Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 - Stephen Corby
WHEN we asked everyone on the Wheels team to pick the one car they’d actually buy, money no object, we were worried we might just get 12 Audi RS6s, or a dozen Porsches, but the results have been a big surprise, as you’ll see over the following pages.
The only proviso was that you'd have to actually live with the car, so if you have no garage, as I don’t, you have to take into account whether you’d park your fantasy high-dollar car on the street.
This led me to think I should go for my obvious favourite, a 997 Porsche 911 GTS (I’m about to drive its replacement, but I refuse to believe its steering will be as good).
But then I thought about that more wondrous allowance we had made for this list: “money no object”.
Some colleagues claimed they wouldn’t go for a supercar because they wouldn’t be able to afford the tyres, fuel or servicing, but I figure that either our limitless budget should extend to that, or I’d just sell some of my more useable organs as required.
So I’m going for my favourite car ever: the Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Balboni. All the face-ripping joy of the howling V10 monster, but none of that silly safe feeling you get from the all-wheel-drive versions.
Plus racing stripes.
Sure, parking it on the street will make me feel guilty, and nervous, but I’m going to offer all of my neighbours joyrides, so that it becomes an object of communal affection, and protection, unlike the Aventador that once got egged outside my house.
And when, inevitably, it gets too expensive to put fuel in the big, thirsty bastard, I’ll just sit and stare at it. That will be enough.
Pros: It’s a Lamborghini, it's beautiful and makes people smile, including Corby.
Cons: The doors won't open against high gutters so he might have to live in it.
Skoda Octavia Elegance - Peter Robinson
I’VE just been through exactly this exercise for real, not just in theory. The only difference was budget: under $40K, though I don’t think that would make any difference to my choice. I’m loath to provide Canberra with additional money in the form of the Luxury Car Tax.
My car: Skoda Octavia Elegance 1.8 TFSI sedan, in Race Blue.
Why? I need a practical and roomy five-seat (tall grandchildren) hatchback with a huge boot and reasonable exterior dimensions, and I want a car that’s good to drive. The Octavia fits that checklist to perfection.
The 1.8-litre engine brings the VW MQB platform’s multi-link rear suspension for ride refinement (helped by ordering the 17-inch wheels rather than the standard 18s). Performance is spirited, economy frugal, it has a brilliant safety package, elegant styling, quick steering, balanced handling and an ideal driving position.
I’ve no concerns regarding the DSG gearbox, or resale value. I intend to keep the Skoda for as long as I can drive.
Besides, the Octavia embodies all the qualities of the great Czech distance runner Emil Zatopek (Google him to understand why he’s a hero) and that's an entirely valid reason to buy this car.
Pros: Practical, roomy, nice ride, lots of cargo space and great value for money.
Cons: We were all hoping Robbo would go for a Ferrari. We should have known better.
Porsche Cayman - Byron Mathioudakis
INITIALLY, my mind went straight to a pre-’86 facelift Aston Martin Lagonda (for chic sheiks!).
But then I thought about a Ford S-Max people-mover with seats removed, to satiate my everlasting desire for a futuristic van that rides and handles (whoa – a Renault Avantime just entered from waaaaay past stage left).
Then the Tesla Model S bumped that away, but as I haven’t driven one I can’t commit to such a thing (an automotive arranged marriage could end worse than a human one, I think). That then led me to a Honda Super Blackbird 1100 I used to ride (but have discounted for not actually being a car), before almost settling on a Renault Twizy, until I remembered how unrefined the drivetrain is for an EV (and that it’s also a quadricycle).
Then my thoroughly enjoyable four months with a Nissan Leaf got me thinking. I love its silent, effortless under-the-radar skulking qualities, but I couldn’t live with steering as mushy as my Prelude 4WS. So I'm wondering whether the BMW i3 might be the answer (but, again, I haven’t had a steer, though surely it’s better than the Nissan’s).
So, after all that, I shall have to nominate a base manual Cayman in Guards Red – even an early 987 five-speeder, just as long as it has small wheels for a comfortable ride – and revel in its orgasmic balance and tactility. Failing that, give me a Citroen Traction Avant and I’ll pretend I’m a princess in exile. Or a Lancia Appia… Or an Opel GT…
Okay, a Cayman!
PS: Renault Zoe? No, Cayman.
Pros: Byron has managed to settle on one car. Kind of. For a car hoarder, this is no mean feat.
Cons: He’d never find time to drive the Cayman. And he should have gone for the S.
Citroën C4 Cactus - Nathan Ponchard
PONCH is an inner-city, urban kind of guy, and also one who’s almost incapable of making up his mind. He has too much love for too many cars, so out of the 500 or so he said he wanted, we’ve chosen the C4 Cactus for him because it’s the one he mentioned first, and because we love the name.
