Creative Control: Saleen S7 vs Morgan Aero 8 vs Noble M400 vs Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Each of these four cars does its best to fit into conventional society. The Noble M400 has a three-point seatbelt for everyday use, as well as a four-point harness for track use. The Saleen has a clever electric plug in the engine compartment so that you can trickle-charge the battery between outings. The Gallardo Spyder's electric top takes just twenty seconds to retract or deploy. And the Morgan Aero 8's cloth top flips back by hand. Trunk space is in short supply in all four cars, although fitted luggage is available in all but the Noble.

These cars are meant to arouse passion in enthusiasts, so it's no surprise that we felt passion both good and bad about each of them. The Noble had all the aesthetic presence of something plucked from a hardware bin, and our young guys, road test coordinator Marc Noordeloos and assistant editor Sam Smith, showed a lot of disdain for its kit-car-like, Ford Mondeo--derived shift lever and switchgear. But these objections didn't keep the M400 from being everyone's favorite car here--fast in a pure and extreme way, but compact and comfortable every day.

The Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder has everything in both aesthetic and mechanical presence that the M400 lacks. Most of all, the Gallardo is a practical automobile, a huge statement about what exotic cars have become in the last decade.

Noordeloos and Smith were both keenly disappointed by the Morgan Aero 8, a measure of their hopes for a racing car wrapped in a vintage body. Instead, they discovered a kind of Plymouth Prowler, a gorgeously updated visual experience of a familiarly vintage driving experience. Conversely, creative director (and Brit) Richard Eccleston really loved the car. As he explained, the Morgan makes you cherish it because it's all about mechanical soul, the simple thrill of a working mechanism whirring and growling (and occasionally smelling of oil) as it goes down the road. In a way, the Morgan also has a quality the Noble lacks, because it's about the beauty of the bits, not the thrill of the driving dynamics.

There was no loving or hating the Saleen S7; it is simply from a different world. It is the automotive equivalent of a nighttime aircraft carrier landing in a jet fighter, an experience so extreme that it barely relates to automobiles as we know them. It's a dead solid miracle that the S7 can be driven on the street at all, although Steve Saleen tells us that he runs errands at Target and Wal-Mart in his own car. We learned that you can drive the Saleen on the street without being desperately scared or desperately uncomfortable, although you probably have to be desperately insane to do so.

The unifying factor here is the unreconstructed commitment it takes to drive an exotic car. These are extreme automobiles. They can be driven in the real world, but they're not of it, and perfectly transparent utility is not in their skill set. In the end, this is the point of an exotic car. It is designed to be all about the car, not all about the driver. And the kind of person attracted to such a vehicle is no more like an ordinary driver than a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder is like a Chevy Aveo. That's why drivers like you and us care so much about exotic sports cars such as these.

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