort. There is no switchgear to speak of, nothing, just the touchscreen for the HVAC, infotainment, web access, sunroof and suspension control.

We want to write more about the Tesla interior and that command center tablet is ingenious, but when you start describing it then it’s like talking about the desert, or water. It’s amazing, it’s incredible, but there’s only so many ways to describe what you see. Tesla’s brilliance is also its undoing in this respect.

Tesla Model S interior

Inevitably you get leagues more storage with the Tesla and way more seats. So if practicality even enters your thoughts then it has to be the Palo Alto car.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador Price

When it comes to the price, the Tesla Model S P100D walks away with the laurels and there really isn’t any suitably argument against that.

The base price for the Aventador is a simply mind-blowing $393, 695. If you hit the options list hard then you can end up with a $450,000 car. For that money, you can have 3 Teslas and some change.

Lamborghini Aventador 3

The Model S P100D costs $134,500 and of course it has a few choice options of its own, although Ludicrous Mode comes as part of the package. Buying this car and then not turning the Autopilot convenience features on would be ridiculous.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador price war isn’t a war, it’s over before it began.

The Bioweapon Defense Mode combats smog and pollution that the Lamborghini helped cause and you can even turn the Model S into a seven-seater with additional rear facing seats in the huge boot. You can easily turn the Model S P100D into a $150,000 car, then, but it’s still less than half the price of the Aventador.

The Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador price war isn’t a war, it’s over before it began.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador Power

This is where things get murky. The Lamborghini has 690bhp, which comes at 8250rpm, and 509lb/ft of torque at 5500rpm.

Tesla hasn’t actually released the figures for the P100D, but even when it does that might not be the full story.

Tesla Model S P90D

Road & Track put a P85D on a dyno back in the day and found that car pumped out 864lb/ft of torque for a short time before the computers kicked in and dragged it down to 400lb/ft of torque. Now Tesla hasn’t given us all the details yet and annoyingly that includes the final bhp and torque figures, so we can only go with what we know about the P90D and make educated guesses.

If both motors on the P90D, with the Ludicrous Mode, were allowed to go nuts, the car had 762bhp. Tesla claims the motor was limited to just over 500bhp, but owners have published figures up to 501kW (671bhp). So what’s coming from the P100D with the 100kWh battery pack?

Lamborghini Aventador 8

More, lots more. Potentially more than 700bhp and 900lb/ft of torque, at least for a little while, and all of that torque comes from nothing. That is just mad.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador Acceleration

There’s no way to soften this blow for the Italians, so we won’t. The Tesla is faster off the line. Both cars have four-wheel-drive, but the sheer accessibility of the Tesla’s torque gives the P100D a 0-60mph time of 2.5s.

The Lamborghini Aventador 0-60mph time of 2.7s is fast, it’s better than almost anything on the road. But it’s not good enough here.

Lamborghini Aventador 14

Of course the Lamborghini gets into its stride and it hits peak power when that V12 really starts to sing. At the same time the Tesla’s computers reign in the power and the Aventador will reel it in and shoot past. But this is a battle for the drag strip and real people don’t live there. Most battles are settled off the lights and the Tesla wins that one at a canter.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador Top Speed

Now we’re back in the Lamborghini’s comfort zone. At high speeds, it will finally put the Tesla in its place. That’s because the Model S P100D is electronically limited to 155mph, while the Lamborghini Aventador top speed is a much more impressive at 217mph.

tesla model s 4

The Model S P100D with this surfeit of power will stick with the Aventador until the speeds get totally illegal, though, so again this is a bragging rights thing more than a real, practical difference.

Tesla Model S P100D vs Lamborghini Aventador Economy

We’re seriously doing this? Simply put the Tesla will give you 315 EPA-accredited miles on a single charge that you can get free from a Supercharger station.

The Lamborghini? Not so much. It will give you 16-18mpg on the combined cycle, or around 10mpg in the city. The Tesla is therefore, infinitely more economical than the Lamborghini. It is orders of magnitude cheaper to run.

Wrap Up

the car industry in a microcosm

These are two wildly different cars, but in their own way they are the car industry in a microcosm. The Lamborghini is the old guard with its V12 engine and frivolous consumption of both fuel and money giving the finger defiantly to the environmental lobby. Tesla is the absolute opposite, it’s virtually free to run and yet they’re separated by fractions. Not only that, the fractions are starting to go in the Tesla’s favor.

We love the Lamborghini, we really do. It’s a bedroom wall car if ever there was one, but the technology under the skin means it is essentially a dinosaur and a dead man walking. Everybody knows the change is coming, but in some cases that means we should celebrate and honor, rather than dismiss, the warriors that will fall by the wayside.

So let’s all salute the Lamborghini Aventador. It’s a legend, an icon and an aging champion. It’s on the way out, but we just don’t want to let it go yet.

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