When's the last time you drove a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera? How about a Mercedes McLaren SLR? For most of us, that never happens. The lucky few who can, however, either have enough money to buy one, have a rich friend or relative, or paid an exorbitant amount of money to rent one.
Now though, a company called World Class Driving has done all the heavy lifting for you. They tour the country with five supercars at their disposal, charging customers $1495 to drive each one for about 30 minutes a piece. There's probably a stop close to you, so check out the tour schedule and see what cars will be there.
We had a chance to attend a World Class Driving (WCD) event in Charlotte, NC last month. Was it worth the $1500 price tag? Keep reading to find out…
We showed up at the Hampton Inn Southpark hotel in Charlotte at Noon - just in time for the briefing and lunch. After signing the insurance waivers and the necessary agreements (no unnecessary revving of the engines, no burnouts, no turning off traction control, etc) we went over the basics of handling a supercar vs. a regular car. We didn't actually get out of there until around 1:30, as it seems someone in the group before us crashed one of the cars. More on that later.
As we headed outside, there sat our supercars - a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, Mercedes McLaren SLR, Audi R8, and a Maserati GranTurismo. Oh, the beauty. Passers-by all stopped and gawked, taking pictures and asking about the cars. This leads to my main complaint about WCD: while these cars are great, they were not the cars that I expected to be there. In fact, the list of cars changed multiple times. When we registered for World Class Driving, the list of cars were as follows:
Ferrari 599 Fiorano
Mercedes SLR McLaren
Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
When I checked a couple months before the event, they changed again:
Ferrari 599 Fiorano or Mercedes SLR McLaren
Ferrari 430 Scuderia
After being assured that the list would not be changed again, I checked the list right before the event, and it was as follows:
Ferrari 430 Scuderia or Mercedes McLaren SLR
And here's the list of what was actually there:
Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
Mercedes SLR McLaren
This is frustrating - if you registered because you were looking forward to a specific car (like the Lamborghini LP560-4 for example,) the list changed and you won't be able to drive that car anymore.
But there were supposed to be five cars, not four. Turns out the Ferrari 430 Scuderia was the car that was wrecked, and was still on the side of road. Another frustrating thing was that WCD said they always have a spare car in case something happens to one of them, but apparently didn't have a backup this time. They promised all of the drivers that once they come back into the area (May 2009,) we can come back to drive the Ferrari.
After we got done taking pictures and getting briefed on our specific starting cars (we were in the Audi R8 first,) we took off from the hotel. I've been in love with the Audi R8 since it was unveiled, so at this point I was in heaven. Incredibly smooth, awesome engine noise, plenty of interior room, and very quick. The first half of the first drive was through traffic. Starting and stopping at stoplights, working through traffic, etc. This was rather unpleasant, since we only got the last half of the first car drive on open roads. After about 20 minutes (felt like 10,) we got out and went on to the second rotation.
The format of the drive was as follows: a lead car driven by our instructor led the way. The rest of us followed behind him, not allowed to pass him or any of the other cars. This naturally led to all of the cars falling way behind the lead car so we could step on it, catching up very quickly, then slowing down again to repeat the process.
Our second car was the Maserati GranTurismo. Very smooth and comfortable, great interior look and feel. The acceleration of the Maserati was not as responsive as the Audi, but was more of a swelling speed. An excellent touring car in every way.
Next up was the Mercedes SLR McLaren. Christine drove the SLR (as you can see above.) She commented on the SLR being very fast, but not having much of a personality. "It's really fast, but it's just another Mercedes" she remarked. An incredibly fast car, but there was something missing. Talking with the other drivers of the day, they felt the same way.
Last up was the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Now this is a supercar, and arguably the coolest car of the bunch. The bright orange finish with the "Superleggera" stripe, carbon fiber everything, and gunmetal wheels drew lots of attention, and had the best engine note of them all. A 520 horsepower V10 and active exhaust served as the radio in this Lambo. Opening the door reveals a nearly flat bare carbon fiber door panel inside. No door handle to close it, just a cloth strap to pull. All of this saves a lot of weight of course, making this Gallardo track-ready and super fun to drive. Without question my favorite car to fall back in - slowing down, cruising at 35, downshifting to 2nd gear, and flooring the throttle rewarded us with explosive acceleration, a screaming Lamborghini V10 behind us…next thing we know the car in front of us is coming up fast as the speedo reads 120 mph. Carbon-ceramic brakes slowed us down very quickly.
After the drive, we went back to the hotel and collected our gift bags, which consisted of a folder containing two photos they took before the drive, and a certificate of completion. Also in the bag was a WCD hat, some literature on World Class Driving, and a very cool laser-etched glass Ferrari 599 Fiorano model. We talked with some of the other drivers, traded business cards, thanked the WCD staff, and were on our way back home.
So let's get what we didn't like out of the way first. I didn't like that they switched around the cars so much prior to the drive. I completely understand and encourage the practice of keeping the rotation fresh and offer customers the latest and greatest cars. However, when the list changes at least four times, chances are some of the customers were there for at least one specific car. If that car isn't there anymore, they're going to be disappointed. I was extremely disappointed when the list changed and the Audi R8 was omitted; thankfully it changed again and the R8 came back. I was also looking forward to the Nissan GT-R and Lamborghini LP560-4, which weren't there.
Second, the Ferrari 430 Scuderia accident was bad for two reasons: mainly we didn't get to drive it, and they didn't have a backup car for us to drive. Also it seemed like the staff was more distracted with the Ferrari than they were with focusing on the customers having a good time. Yes it sucks the Ferrari got wrecked, but that's what insurance is for.
