Flash is a serious component of a supercar's livability. You either want flash or you don't. If you do, skip the Murcilago. As much as we laughed uproariously and pointed at the Countach's scoops and wing flaps and ailerons and spoilerons, we kind of miss the supercar outrageousness so shamelessly exhibited by the Countach and so noticeably missing from the Murcilago. At least in comparison with its three compadres here. Since when is the Italian car the most understated of the wild bunch? Humph. Maybe since the Germans took hold. Why, then, is the Murcilago's haphazard cockpit, with buttons and switches sort of slapped onto the wide, black center console, not a gorgeous Audi-inspired triumph of art? At least, the optional drilled aluminum paddle shifters are a flash of exotica. And it still has those wild-in-the-streets scissor doors that flick up with an upward boink of an elbow against the leather door bolster. (Senior editor Joe Lorio admits that these are the doors that "nutted" him most often.)
The Murcilago has the narrowest seat, with the oddest seating position: knees splayed out with steering down low between them. Come to think of it, with the power on and the engine roaring, the whole effect was like Slim Pickens riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove. It wasn't bad, but you wouldn't want to have the hot-fudge brownie sundae special for dessert too often.
The McMerc, as the SLR McLaren is so distastefully referred to by our younger staff, has the flashiest, most baroque exterior, with its pointy F1-inspired snout; mid-'50s-era racing SLR sidepipes, engine vents, and scissor doors; deeply dished sills; nineteen-inch wheels; and what Lorio refers to as "all of the current Mercedes styling cues turned up to eleven" done up in gorgeous luminescent silver metallic paint. "Mean and expensive-looking; very Gotham City," Gillies notes.
Its interior is an extreme version of the same. The whole effect is irresistible to the masses, who recognize that it is not simply your average $100,000-plus Mercedes. Love it or not, the cabin is the most civilized of our four. You can see out the windows, carbon fiber and padded leather abound, there are places to stow the sorts of things you shouldn't be toting in a supercar (cell phone, BlackBerry), the trunk can take a golf bag, and state-of-the-art safety systems are a given. The engine start button, hidden under a vented aluminum flap atop the shift lever, enhances the sideshow experience, especially at night when it glows red.
The Porsche definitely sizzles at street level, looking every inch the Le Mans prototype it pretty much was before Porsche pulled the plug on that plan. Its odd proportions are universally described as sculpture, pure art, and looking as Italian as the Lambo looks German, despite its lack of goofy doors. Removing the carbon-fiber roof panels (and completely filling every inch of the front trunk with them) not only makes the Carrera GT look extra cool but also makes it easier to hear maximum shriekage from the mid-mounted 605-hp V-10 racing engine. Gauges are in Porsche's usual overlapping-circle configuration, and a lovely stack of wood forms the ball atop the six-speed manual shifter lever. You actually can see out back, though it's just a sliver framed by the inside bars of the roll hoops.
The real Night of the Living Dead machine, the car that brings everyone from passersby at a local mall to half the paddock at a VIR race meet directly to its side, the car that brings workers from a dealership running across a busy highway to the gas station where it is being refueled, the one that nearly knocks over the guy with a "GT I WISH" vanity plate on his Mustang, is the Ford GT. "Can I sit in it?" "Will you take my picture next to it?" "Will you open the hood?" "Do you need a special tool for the wheel nuts?" "Will you take a picture of it with me and my truck?"
Good Lord. When we try to hide behind a barn at VIR for a peaceful photo session, racing drivers, security people, corner workers, and just plain bystanders make a pilgrimage up the drive like a line of ants to a picnic, mindlessly walking into our photo shoot, just to look in the GT's window.
Could you live with that kind of attention?
Maybe you couldn't live with its massive, world-obscuring A-pillars or the fact that you're the last to know what's over the hood's horizon because you can't see far enough out of the teensy windshield or over its bulky parked windshield wipers. And since you can't see anything out the rear, either, you might wish to readjust the rearview mirror as Sherman did to catch your throttle action, blipping smartly amid the wall-to-wall view of the bulging, rear-mounted, supercharged 5.4-liter V-8. Most entertaining.