Head to Head: Lamborghini Aventador SVJ vs. McLaren 720S

Red Lamborghini Aventador SVJ on road at night

The world of supercars has grown exponentially since the turn of the century. Before 2000, it was mostly Italian cars, with a few special editions from the UK and Germany that existed in the highest end of performance sports cars. Since 2000, however, companies from as diverse as Croatia, Japan, the USA, and Sweden have entered the supercar and emerging hypercar worlds with excellent, world class cars.

However, there is something to be said about the “old guard” of supercar companies, and how they are making cars that, through different approaches, are reaching similar speeds and performance. Two of these companies are Lamborghini, who arguably made the first true supercar with the Miura P400S, and McLaren, who built the astonishing McLaren F1 in the early 1990s before officially starting to build supercars in the mid-2000s.

Now, in 2021, as the two cars we are putting head to head are nearing the end of their model lifetimes, it seems fit to investigate which car was, at least on paper, the better high performance sports car. We will look at all aspects to determine who gets the overall win, but keep in mind that this is purely based on paper. In the real world, it is very much a matter of opinion as to which car people like more, from the way it makes them feel to the way the car drives and handles.

The Cars

2021 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Green Lamborghini Aventador SVJ on grey background

Via Lamborghini.

In 2021, the lowest spec version of the Lamborghini Aventador is the SVJ (Super Veloce Jota), a 6.5L V12 powered all-wheel-drive monster, with that engine putting out 760 HP and 531 lb-ft of torque.  It uses the famously angular and low “Lamborghini Wedge” body shape, with the addition of a wing at the rear and an aggressive lip spoiler at the front to boost its handling and aerodynamic performance over that of the base Aventador that was released in 2011.

The Aventador SVJ was also the launching platform for the now-standard Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva (ALA) system, with active aerodynamics and moving surfaces to always have the best performance possible. This allows the car to adapt to any driving situation—from everyday cruising to full on Corse track mode—appropriately.

2021 McLaren 720S

McLaren 720S in dark showroom

Via McLaren.

In 2021, there are multiple specs of the McLaren 720S, however we will be using the base-spec  as our comparison car. Building on the success of its predecessor 650S, the 720S is 91% new design and components—with that 9% carryover mostly in the engine, which itself has been massively reworked.

Known as the M840T, the engine is a 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 that outputs 719 HP and 568 lb-ft of torque. It also only drives the rear wheels, bucking the trend for high performance cars to use all-wheel-drive.

The 720S, as a new car with only two predecessor models in the MP12-4C and the 650S, also does not have a traditional shape to adhere to. This allowed the designers and engineers at McLaren to use all the data and research put into their Formula 1 team to build one of the most aerodynamically stable supercars to ever hit the road. In terms of aero drag, it is extremely slippery, but also uses active aerodynamics to interrupt the airflow for handling when needed.

Comparing the Lamborghini Aventador & McLaren 720S

0 to 60 MPH

While outright straight line speed doesn’t matter all that much in the real world, on paper, it is a statistic that can swing a decision. According to the official specifications from each company, the Lamborghini Aventador wins this competition by 0.1 seconds, at 2.8 seconds against the 2.9 seconds of the 720S.

It should be noted, however, that these tests are done on different surfaces, in different locations, at different times. In a true head to head, it would most likely come down to the closest of margins, as well as how good the driver of the car was.

Both cars have a launch mode, and both have semi-automatic transmissions that can handle the first shift in a drag race, yet an AWD car has a slight disadvantage in that it has to send power to a transfer box, then the wheels, while a RWD car can literally have a transaxle for immediate power delivery.

Still, as this is based on paper numbers, the win has to go to the Avendator SVJ.

Green Lamborghini Aventador SVJ racing down track

Via Lamborghini.

Winner: Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Nurburgring Nordschleife Track Test

Those familiar with supercars will know that many, if not all, are run at the infamous Green Hell, the Nurburgring Nordschleife, either during development or to attempt to set a track record for a production supercar before going on sale. Both the McLaren 720S and the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ have taken laps around the track, and the results are somewhat surprising.

