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

You could spend half a day telling stories about the technology in these cars. The Gallardo's combination of a mid-mounted V-10 engine and all-wheel drive is kind of futuristic, and the Lambo also embraces every available electronic driver's aid in order to be able to safely express its speed on the street. Meanwhile, the Noble M400 attacks the ideal of speed with the same sort of seriousness, but its technology has been trimmed down to a hard-core combination of fiberglass bodywork, a spaceframe chassis, and a twin-turbo V-6 engine.

In a way, the Aero 8 is just as retrograde as any previous Morgan, being a classic, handbuilt car. But it also happens to have been nicely updated with a 325-hp, 4.4-liter BMW V-8 and a chassis fabricated from aluminum. The Saleen S7 actually started with an English chassis design, but it has evolved into something essentially American. It's a conventionally conceived yet cleverly integrated combination of carbon-fiber bodywork, a space- frame of steel tubes bonded to aluminum honey- comb, and a twin-turbo, solid-lifter overhead-valve V-8.

We felt pretty comical burbling around in these cars. The Morgan is far lower than it looks, and speed bumps crash the independent rear suspension to the bumpstops of the dampers. The Noble's low-effort steering makes it easy to maneuver, but there will be no hitting the drive-thru at In-n-Out Burger--the windows roll down only part of the way, and the opening to the outside is about the size of a mail slot.

Meanwhile, the Saleen S7 is insane in an enclosed parking garage. The exhaust pulses from the 750-hp, 7.0-liter powerplant echo off the concrete like an artillery barrage. The Saleen's front aero splitter has been specially reinforced to withstand abuse when the nose of the car inevitably scrapes on any sloping concrete ramp. In comparison, the Lamborghini drives like a real car during these exercises in functional practicality, not least because its semiautomatic, servo-actuated transmission makes it easy to control the 520-hp V-10.

So, yes, we felt foolish driving around in supercars on city streets, but we actually learned a few things. First of all, supercar engines will happily endure extended periods of 30-mph puttering, a testament to the wonders of electronic engine management and sensibly engineered cooling systems. Even the twin-turbo V-8 in the Saleen, which had a horrible lean surge below 3000 rpm, never budged the needle of its water-temperature gauge.

But we also learned that while exotic-car machinery can withstand metro duty, exotic-car drivers cannot. The driver is packaged like something of an afterthought in an exotic car, so there's no running out from Starbucks with your cup in hand and leaping into the driver's seat. The S7 is a racing car, with the broad door sill, flat-bottomed steering wheel, and small pedal box to prove it, even though it's easier to get into than a Ford GT. The Noble is a similar proposition, but not as extreme. The Morgan Aero 8 is by far the worst in this regard, as the door access forces you to thread your legs over the high-bolstered seats and into the tiny pedal box (no room for a dead pedal here), and the steering wheel is always in the way. As for the Lamborghini, well, it's pretty good, actually.

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