Lastly, I didn't like having to spend the first half of the first car driving through city traffic. I kind of feel robbed out of part of my time with the R8, since it was the open roads that were the fun parts of driving. Additionally, I wish there was more time with each car. It felt like we were kind of in a hurry to get back before the sun fell since we took off late.
So, despite the few complaints about the event, it was a great time. I look forward to returning in May to drive the Ferrari, and I hope all of the other drivers worked something out as well. For $1500, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us, and a great gift for any car lover. Some of the other drivers there were repeat customers, and most said they would go again. I just hope they keep the freshest new cars coming in (hint: Audi R8 V10,) and with a few tweaks to their process (longer drive times, keep a backup car, etc) would be a perfect experience. Based on our time there and reactions from other drivers, I highly recommend trying out World Class Driving or giving it as a gift to any car lover.
Check out the photos below, or click here for the full gallery:
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Images of the new Audi A5 Cabriolet / Convertible have been leaked over the internet prior to the car's official announcement later this week. From the images you can see that Audi is forgoing the motorized hard-tops adopted by rivals such as the BMW 3-Series Convertible, Lexus IS Convertible and the Infiniti G37 Convertible.
Audi's soft-top A5 and S5 Cabriolets will be offered with the same engine choices as their coupe siblings. The U.S. should get an A5 Cabriolet powered by the 265-hp 3.2L V6 FSI while the S5 Cabriolet should get its 354-hp 4.2L V8 unless Audi decides to drop it for a supercharged V6 from the 2010 Audi S4.
We'll bring you more details later this week.
Click through for more photos.
Audi A5 Cabriolet Leaked Images:
For 2010 Audi is going to release drop top versions of its beautiful A5 and S5 coupes. But unlike BMW, Infiniti and Lexus, these drop tops will feature a fabric top. It's obvious that a soft top saves more weight over a metal folding top and also saves some cargo space, but its definitely not as nice to look at when the top is up.
The 2010 Audi A5 Cabriolet will be powered by either the 2.0L TFSI four-cylinder or the 3.2 FSI V6 engine. The S5 coupe is currently powered by 4.2L V8 that it will keep until the end of the 2010 model year, but the S5 Cabriolet is already making the switch to the smaller engine with the 3.0L TFSI V6 that is also in the S4.
The 2010 Audi A5/S5 Cabriolet will be available in the fall of 2009.
While the 2010 Audi R8 V10 may attract a lot of attention at the 2009 North American International Auto Show next month, one of the most eagerly awaited of all Audi models may steal the show in Detroit. According to Detroit's Free Press, Audi will hold the world premiere of the A7 Concept in Detroit next month.
Other Audi models on hand will include the Audi Q5, a supercharged 300-hp version of the A6 sedan and wagon and the TTS coupe and roadster. Free Press says that Audi may also show a diesel version of the A4 for the U.S. market.
Insiders say that the four-door Audi A6 Concept has swooping lines and is close to what the upcoming production model will look like when it makes its debut next year.
Source: Detroit Free Press
After killing plans for an Audi Q7 Hybrid earlier this year, Audi has decided to put plans for a Q5 Hybrid on hold - indefinitely. Audi says that it would rather focus on diesel technology for now until it can make nickel metal hydride batteries safer.
"Audi won't produce a petrol-electric hybrid until we can make nickel metal hydride batteries safer in crash situations, and hybrid technology more efficient overall," a senior source told AutoCar. "Until then we will concentrate on producing more efficient diesel engines and aluminium chassis."
Audi's Q5 will now be fitted with a stop/start technology and other features that will further reduce fuel-consumption. Audi recently showed off its Q5 3.0 TDI which averaged 38 mpg on a trip from New York to Washington.
The one-year countdown begins.
We have received confirmation that the recently revealed Audi R8 5.2 FSI will arrive in the U.S. at the end of 2009 or in early 2010. This news is music to our enthusiast ears.
As the name suggests, this new R8 model gets a high-revving 5.2-liter V-10, which produces 525 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 62 mph is quoted at 3.9 seconds, but our tests of a 4.2-liter V-8 model produced a 4.0-second run to 60, so there's a chance that number is conservative. We expect pricing to be at least $150,000, an amount that is sadly anything but conservative.
Audi brings back the five-door sedan-hatch. And we like the idea.
In the 1970s, many European carmakers offered four-door cars with a sloped roofline and a large hatch for accessing the cargo hold. Beyond the simple 'hatchback' descriptor, designations such as fastback or aeroback were used in cases where the trunk opening remained small. The style even became fashionable in the U.S.—think Buick Century, Oldsmobile Cutlass, or Chevrolet Citation—but the fad was over by the mid-'80s. Only niche vehicles, such as the Saab 9000 or the Mazda 6 hatchback, carried on, as the typical sedan reclaimed its territory.
Today, though, we're seeing a resurgence of four-doors with wide hatchbacks, led by the German premium brands. The movement is being spearheaded by the styling leaders at Audi, as well as by the somewhat less elegant Porsche Panamera. The shape brings more practicality than a notchback sedan, and it makes for a beautiful, sleek roofline. Plus, they're kind of '70s retro. What's not to like?
Audi is so confident that customers will go for this style that two models are in the wings: the A5 Sportback, based on the A5 coupe, and the A7—see our spy shots here—which will be positioned between the A6 and A8 sedans. Both vehicles will rely on the same modular architecture, but the A7 is large enough to be positioned comfortably above the A5 Sportback.