I spent the day at Club Sportiva in San Jose on one of their Exotic Car Tours. Five other drivers and I drove European supercars through the winding roads of the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, Woodside, and along the Pacific Coast. It was an absolutely perfect day for driving.
We all got to drive each of the following cars over the course of the day:
- Audi R8
- Ferrari F430
- Nissan GTR
- Lotus Elise
- Lamborghini Gallardo V10 Spyder
- Tesla Roadster (well, most of us did)
We each drove alone (no copilot) and were led on the tour by one of Club Sportiva's fantastic drivers in a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. We got to drive each car for about 30 minutes along twisting roads through the hills below beautiful blue skies.
I made the following video from the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder by propping my iPhone in the dash. You can hear the throaty rumble of the Gallardo's V10 engine as I wind through the hillside.
We stopped half way at Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, CA to have a nice lunch and let passersby's gawk at our glistening supercars. It was a blast to drive through small towns where people told us, "I want to HEAR it!" I'd push the clutch in, gun it, and watch the smiles light up on everyone's faces. People would stop and point at us. Cameras came out.
All the cars were manual transmissions except for the Nissan GTR and, of course, the Tesla Roadster since it's a fully electric sports car. I was a bit worried about driving a stick, since it's probably been 15 years since I last drove one. But it's a lot like a riding a bicycle - you never forget.
The Audi R8 was probably the best all-around supercar. It had an amazing amount of sure-footedness due to its all-wheel drive and fantastic engine. It was a powerhouse that didn't take a great deal of work to drive. I'd love to have this for my daily commute.
The Ferrari F430 was the most exciting car for me to drive. It had a deep throaty growl and would actually startle me when I hit the gas and instantly accelerated. Fantastic handling, but the shifting was very "notchy". Apparently this is a common complaint about Ferraris and is what led to the creation of the Lamborghini.
The Nissan GTR had the best electronics. This was one of the two cars with an automatic transmission and had paddle shifters on the wheel. You have the option of putting the transmission into manual, where you must use the paddle shifters to change gears. There's no manual clutch - the electronic double clutch shifts gears instantly. The large display had typical GPS functionality and also had screens that reported the amount of Gs you were pulling when accelerating or turning. Too much automation for me - I found this car rather boring, but FAST! I got up to 112MPH without blinking an eye.
The Lotus Elise was the most fun to drive. This car weighs less than 1,900 lbs. and has ~200 HP. It's a total slot car. It has absolutely no electronics in it, so it takes a lot of concentration to drive. No traction control, power steering, or antilock breaks. The seats are hard plastic and you're mere inches above the ground. An absolutely amazing car to drive that made me smile the whole time.
The Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder is sex in yellow. It has the most amazing tuned exhaust that makes even blind people turn and look. With a massive V10 engine it's a bit heavy, but was amazing to drive. If you're looking for a supercar that evokes lusty emotions, this is your car.
Finally, is the Tesla Roadster. I'd love to tell you about its instant acceleration due to it's powerful electric motors, but alas I cannot. It ran out of battery before it became my turn to drive it. It's a shame since this was one of the cars I was really looking forward to driving. Club Sportiva said they'll make it up to me with a future driving opportunity. We left the Tesla on the side of one of the mountain roads for a Club Sportiva flatbed to pick up later. I rode back with Travis from Club Sportiva in the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.
This was a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. I highly recommend it if you have the chance to do it!