When I meet new people and they find out what I do for a living, 99 per cent of them crack a line about my driving supercars all the time. I smile politely, then mention that for every supercar, there are 50 standard hatchbacks to examine and long hours spent squinting at a computer. Sure, there’s glamour every now and again, but it’s the silver lining rather than the cloud.
Today, however, represents a solid silver cloud with a generous lining of extra shiny diamonds. Because we’ve assembled three of our favourite supercars, and we’re going to spank them silly.
Lined up for a full day of amusement are a Lamborghini Aventador, a Ferrari 458 Italia and a McLaren MP4-12C. It’s no real spoiler to say that all are fantastic – we’ve driven each of them individually and love them. No, today is about exploring the differences between these dream machines, to find out what approaches they take to the supercar concept.
My day starts in the McLaren. Bright and early one week day morning, I’m heading into work to meet up with colleagues Bassam and Mo. This particular McLaren is an understated shade of metallic grey, with matching wheels. Only the bright Papaya Orange brake callipers bring a bit of colour to the proceedings, as well as a fitting sense of heritage – Papaya Orange was the colour McLarens raced in before sponsorship was introduced to top-line motorsport.
My first challenge is getting in. When I picked the car up, the salesmen opened the door, eager to show me the gadgets within. I, however, am having issues. There’s no physical door handle, just a sensor under the car’s skin that detects the swipe of a hand across it. That’s the idea anyway; under my inexperienced technique, it looks like I’m just a stranger tickling a supercar in a multistorey. I swipe, I brush, I caress. Nothing. In desperation I resort to a full on rub, as if willing a genie to burst from the tailpipes. Pop. The door rises upwards. Excellent.
Once settled into the very low and manually adjusted driver’s seat, I refamiliarise myself with the controls. Bassam drove the 12C during our last sojourn with the car, and I’ve only driven a right-hand drive version in the UK last year. But the driving position is excellent, perhaps the best of any car I’ve driven. My posterior is millimetres above the carbon floor and the wheel extends all the way to my chest. The wheel – apparently scuplted from Lewis Hamilton’s preferred grip – is the perfect size for a sports car. I feel like the driving environment has been fitted for me.
A stab of the start button in the middle of a minimalist, narrow carbonfibre centre console fires up the engine behind me. It’s a throaty sound from the twin-turbo, 3.8-litre V8, less evocative than I expect, but still full of promise. The McLaren is the only one of our trio to have its engine blown, and from that smaller, turbocharged block it makes a claimed 592bhp. Which should be good for a bit of pace.
Of particular interest, as I head out of the car park and begin the short freeway journey to the office, is the suspension. Through the use of very sophisticated engineering, McLaren has done away with anti-roll bars, separating ride comfort from lateral stiffness, which means that in Normal suspension mode, the ride is close to S-Class levels of comfort. Speed bumps are dispatched with merely a thunk. It’s really quite remarkable.
The 20 minute cruise to the office passes quickly, and with little drama. Which is a little bit weird. This is one of the supercars of the decade so far, and it’s as easy to drive as a Taurus. Also, I’m not getting the looks from passers by that I would in either of the other two cars. Although the McLaren is unmistakeable in its sports car-ness, it doesn’t make as much of a visual impact as its companions. At least, not until I stop and open the doors up again.
Mo turns up next in the Ferrari. Even without the sky-scraping doors of the other two, here clad in bright white it’s a beautiful sight; the best looking Ferrari since the 360 in my book and a return to form after the angular, awkward looking F430.