Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, Ferrari 575M Maranello, Lamborghini Murcilago, Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, and Porsche 911 Turbo

Mark Gillies
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Martyn Goddard
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These are five rocket ships for the road. With them, you're paying for the expertise in fine-tuning that comes from small groups of passionate, dedicated engineers and test drivers, who spend all their time with incredibly fast, potent weapons. There's a reason people like Dario Benuzzi and Roland Kussmaul have been employed by Ferrari and Porsche for so long. They just know, instinctively, what's right, as do the engineers who design the cars.

Don't expect a winner here. We would have any combination of these cars in our garages, just as we would have Louis XV and Chippendale furniture in the same room, or a Rembrandt and a van Gogh on the same wall, or a Chateau Latour and a Puligny-Montrachet with our supper.

It's remarkable how national characteristics shine through. The Mercedes and the Porsche have all the performance in the world, yet they are rational, practical choices. A 911 Turbo could be used all year round, parked on the street, and taken to the shops or onto a racetrack. It's the same deal with the Mercedes. These two Germans combine reliability with startling ability for what amounts to a bargain price.

The Italian cars and the lone Britisher are far more precious and have more character. They are special experiences; you take them out only when the planets are aligned properly and you feel like having a treat. They are perfectly usable every day, but such practice would somehow diminish their luster. The Ferrari and the Lamborghini are machismo made of metal, extroverted cars that stamp their presence on onlookers. The Aston is more restrained, more British, but utterly bewitching nonetheless. To data freaks, it's the least impressive car here, yet its ingredients gel wonderfully on the road.

Various Side Views

At the end of a sensational two days, we all wanted different cars. I couldn't choose between the Porsche and the Aston and the Ferrari. I love the Ferrari's brio, the Aston's looks and engine, and the Porsche's raw speed and practicality. The Lamborghini is simply too over-the-top for me. DeMatio was completely besotted by the Ferrari. Sherman covets the Lamborghini. Kacher would have the Porsche, because it's the best compromise. And Goddard chose the Mercedes; he was intrigued by all that performance in a convertible. At this level, it comes down to how a car connects with you. All five supercars are magnificent, further evidence that the early twenty-first century is the best time to be an automobile enthusiast. Car lovers have never been so spoiled for choice--and never more so than at the top of the performance tree.

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