For my 18th birthday, my parents bought me a supercar experience day. I’d drive a Ferrari, Lotus and Porsche on-track, then take home a certificate as proof of my prowess. Unfortunately – sorry mum – it was rubbish. I spent 10 minutes in each car, accompanied by an officious instructor who ordered me not to exceed 5,000rpm.
Today is different. Based at Goodwood, it’s another supercar event, but this time there’ll be no overbearing passenger, no arbitrary rev limit and no certificate (well, you can’t have everything). I’ll sample six of the UK’s most exciting new cars on the roads of rural West Sussex. Which one offers the definitive supercar experience?
Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster
If anything here screams ‘SUPERCAR!’, it’s this. The Aventador S Roadster is a roofless wedge of naked aggression, with a 6.5-litre naturally-aspirated V12 and seven-speed paddleshift ’box. Power of 740hp matches the old Aventador SV, meaning 0-62mph in 3.0 seconds and 217mph flat-out.
Spring sunshine has burned off the morning mist, but the roads are still damp, so I’m thankful for four-wheel drive. Throttle response is savage and each rush of acceleration feels like a controlled explosion – followed by bazooka-esque bangs on the over-run. Amplified by the absence of roof (which stows neatly in the front boot), the sheer volume of Lamborghini’s V12 is startling.
Wow. New Aventador S Roadster is a breathtaking and magnificent sensory overload. Undiluted supercar drama – just as a Lambo should be. pic.twitter.com/mNatVh4Oqb
— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) April 11, 2018
Rear-wheel steering makes the Roadster feel surprisingly nimble, and you can tailor throttle, gearbox and suspension settings via four modes: Strada, Sport, Corsa and the aptly-named Ego (individual). However, on narrow, hedge-lined lanes there’s no escaping the Aventador’s girth – 47mm wider than a Range Rover. It’s a dazzling, double-espresso rush, but you need to be on top of your game. Time for something less frenetic….
Range Rover Sport SVR
Is this steroid-pumped SUV a supercar? The SVR, developed by the same people who brought you the limited-run Range Rover SV Coupe, certainly boasts the on-paper credentials. Under its exposed carbon fibre bonnet (an option, thankfully – at £6,225) lurks the 575hp, 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the Jaguar F-Type SVR. Even with 2,310kg to shift, it manages 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds and a 174mph top speed. The downside, inevitably, is 22.1mpg thirst.
Inside, the flagship RR Sport is as well-appointed as you’d hope for £99,680. Bucket-style seats look racy but feel plush, while a new dual-screen infotainment system (first seen in the Velar) is slick and stylish. On the road, long suspension travel and a lofty driving position allow you to carry speed where stiffer, lower cars are forced to slow down. The SVR never feels light, but quick steering and a stubborn resistance to body-roll mean plenty of point-to-point pace.
The driving experience is dominated by that engine, though. It rumbles and coughs and bellows and roars – exhaling through four shotgun-style tailpipes as it slingshots the SVR between bends. It feels improbable and incredible, and it’s nigh-on impossible not to laugh out loud. A supercar? I’m not sure. A super car? Yes indeed.
Driving a Ferrari always feels special, even if it does have four seats and a hatchback boot. The GTC4Lusso is a development of the FF, with four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. There’s now a turbocharged V8 version, but this is the ‘proper’ V12 – all 690hp of it. For £230,430, you can blast to 62mph in 3.4 seconds and reach 208mph.
In dark blue rather than default Rosso Corsa, the family-oriented Ferrari scarcely stands out in the Goodwood supercar paddock. There’s still a sense of drama about its interior, though – particularly the F1-style carbon steering wheel with Manettino dial for drive modes and red LED shift lights in the rim. A huge yellow rev counter, redlined at 8,250rpm, ramps up my anticipation.
On now-dry roads, the GTC4Lusso feels precise, fluid and fantastically fast. With hyper-sensitive steering and a flighty chassis, it’s decidedly more sports car than GT. Despite its undoubted abilities, though, a lack of driver feedback leaves me slightly cold. I suspect it would be a wonderful daily-drive supercar, but as an ‘experience’, the Ferrari falls short.
Aston Martin DB11 V8 Volante
I’m almost indifferent to how the DB11 Volante drives: just look at it. Is there a more beautiful car on sale today? Even in pale gold that, away from direct sunlight, looks uncomfortably like beige, it’s a bona fide stunner.
Removing the roof can be a recipe for dynamic disaster, but Aston Martin has made the drop-top DB11 feel more-or-less identical to the coupe, despite a 100kg weight penalty. On roads peppered with potholes the size of bathtubs, it’s agile and engaging, yet still commendably comfortable. And that 510hp AMG-sourced V8 – now also fitted to the new Vantage – is a peach: cultured and effortlessly muscular.
After its flawless exterior, the DB11’s cabin is a mild disappointment – particularly the last-generation Mercedes media system. Still, with the sun warming my shoulders and the tailpipes crackling wickedly, I’m struggling to care. The Volante is a laid-back sort of supercar, and none the worse for that.
“It’s not brown, it’s Bourbon.” The man from McLaren is quite insistent. Whatever you call the colour of this 570GT, it’s not particularly flattering. No matter: my previous experience of the closely-related 570S Spider suggests the drive will provide ample compensation.
The GT is a more civilised, more practical McLaren, with a sideways-opening glass tailgate. Include the front boot and total luggage space – amazingly – is more than the outgoing Ford Focus. It also has softer springs, slower steering and quieter tyres, but these things are all relative. A brilliant B-road blat proves this ‘Sports Series’ McLaren hasn’t lost its edge.
The 570hp twin-turbo V8 has a broad powerband and a Haymaker punch, delivering 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds and 204mph. But it’s the chassis that steals the show, with talkative steering, razor-sharp turn-in and beautiful balance. Blasting up the famous Goodwood hill, I’m convinced I go quicker in the McLaren than anything else.
Lexus LC 500
Here’s another wild card. The LC isn’t no-holds-barred supercar like the legendary LFA, and its £76,595 price tag looks cheap in this company. Nonetheless, a 477hp naturally-aspirated V8 is enough to grab anyone’s attention – assuming you hadn’t already stopped to stare. The Lexus looks truly unlike anything else, with slash-cut styling that’s unashamedly exotic.
I was impressed by the LC 500h hybrid when we borrowed one for a week, only griping about its indecisive CVT gearbox and infuriating touchpad media controller. The V8 version still has the touchpad, but swaps the CVT for a 10-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. The difference is dramatic, the occasional hesitancy of the hybrid replaced by instant response and a ravenous hunger for revs.
Final car of the day: Lexus LC 500 V8. Even after a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, an Aston Martin and a McLaren, this thing still looks – and drives – like a supercar. pic.twitter.com/atrLf369mh
— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) April 11, 2018
Obviously, the Lexus feels a little heavy after the McLaren, yet this is no softly-sprung GT. Switch into Sport+ mode and it attacks a twisty road (or indeed the Goodwood hill) with rabid tenacity. Or you can simply cruise, enjoying the torque and lavishly luxurious interior. As a daily-driver, this is my pick – but it isn’t today’s winner.
This is a supercar experience day, remember? So, in theory, the car that delivers the most exciting and memorable driving experience should win. By that reckoning, the Lamborghini comes out top. It’s a 99-octane feast for the senses, a car that shakes and stirs every synapse. But it also isn’t today’s winner.
That title goes to the McLaren 570GT. It doesn’t offer the ultimate adrenalin rush of the Aventador, but it’s a purer sports car: more enjoyable, more of the time, and still outrageously quick, capable and exciting. I’ll have mine in anything but brown.