“Personally, new-car-wise, I’d want small, quirky, fun-to-drive, affordable, cool and a little bit sophisticated all rolled into one. With a manual transmission.
“Given that premise, I’d most want a Citroen C4 Cactus, but seeing it isn’t on sale in Australia yet, and I haven't driven it, perhaps something else.
“The logical part of me thinks 81TSI Polo six-speed manual with a bit of bling (Sports pack, 17s, etc), or no bling at all and remove the hubcaps for some rally-spec cool. But that would make me a boring git and I'd probably be over it in three months.
“Umm… eeny, meeny, miney, moe… a Volkswagen Up five-door with cruise control, if there are any still left in dealers, or, second choice given VW’s timidity, a facelifted base Alfa Giulietta (like my much-loved former long-termer) in a colour that isn’t grey or white.
"But, ultimately, I just keep coming back to the C4 Cactus. It’s so frigging cool, it hurts. It even has front seats in a split-bench style like all those massive 60s Yank coupes I also love, and yet it’s a lightweight 4.2m-long French hatchback defined by its utility. Throw in PSA’s delightful new 1.2-litre turbo-petrol triple and romance would blossom.”
Pros: You can tell people “my car’s Cactus” and it won’t mean it’s broken or dead.
Cons: When it goes on sale in 2015, they might only sell one, to you know who.
BMW i3 - John Carey
BECAUSE I’m way more interested in the future than the past, I’d choose a BMW i3. With the optional scooter-engined range extender, just in case. As well as providing a taste of tomorrow’s tech, it’s a hoot to drive.
The motor, made by BMW, is really strong from standstill and its response is instant. And because it’s between the rear wheels it drives, launch traction is excellent. It’s also one of the better-steering things BMW has produced in recent years, and it has a brilliant turning circle.
Also, it’s not big, which means it will actually fit in my tiny Italian underground garage (with genuine Roman ruins in the corner) and won’t be a pain in the narrow streets outside.
Four seats? Not a problem. Only need two most of the time. All I’d need to fit the i3 into my driving life is to organise the installation of a wall-charger in the garage. Which, knowing Italy, could be kinda complicated...
The two other cars that make my shortlist are the Volkswagen Up (white two-door with manual and steel wheels, all the car I really need, very nicely engineered and easy on fuel) and the Skoda Octavia wagon (with the 77kW 1.2 TSI that’s available in Italy). Drove it at the launch, and it’s enough engine to do the job, trust me. In basic Active spec, the Octavia is a ruthlessly useful device, well-engineered, good-looking (in my opinion), roomy and fun to drive.
Pros: It’s the future. Clever tech; sharp steering; perfectly sized for Euro living.
Cons: Asking Italian tradesmen to install that pesky wall charger; it’s not an M4.
BMW M4 - Glenn Butler
WHO chose this topic? It’d be easier to solve poverty or bring peace to the Middle East.
Money no object, you say. Just have to live with it. A Ferrari is tempting, but I’m assuming the “live with it” clause means I need to pay its upkeep?
Hard to stomach shelling out the shekels a 458 would require, even if I was rich enough to buy islands. Or does the money-no-object part extend to running costs? A Ferrari would be fun for a short time, but a pain the rest of the time. Not least because you’re driving in a fishbowl.
Maybe a less ostentatious sports coupe. A Nissan 370Z perhaps. That’s good and all, but the extra grunt will never outweigh the fact that it’s not as sweet as the Subaru BRZ.
Maybe I should get that – it’s not as common as the 86, and I prefer Subaru’s suspension tune to Toyota’s tail-happy one. I’d probably even track-day it, which would lead to a hankering for turbos ’n’ tyres, and then brakes, and then race seats, and then and then and then…
I do like the idea of a ute. I ran an SS-V long-termer a while back. It spent many happy days parked outside hardware stores as I dreamed of new ways to fill its tray. HSV’s new GTS Maloo would do nicely. So it’d be that.
No. Wait. What about the BMW M4? Been driving one this week, and I think I’m in love, even though that double-clutch takes ages to go from reverse to drive. Everything else is just sublime. I doubted any turbo M would displace the E46 M3 CSL as my dream car of choice. The M4 isn’t as hard-wired into the driver as that 110 percent special was, but it has so much more of everything else.
Bugger the Maloo, I’m taking an M4. With an extra set of boots.
Pros: Fabulous steering, screaming sound, and pretty damn fine to look at.
Cons: The old atmo V8 sounds even better. No ute tray for hardware shopping.