The McLaren 720S, in a test that was a joint venture between McLaren and the German magazine Sport Auto, managed a blistering time of 7:08.34. To give an idea of just how fast that is, a bespoke race car, the 2017 Porsche 911 GT3 RS-R that ran in the 2017 24 Hours of Nurburgring, set a time of 7:09.6 during practice for the race, when the GP circuit was separated from the Nordschleife due to racing events.

However, Lamborghini was able to not only beat the 720S with the Aventador SVJ, they annihilated the track record and held it for two full years starting in 2018 with a time of 6:44.97. Even more shocking, this time was a full 45 seconds faster than the base standard 2011 Aventador LP700-4, which lapped the track at 7:25 dead. To give a realistic idea of just how absurdly fast that is, only four cars have ever gone faster. Ever.

This can be attributed to two major differences between the cars.

The first major difference is the way that each car makes power. The Aventador SVJ uses a naturally aspirated V12 engine, while the 720S uses a twin-turbocharged V8.

This means that throttle response on the SVJ is much more immediate, and has power throughout the middle and high rev ranges. Conversely, the 720S develops most of its power, including peak power, above the middle rev ranges, since the turbos need to spin up to start delivering maximum performance through forced induction.

The other major difference is the amount of active aerodynamics on each car. The 720S can be considered slightly neutered by McLaren, only having a deployable wing and some active aero in the diffuser, as the fully active aero car for the British company is the McLaren Senna, which is based on the 720S.

The Aventador SVJ, on the other hand, has an active front splitter, an active rear wing that can also flatten out to reduce drag, underfloor ducting that can open and close to create ground effects, and a diffuser with active baffles to lessen or increase downforce on the rear wheels.

So, despite weighing almost 600 lbs more over a 720S, at 3,788 lbs wet vs 3,148 lbs wet, the Aventador SVJ has the performance advantage through aerodynamics and a monster of an engine.

Rear view of green Lamborghini Aventador SVJ on road

Via Lamborghini.

Winner: Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Braking

Despite being designed to go as fast as possible, the McLaren 720S and the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ both, at some point, need to slow down and stop. Both are designed to be track weapons that can be driven in a civilized manner on the road, and both are designed to handle about as sharply and perfectly as any sports car can.

In terms of anchors, both the McLaren and the Lamborghini feature full carbon-ceramic discs under all four wheels. Unlike earlier carbon-ceramic discs for the road, these are much more advanced compounds with better braking pads that provide good feel for the brakes, instead of having no feel and then suddenly applying massive braking power.

Both also have their own anti-lock braking systems attached, with McLaren’s being derived from their GT3 cars (and even Formula 1), and Lamborghini’s from Audi’s system that is featured on all their S and RS models. Both are at the absolute top end of ABS systems, so there is no real difference between them there.

It is only in practical testing and through recorded data that the difference can truly be found, and it is by the closest of margins in 60 to 0 MPH testing that the McLaren wins. The 720S will haul itself down in 29 meters, or 95 feet, while the Aventador SVJ needs 30 meters, or 98 feet, to stop.

This test is also repeatable, with the fade-resistance features of carbon-ceramic brakes allowing the anchors of each car to sustain multiple laps of a track without any fade.

McLaren 720S on road in country

Via McLaren.

Winner: McLaren 720S

Cornering (Lateral Acceleration)

As stated before, straight line speed isn’t the measure of a great sports car. Muscle cars, yes, because that is what they are designed to do, but a supercar not only has to accelerate hard, go fast, and brake hard, it also needs to corner—especially when you consider that both the Aventador SVJ and 720S are track cars with road-going features.

The biggest test of any supercar is just how much lateral acceleration it can take before it starts to break free from the grip it generates against the road. While this can vary wildly depending on the tires that are on each car, in terms of stock tires, which are Pirelli P Zeros for both, the grip can be compared (at least in terms of numbers).

Both cars feature fat, wide rear wheels, with narrower but still performance oriented front wheels. The biggest difference between the two is that the front wheels on the SVJ are driven, while they are not on the 720S.

