This week, the Chicago Tribune featured a story on three amazing cars that easily top 200 MPH.
Writer David Undercoffler describes driving experiences for each of the monster road machines: the McLaren MP4-12C, Lamborghini Aventador and the Bugatti Veyron. All three are excessive not just in the speed department, but on the sticker, too -- $300,000 to $2 million for one of these hot rods.
Now, I will be in the car buying market later this year, but no car in this category will enter the realm of consideration for me. Even if I could afford them, the question for me would be, why?
Don't get me wrong -- I love to drive fast. Very fast. Just a few weeks ago, a 4:30 a.m. drive to Italy's Malpensa airport was made infinitely more tolerable by lucking into an Audi A5 as my rental car. In the extreme stillness of night, the silence on the Autostrade was broken only by a quiet whisper from the Audi's diesel engine. That and the occasional loud beep - each time the speedometer went over 160 kilometers an hour (that's 100 MPH for us Americans), a "speed warning" kicked in. That car felt so natural traveling at around that speed, I simply should have set the speed warning a little higher. Most of the time it was just too easy to get to 160 or above.
Now, admittedly, that was probably not a legal rate of speed for that roadway. However, a few years ago, on another European trip, I had the drive of a lifetime. Friends arranged for a day driving through the Bavarian Alps on the German Autobahn, in a section with very few speed limits. What I didn't know until I arrived in Germany was that the car I would be driving for the day was a Porsche 911. Unfortunately, it was February, and the car was outfitted with snow tires. That meant its maximum speed was 240 km/h, or 150 MPH. I had never driven a Porsche before, and it is really an amazing automotive work of engineering. The steering is tight, the road feel responsive. When I finally moved the needle to 211 km/h, or 132 MPH, I chickened out. I simply couldn't handle piloting this beautiful machine at a further faster speed. It was too intense.
My German friends make fun of me because I'll find almost any excuse to rent a car and drive the Autobahn. Over the years I've tried out a range of cars -- everything from a Smart Car to a Mercedes S-Class on the motorways cross Germany. Autobahn driving is always intense, whether in a Ford Focus or Volkswagen CC. The adrenaline races, feeding my addiction.
None of this explains why the car I drive on a daily basis is a Nissan Altima, whose lease is up later this year.
In some ways, I don't even need a car. I work at home, and my journeys out are either to O'Hare or to my daughters' schools. I hate driving around Highland Park, with so many people who seem to think they own the road or need not pay attention behind the wheel. The 4th of July stands out for me not because of the or , but because I actually got honked at by a woman about to make an illegal left turn into a Sheridan Road parking spot, simply because I slowed down momentarily. This week, a man turned out of a parking lane at in front of me, without ever stopping to look if there were cars in the through road. My horn did not prompt any gesture of apology, but rather some weird reaction where he must have had to explain to his children why that other car beeped at him. He wouldn't pull even with me as we came to the subsequent stoplight on US41.
The Altima seemed like a nice "family" car three years ago, when my wife and I were expecting a child and the roominess was important. It certainly wasn't my first choice, but arguing with a pregnant woman about family needs does not encourage the nesting instinct. The Altima has been a fine car, but it doesn't exactly get that adrenaline going. And the daughter? She's been in the car exactly once, riding every other time in the last three year's in my wife's car. Perhaps a family car isn't quite so important next time.
With the lease up, though, I won't be looking at Porsches, Lambos, or anything with a V-12. See, after having experienced the true ability to drive fast on an open road, a fast car contending with American speed limits and congestion would be truly frustrating. My frequent drive down I-294 to the airport would turn into a grumble-a-thon, rather than a gearbox exercise.
I know there are outlets. Later this month, the Highland Park Historical Society will host its twelfth Auto Historica exhibit on July 21. One highlight of the day is an auction for two tickets to the Porsche Sport Driving School at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL. The winner will be able to drive three different Porsche cars on a closed track. That sounds great, but it just seems like more frustration to me. Once you have experienced driving at 130 MPH, Sammy Hagar's "I can't drive 55" will forever echo in the back of your mind, too.
So don't bother planning to bid on the auction at Auto Historica. In fact, I hope nobody shows up at 1:30 p.m. on the 21st for the opportunity to bid. Maybe, just maybe, then I'll have a shot at getting an adrenaline fix within the same time zone. It just won't become a prelude to my auto shopping efforts.