Porsche 911 Carrera S - Michael Stahl
HATE to be predictable, but I’d have a 911. We have a family wagon, so a 911 has as much practicality as I need and the distinctiveness I want. But I’d seriously have a hard time choosing between a 993 Carrera S and a 997 (series 2) Carrera S.
The 993 would give me all the retro-cool that makes me love my old 3.2, but with power steering, a six-speed transmission and a few more mod-cons that would make it a bit more liveable in the city. Servicing costs are pretty reasonable, too.
The 997 would be more expensive to service, but would need less of it, and would reward with better everyday comfort, convenience and, of course, performance. In the driving, the 997 still has just enough of the lurking bastard in it, where the new 991 doesn’t.
What do I really want? A 997 GT3 RS, ideally a 4.0. But it only has two seats, and I do like taking my kids with me. Sometimes.
Strange, given the “money no object” qualification, that I’m not even thinking La Ferrari or 918 or other current supercars that, God knows, I’d love to drive. But in my situation, this would be my only car. I think 911s are kinda simple and understated, whereas parking a supercar in the cheap stack at the airport, or at Woolworth’s, or at the urologist’s, or at a funeral, I reckon you just look like a knob.
Pros: It’s a 911; he owns an old one already so knows he’ll love it; back seats, kind of.
Cons: Nothing, really.
Ferrari 599 GTB - David Hassall
HAVING a strong motorsport background, and regretting not having done more racing when I was young and brave, I’ve always thought about buying a car that I could use as a club racer on the weekend and still drive on the road. I hate the idea of trailers and can’t afford a crew.
My life-long lust for a 1969 Mustang like Moff’s will have to wait because such a car modified for racing wouldn’t do double-duty. So the logical choice would be a 1970s Porsche 911, which would be quick enough to get the adrenalin flowing, I could run it in all sorts of historic track and road events, it would be reliable, it would qualify for club rego, parts are plentiful, there’s a good club to join, and regular road use wouldn’t be a problem.
However, if cost was no option, why would I settle for a $50K retro car? Besides, a 911 is too predictable. As is an M3, even though for a couple of decades it’s been my stock answer to the inevitable question “what car would you buy” whenever people learn that you're a motoring writer.
Limiting myself to cars I’ve actually driven, my choice would have to be a Ferrari 599 GTB, which I fell in love with driving around the hills near Maranello.
The 599 looks really sexy (an essential for a dream car), makes an awesome noise, goes like stink, handles superbly and, vitally, still rides well. It’s comfortable enough to live with and I’ll take a leap of faith that it’s not going to disintegrate in front of my very eyes.
Of course, it must be red.
If I had one of these, I wouldn’t be worried about racing.
Pros: It's a Ferrari, and will make Hass more virile and attractive while he owns it.
Cons: It’s a Ferrari, and will thus leave him a broken, bitter man as the bills roll in.
BMW E92 M3 - Damion Smy
MY PICK has to be the superseded BMW M3 Coupe. That means a 309kW 4.0-litre V8 that sounds like sin instead of the downsized, effective, yet horrid-sounding turbo six in the new M4. None of this downsizing, faux-eco rubbish, thanks – I'll leave that for Butler.
Of the E92 litter, I'd pick a later, post-2010 updated version with the Competiton Pack.
I might have chosen a C63 AMG Coupe, only I don’t like Mercedes bling so much and I want a manual gearbox.
Back to BMW, the M235i offers a six-speed manual and is the perfect size, but the M3 is faster, sounds tougher and looks better (though bring on the M2). It's for grown-ups, something I enjoy pretending to be.
In fact, speed is a moot point: the M3 isn't the quickest car around, but it's the total emotional experience the thirsty coupe gives me that I want to have again and again.
I still remember my first time with the E92: a dark blue manual. Six days, six tanks of petrol and a completely irrational emotional attachment. That hasn't happened in cars it ought to.
So the M3 gives me warm fuzzies inside when I look at it, tickles my lobes when I hit start and has proper cred from a motorsport department that has built some of the world’s finest machines. It’ll make me feel like a king on Macquarie Pass, but it also has room for weekends away and the rest of real life.
It’s also not such a head turner these days, and I don't have a garage, so I won’t have to fret about it too much, unlike the Ferrari F12 I may have chosen.
Pros: Room for adults in the back, yet more performance than you could ever hope for.
Cons: Inevitable fuel thirst. And it’s not the Ferrari F12 he clearly really wanted.
McLaren 650S - Alex Inwood
YES, I’ve done the stereotypical thing and gone for a supercar. But, hey, why not? I have no kids and already own a Mk5 Golf GTI as a daily, so if money is no object, I want a car that makes me feel like a rock star every time I drive it.
