Saint Louis to Denver
We head west on the interstate to Denver. The 612 is clearly the best car for today's drive - comfortable, supportive seats, plenty of room, ice-cold air-conditioning (the equal of any American car and about five times better than any Ferrari of a decade ago), and easy cruising at 120 mph.
Still, there are some ergonomic niggles. The cruise-control switches are tactilely pleasurable but hard to use. And we spent eight days trying to figure out the Bose entertainment and navigation system, but it still left us scratching our heads.
With the top up and the air-conditioner on, the 16M isn't nearly as bad for this sort of driving as we feared it might be. The fully integrated iPod Touch audio system is a great concept, but the tiny icons and words are illegible in the full sun that typically accompanies a top-down drive.
The top of the Mantide's doors are made out of clear Lexan and glass. Resembling nothing so much as the cockpit of an F-16 Falcon, it's the perfect car for seeing sights, but it's basically a large greenhouse. After the sun sets, however, the Mantide transforms into an alien starship with its LED lighting front and back, particularly as it passes at high speed, shockingly silent as the engine is barely above idle. The 16M generates the most squeals of delight, since it's the most recognizable. The 612 glides along, nearly unnoticed.
As we enter the flatlands of eastern Colorado, a major thunderstorm is brewing, giant purple thunderheads glowing with lightning strikes. The gusting winds are discomforting, but all three cars handle it mostly with aplomb and only a few white-knuckle moments.