Because of my on-going pursuit of the perfect RIDE, I went back to Exotics Racing when I was in Las Vegas last month. I fulfilled both destiny and fantasy by trying two cars that I’ve had an eye on: the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Porsche 997 Turbo S.
The 458 Italia is a couple of generations removed from the Ferrari I used to daydream of when I first graduated and the prospect of hitting a stock option lottery was still on everyone’s mind, the 360 Modena. These cars are a perfect blend of form and function, the purposely curvy styling makes for delicious auto eye candy as well as being aggressively aerodynamic. The car launches smoothly into the upper regions of the speedometer with only moderate coaxing of the throttle. The paddle-shifting is so buttery-smooth that you barely feel the car change gears at all (though you can certainly hear it). The handling is absolutely phenomenal, you can bend corners as easily as fly through straightaways. In short, Ferrari 458 Italia is the greatest car I have ever had the privilege to drive.
To make the most of the trek to Las Vegas Motor Speedway from the Strip, I opted to try a second car; one that also spent time in my brain over the years, the Porsche 911 (997 Turbo S). To me, the 911 is the supercar that approaches the realm of being practical as a daily commuter and somewhat broaches the possibilities of being affordable. As an unfortunate result of scheduling, I was in the Porsche less than 5 minutes after coming off the track in the Ferrari which I’m convinced has ruined me for all other cars. I couldn’t quite get a handle on the 997 until my later laps, totally under-steering and under-braking. The pickup was as peppy as advertised but shifting felt jerky. Lesson learned: prepare to be underwhelmed driving a Porsche is if you drive a Ferrari immediately before. I think I need a do-over.
As unfair as it is to compare the above cars to each other, I won’t compare them to the Lamborghini Gallardo that I drove last year. I’m going to wait to try out the monstrosity that is the 700 horsepower Aventador to see how that feels as versus the Italia.
Is it absurd to try to compare a Ferrari 458 Italia to Porsche 997 Turbo S? In short yes, the design approach is completely different and they aren’t in the same price range. My brother (who used to work at a dealership that sold and serviced exotic cars and is knowledgeable in such things) succinctly summed up my issues after I described my experience with him:
“Rear engine weight distribution, all-wheel drive grip, and turbo can be quite the handful after mid-engine, hi-revving, rear drive. Very different skill sets required.”
Maybe he was just trying to make me feel better!