My first thought was a Porsche Cayman GTS manual. Porsches hold a special place in my heart and one of my greatest driving memories is guiding a Cayman S up Lake Mountain and Reefton Spur in Victoria. It was a drive of constant feedback, manual gearbox purity and sublime balance, all tied together by the howl of that flat six. I imagine the GTS could only be better.
But is a Cayman special enough? I considered opting for a 996 GT2 (I still remember reading Robbo’s first drive in April 2001 as a 14-year-old), but I haven’t driven one.
I have driven a McLaren 12C, though. Butler was kind enough to flick me the keys after this year's Wheels supercar comparo and it ticked every box. I loved the way its brutal turbo V8 sucked and screamed in Melbourne’s icy air, and the fact its steering wheel is moulded on Lewis Hamilton’s grip.
Is the 650S as beautiful as a Ferrari? No, but it’s rarer and it has 'scissor' doors that open vertically, which enhance its rock-star cred. I also have a garage, so I wouldn’t lie awake all night fretting about it. And one of my neighbours owns a 12C, so we could talk about all things McLaren while wearing hideous branded T-shirts. And I’d know my 650S is better.
Pros: One of the most accomplished, astonishing supercars ever built.
Cons: Insurance. And he'd be taunted with “nice car, did your dad let you borrow it?”.
Range Rover Vogue SDV8 - Barry Park
I HAVE growing children, I need to tow trailers of up to a couple of tonnes, and I live in the shadow of a 4WD playground, so my needs are very different. Therefore, I demand a Range Rover Vogue SDV8 Autobiography optioned to the hilt.
This is one instance where the vehicle changes how I feel about myself. Things like the super-high
driving position with acres of glasshouse, the opulence and comfort of the cabin, the overt statement it makes to everyone else; these gives me a comfy, smug feeling that no other vehicle can replicate.
Even little touches like the ‘Range Rover’ script in the puddle lamps mean that every time I exit my gentrified tractor at night, I walk away with a bit of a buzz.
The rear-seat space is also important. The big bench and flat floor in the rear means the kids can easily slide across for the school drop-off.
I’ve gone for the diesel; it will need to be a long-distance commuter, and stretching out visits to the bowser is important when weighing it up against the supercharged petrol V8.
Okay, so there’s some brain-fart ergonomics, such as a 12-volt plug that rises vertically from underneath the centre armrest, meaning you can’t close it while using the plug, and the fact that, despite being the on-road equivalent of the QEII, the driver’s footwell still feels cramped. It also has crap smartphone integration and sat-nav graphics that look 16-bit games-console standard, but I’m prepared to overlook all that.
I’d also drop from the standard 22-inch hoops to 20s, to cut down on excessive road roar at highways speeds and help with off-road comfort as well as towing, where a big load on a
low-profile tyre could cause
Pros: Makes you feel like Lord of the Manor, while looking like a mansion on wheels.
Cons: It’s called 'Autobiography' for crissake. Seriously, Barry, how could you?
FG Falcon XR6 Ute - James Stanford
CLEARLY Stanford didn’t really understand the question, as he’s gone for a car he already owns – how tight is that?
“Banjos at the ready – it has to be a ute for me. My FG XR6 Falcon ute provides all I want from a road car. It drives almost as well as a sedan (unless there is a bump in the middle of a corner), has a lazy engine with loads of torque, a quality automatic, awesome air-conditioning and heating, and just loves road trips.
“I can chuck whatever I want in the back: mountain bikes, motorbikes, hay bales, gravel, mushie compost, building supplies, and the tray is long enough for the odd jousting stick.
“I really just cruise on public roads (honestly, officer), so I don’t need the FPV or the turbo six. While it isn’t the most nimble, it is well-balanced and is hellishly fun on a winding dirt road (just a little sideways).
“Also, it’s the most Australian car you can buy (locally developed engine, etc), which allows you to sneeringly accuse everyone else of being un-Australian. On a side note, I noticed an official Palmer United Party nominee in some state election a while back had a Chinese Great Wall dual-cab ute covered in a PUP wrap. What does that say about the party?
“Anyway, the Falcon ute is still the car I’d want, even if money was no issue. However, my view is tinted by the fact that I use it to tow my 1998 STI rally car, which provides me all of the automotive jollies I require (it shoots flames on gearchanges). Without a jolly car, I would have to think again (or just keep the ute and get jollies from dirt bikes instead).”
Pros: Stanford will have more of his lottery winnings in the bank than the rest of us.
Cons: He still needs a Southern Cross tattoo; scores zero out of 10 for imagination.