Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire
Vehicles: Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Ferrari 360 and Nissan GTR
Author: James Keating
My experience was at the Pro-Drive test track at Kenilworth in Warwickshire it was organised by Driving Experiences Direct. Arranging this day with them was a doodle and everything went without a hitch. The only slight hicup was that you were supposed to do a passenger lap with an instructor but as I was a bit late I missed mine. As it turned out the guy that took me out in the Aston was the chief instructor and was very good at instructing me as I drove and after 4 laps with him I felt quite confident driving the circuit, anyway to the cars:
Firstly I drove the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, this was definitely the most civilised of the four and the only manual of the four, it had a lovely deep V8 tone to it’s exhaust note and although you felt a little more removed from the experience it was still nice and quick and is just the type of GT that I can imagine would be perfect for blasting down to Monaco in!!
Next up was the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. What can I say? Except WOW!!! I’d never even driven a soft-top before I drove this car. All the reviews have said that this is a visceral car to drive and they weren’t wrong the noise it makes is just epic as is the speed, the Aston feels like a pussycat in comparison. Believe me that’s no slight on that car at all, but this is a whole new level, it feels like you totally at one with the car. In the Gallardo you feel every nuance in the road surface and it is easy to adapt quickly to changing cambers and what the steering being so quick it is a joy to pilot. The four laps I had in this car went by all too quickly and before I knew it I was back in the pits, I had a date with another curvy Italian…
Then it was the turn of the Ferrari 360, firstly me being me I was so excited when I got to the track I forgot to change into the slimmer shoes that the company had recommended that we wear (due to some supercar pedals being very close together) I hadn’t had a problem in either the Aston or the Lambo but as soon as I started driving the Ferrari I knew this was going to be a problem, the accelerator and brake pedal were extremely close together and this distracted me a little for the first 2 laps of my four lap run. However I soon got used to it and enjoyed the Ferrari’s unique screaming engine and impeccable road holding. Given the choice I would’ve driven it before the Gallardo as it seemed rather sedate afterwards, which is not an accusation that you would normally level at a Ferrari!! My only real criticism of the car though was that because the 360 is a few years older than the other cars I drove, the flappy paddle auto box is not advanced as the similar boxes in the other two autos. But it is still a Ferrari and that small detail didn’t really detract from the experience. After four again all to brief laps I pulled in to find out that the Porsche 911 Turbo which was due to be my last drive had broken down, not good (especially since my friend who came with me had a Porsche Panamera on order!!).
They did offer me an alternative drive in an Audi R8 which I initially accepted, but then I was awaiting my turn I kept looking at the Nissan GTR also there to be driven, now this car has only just arrived on British shores and all the reviews have said that this car is amazing and a 911 beater. So I decided to see what the fuss was about and asked if I could change from the R8. This was accepted and I was soon cocooned the in the futuristic interior of the GTR. I should’ve known what this was going to be when I dabbed the accelerator and the car shot forward and I had to reign it back with a dab on the brakes. But nothing prepared me for the feeling of acceleration that I got when I opening it up on the first straight, this thing was biblical. It’s the type of thing that makes you swear completely involuntarily. The fun didn’t stop there, this a truly amazing car and far surpassed my expectations, throw it into a bend at far more speed than should be possible and it just shrugs and throws you round it. To illustrate the sheer velocity at which thing could travel, I was catching a Subaru Impreza being used by an instructor to give hot passenger laps!! (although this was probably more down to the car’s ability than mine!!). This car was definitely the surprise of the day, in a way I’m almost glad that the Porsche broke down…
It is very difficult, looking back to choose the best car between the four, each had it’s own merits, the Aston’s refinement and easy drive, the Ferrari’s sharp steering and sweet high revving engine, the Lamborghini’s beautiful brutality and crushing exhaust note and the Nissan’s earth shattering acceleration and low end torque and it’s point and shoot driving dynamic. Ultimately though I think the Lamborghini was the most complete car, partly because of it’s brutality and partly because it is such an involving, rewarding drive, the GTR though comes a very close second and that’s only because it felt a little too clinical and digitised in it’s approach (and the Gallardo sounds way better!).
As a whole the day seemed to be organised very professionally and efficiently, the pictures all came out well and I had a great time. My only slight criticism was that in the Ferrari and the Lamborghini the instructors told me to shift up well before the red line. Having said that I can understand that these cars can be fragile beasts and they might well have been preserving the engines a little, however that is nit-picking a little and didn’t temper my enjoyment of the cars really.
This was a Driving Experience review by James