Do Rich Car Buyers Know What They’re Missing Out On?

Those who buy supercars or ultra-luxury rides aren’t having all the fun—or even most of it.

Marc Noordelooswriter, photographer The Manufacturerphotographer

I recently spent time with two cars on the extreme opposite ends of the financial spectrum. If you parked the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera and the Ford Fiesta ST in front of a group of random people and asked which they'd rather drive quickly down a tight and twisty backroad, most would pick V-12-powered Brit. That would be a bad decision. Why? Because the fast Ford is more fun. I wonder if the wealthy realize what they're missing.

Don't get me wrong, the Aston isn't remotely boring. In fact, the DBS Superleggera may be the British company's best offering in the current range. I'm a big fan of the cheaper DB11, especially when fitted with the impressive Mercedes-AMG V-8, and the DB11 Volante is one of the prettiest convertibles around—it makes a Ferrari Portofino look downright dowdy. (Sorry, Ferrari, it's true.)

The higher-end DBS Superleggera builds on the DB11's talents while still maintaining the all-important GT characteristics of an Aston. It's also crazy fast, with a twin-turbo 12-cylinder putting out 715 horsepower. Sure, the ZF eight-speed automatic doesn't swap ratios as quickly as the dual-clutch gearbox in the Ferrari 812 Superfast, but the Aston's transmission isn't clunky at low speeds. Plus, the DBS lacks the Superfast's super-fast steering rack that causes the Italian to feel rather frantic at times, contrary to its grand-touring intentions. The DBS never forgets its focus, which is key, and is exactly what a wicked-fast GT car should be. But that doesn't mean I reached for the keys to the Aston for a blast on the English back roads. That's where the tenfold-cheaper Fiesta ST came in.

You can read my full praise for the Euro-only Ford here, but don't think you need to be on the tight and twisty tarmac of Britain in a not-for-the-USA performance hatchback to experience the joys of driving a basic, inexpensive enthusiast's automobile. I'm fortunate to drive all kinds of special cars on a regular basis, but I still get tremendous joy climbing into my current daily driver, a Toyota 86. Sadly, I think that's quite a rare feeling, especially for those with deep pockets. But it's not unheard of.

I have a friend who, among other cars, has a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S manual, an Audi R8, and a McLaren MP4-12C. He recently had an opportunity to drive a Volkswagen Golf R. It's not a car that's remotely on his radar but he was blown away by the VW, as he should be. A few years ago, I let another well-to-do friend drive with an impressive collection of exotic and luxury cars drive my old Scion FR-S at Grattan Raceway in Michigan. He had a huge smile on his face as he climbed out of my inexpensive rear-drive sports car. Sure, he commented on the lack of straight-line performance, but he still loved the FR-S and remarked that it reminded him of an old Mazda RX-7. He's right.

Did either of these fellows run out and buy a Golf R or FR-S? No. But there is the odd affluent car geek who chooses a budget performance car for daily use. I have another buddy who races a historic SCCA Trans Am Alfa Romeo GTV. He also owns some very cool old American iron and vintage Alfa street cars. But his daily driver is a Ford Focus RS. Sure, it rides like a brick and even though I don't terribly miss the one I daily drove for a year, it's still quite the car.

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So, if you're a person of means, keep in mind there are many excellent affordable cars on the market that reward on an equal or greater level than far more expensive offerings. And saving money on a more basic performance automobile opens up your options for a manual transmission, too, which are all but extinct in the world of high-end exotica. We unfortunately don't get that new Fiesta ST in America, but wickedly impressive performance picks include the VW Golf GTI and Golf R, Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Ford Mustang GT, and the hyper-styled but amazing to drive Honda Civic Type R. Heck, the $5580 carbon-ceramic brakes, $5010 deviated stitching, and $5810 Burmester audio available in the latest Cayenne Turbo account for a good chunk of the price of any of the budget performance cars I list above. That said, if you follow this advice, you won't have yellow brake calipers, orange interior stitching, or 1455 watts' worth of audio to impress the cronies at the yacht club. Pity.