The Aventador SVJ counters this inherent grip deficiency, as AWD cars tend to understeer when pushed hard, by using four wheel steering, where the rear wheels will turn against the direction of the front wheels by a few degrees to literally push the car into the corner.

Via MotorTrend.

On paper, there is literally no difference between the two cars, who go about their cornering in different ways. The 720S relies on pure mechanical grip and aerodynamics to keep its front planted, while the Aventador SVJ uses four wheel steering, active aerodynamics, and torque vectoring through its AWD system to corner hard.

Silver McLaren 720S cornering on country road

Via McLaren.

Both cars have lateral acceleration figures of 11 meters per second squared, or 1.10 g of load.

Winner: Tie

Price

Both the McLaren 720S and the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ belong in the market area known as “holy crap that is expensive,” but then again, a supercar is not meant to be a cheap purchase. Supercars are designed, despite all other considerations, to be displays of wealth—status symbols that are out of reach for the common man so that there is some exclusivity to them.

With the purchase of a supercar, you are expecting performance, luxury, the latest and greatest electronics and driver aids, and that whiff of being one of only a handful around the world to own that car. Although, with pricing, it is probably fair to say that there are more 720S’s in the world than Aventador SVJ’s.

This is because, before options, the McLaren 720S comes in at $299,000 USD. This includes all the performance standard equipment many want, and most of the options are either cosmetic/aesthetic.

In fact, much like how Kia and Hyundai price their cars for the common market, McLaren builds in almost all of the important features into the price. You don’t have to pay for a more powerful engine, the reactive suspension, the carbon fiber, and alcantara interior.

On the flip side, the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ has a base price of $517,770 for the Coupe version, before options. This also doesn’t include any customization that is offered through the Ad Personam department, where you can make your SVJ truly yours.

You also will need to pay, and pay a lot, for anything other than the bog standard interior, which covers everything in alcantara. If you want to see some carbon fiber, be prepared for your wallet to take a hit.

In fact, in researching for this article, the average final sale price for a 720S in the USA is nearer to $330,000 after options and customizations, while an SVJ will easily exceed $700,000 due to all the options and features you can add in on top of the Ad Personam customization. This means, on paper, the McLaren takes this one easily.

Rear of black McLaren 720S

Via McLaren.

Winner: McLaren 720S

Final Verdict: Lamborghini Aventador vs. McLaren 720S

As can be seen above, both the Aventador SVJ and 720S trade blows back and forth. The Lamborghini is by far the better track car, but the 720S has more real world usefulness by being less hardcore. That isn’t to say it is limp at all, as it can still keep up with an SVJ in most metrics.

As such, in terms of a final choice, it really comes down to what a prospective owner/driver would want out of their supercar.

If one wants the absolute bleeding edge of performance technology, the Aventador SVJ moves and shifts around as you drive to give you every single bit of grip, speed, and handling you can get out of the chassis. It is more expensive by a large margin, and has way more options to add to the car driving up that price, but the reward is 12 cylinders of angry Italian bulls shouting very loudly through titanium exhausts as the car annihilates track after track.

Rear of McLaren 720S with tail lights on

Via McLaren.

For the more road-oriented driver, the McLaren 720S seems to be where balance is achieved. You have a ridiculously powerful twin-turbo V8 behind you, yet because of that exact way of generating maximum power, it is much more civil at cruising speeds. The interior is far less aggressive than the angles and edges of the Lamborghini, making it a much calmer place to be.

When you do want to have a bit of a spirited drive, you have up to 719 HP under your right foot and variable traction and stability modes to let you wag the tail if you want, but it looks as good sliding sideways as it does pulling up in front of a five star hotel valet desk.

Green Lamborghini Aventador SVJ on grey background

Via Lamborghini.

All in all, if it were down to us, despite the fact that the Lamborghini is among one of the fastest cars to ever go around the Nordschleife, 99.9% of the time a supercar will be driven on the road, and carefully at that. For that reason, we would pick the McLaren 720S as the day to day car, and the Aventador SVJ as the weekend canyon carver.