You can't imagine just how good it felt to finally get out of town and let our quartet's engines really rip. As soon as you stand on the throttle pedal, it's clear that the Lamborghini's V-10 alone is worth every cent of the money. The whoop as the ten cylinders chime in together sends a shiver up your spine--the same one you feel when you first approach a race circuit and hear the cars before you can see them. The six-speed semiautomatic transmission--so frustrating at stoplights where its slow clutch take-up constrains any hooliganism--comes into its own on a twisting road, allowing you to tear off quick, melodious upshifts as if you were Lamborghini test driver Valentino Balboni.
The twin-turbo, 750-hp V-8 in the Saleen S7 lies at the other end of the spectrum, where sheer thrust, not rpm-related spin, is what impresses. Thick intake ducts envelop the V-8 as if it were being attacked by a giant carbon-fiber squid. Thanks to a combination of 5 psi of boost and 7.0 liters of displacement, the power curve is broad and deep from 3000 rpm all the way to the 6500-rpm redline. The sound is broad and deep, too, as the engine sits just inches behind your head. The shifting action of the RBT six-speed transmission can't come close to the slick Ricardo six-speed in a Ford GT, but despite all the stiction in its action, the linkage still finds the shift gates very positively.
There's not much romance to a description of the Noble M400's engine, a Ford Duratec 3.0-liter V-6 boosted with twin turbo- chargers. An Ohio company called 1g Racing sells the Noble chassis and parts kit, although the spec engine comes from AER in Texas. The cars themselves are designed in England but are built in South Africa. Yet as soon as the electric fuel pump clatters to life in the engine bay just behind your head, you realize this is going to be a real racing-caliber experience. In fact, this engine has the harsh, flat bark of a racing engine, and the long-travel throttle pedal lets you modulate it like music. As you'd expect with a Ford V-6, midrange power is the message here, and that power swells across a wide range of rpm. When you shift the sticky, notchy Getrag six-speed into a taller gear, the turbo waste gates call out to you with a chirp.
Tractable power is what the 4.4-liter BMW V-8 installed in the Morgan Aero 8 is all about. After years of obscure engine choices as Morgan tried to keep up with U.S. emissions requirements, the German-built V-8 delivers a vintagelike elastic powerband that lets you cruise around all day in any three selections from the superfluously sophisticated six-speed gearbox.