We, my husband and I, had the distinct pleasure of driving seven exotic hypercars from Napa, California, over the Golden Gate Bridge, through San Francisco, and down to LA, mostly on the stunningly beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. We shared the helms of the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4, Lamborghini LP560-4 Performante Spider, Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster, McLaren MP12-4C, Nissan GT-R, and Audi R8 V-10 Spyder with six other driving duos on the tour.
The drive was for pleasure, not for testing the limits of any of the cars, nor for racing. The first hundred miles were driven in driving rain, just to add some natural everyday elements to the 500-mile-plus long drive in unfamiliar super machines. The lead car, a Chrysler 300C, was piloted by a professional driver, endurance race winner at Sebring and Daytona, and Le Mans finisher. The pace, therefore, did not quite emulate a leisurely Sunday drive down the long lovely coast, yet it delivered all the pleasure one could endure, as promised. All on the tour derived that pleasure while obeying all traffic laws at all times.
By driving these cars, one by one and back to back, we could experience their dynamics, performance, drivability, and critically compare their attributes while enjoying the joie de vivre that each one delivers in its own way. The cars finished in a ranked order according to my humble judgment and that of my man. On cars, we agree, especially on the magnificent seven of our Pacific Coast Tour. We discuss our first and second place honorees as follows.
Ferrari 458 Italia takes first place
Both husband and I are familiar with the “four-five-eight,” as it is fondly known for short. We had driven it before, repeated the sheer pleasure of driving it again, and experienced no reduction in its superlatively impressive performance this time around.
The 458 does everything extraordinarily well. It has the best transmission in its flawless and smooth-shifting double-clutch variety. It has the second best engine — second only to Aventador — which may be unfair in comparing twelve cylinders with eight. The steering and chassis impart that ‘slot car’ feeling. What it says to me is ‘let’s party.’ On the road it can instantly change from sleeping cat to sprinting cheetah.
Among the magnificent seven cars, the eye is drawn to the 458 as a statement of elegant automotive art. It appeals to the senses including the smell of the Italian leather, the distinctive sound of a Ferrari V8, the cat-like response that guides the vehicle with a touch, and the visual appeal that says ‘sexy’ in no uncertain terms. Ferrari 458 as first was the assessment of the six other driving teams in the tour as well.
Lamborghini Aventador places second
Despite that the German company, Audi, owns Lamborghini, the Aventador comes off as a decidedly Italian car. The car imparts flamboyance and eccentricity inside and out, giving Aventador the look of an alien vehicle from another planet with an avant garde exterior and excellence in engineering under the hood. It is, at the same time, solidly competent. It is a blast to drive and aptly named after a raging bull.
The engine is magnificent. Its twelve cylinders have the smoothness of a turbine with a captivating growl. A boatload of torque is at your command whenever you want it, without waiting and without the nonlinearities of turbo-boosted engines. Lamborghini elected to stick with a single-clutch transmission making Aventador’s shifting acceptable, prompt, smooth, and working better the harder you push it. Aventador sticks to the pavement through short-radius turns where steering remains prompt, positive, bulls-eye accurate, and confident the entire way.
But the car is low, wide, and huge. At eighty inches wide, Aventador measures three quarters of a foot wider than my daily driver, making this car feel less like riding a raging bull than driving a Sherman tank. Okay, that’s a little unfair.
Those nine inches of extra width make the difference between staying on the pavement and putting the wheels in the gravel, which isn’t good for getting where you’re going. Off-roading might be possible, as the “4” in Aventador’s name stands for 4- or all-wheel drive. But driving on the beach, in snow, deep desert sands, or up rocky mountain roads isn’t what Aventador was made for. I, for one, wanted all four wheels under all eighty inches of car planted firmly on pavement.
The extreme rake of the windshield puts glass across half of where the front hood would be. The front edge of the car is somewhere out there; one cannot be exactly sure where. The scissors doors were difficult to manage; they open up instead of out. The overall design is a tad radical for my taste, but hats off to Lamborghini for the unique styling accomplishment. No one misses noticing an Aventador on the road.
Oh, by the way, one initializes the Aventador engine with a starter button located under a hinged bright red plastic cap. Contrary to popular belief, it starts the engine, not World War Three.
Look for the five other exotics in the hypercar lineup…coming soon to Y!CN.