If you've ever salsa danced with Chewbacca, then you have a pretty good idea of what it's like to plow expeditiously through a turn inside Lamborghini's latest V-12 supercar, the Aventador LP 700-4.
The effect is dizzying. Literally.
Although this $421,145 supercar isn't a heavyweight at 3,600 pounds, it's not a welterweight either, and you feel every atom of this mass on the road. When the two of you dance, it leads, and in no other street-legal car have I felt so many G-forces while going around a turn in complete control.
For this, give thanks to the pushrod suspension, a design used almost exclusively in F1 race cars. It keeps the car flatter than a Kid 'N Play haircut through turns, reduces unsprung weight for more control and allows for a more compliant spring rate. (Somewhat, that is — the Aventador's ride is still very stiff.)
This vise grip of the road is also aided by an all-wheel-drive system, indicated by the 4 in the LP 700-4. The 700 hints at the metric output of the all-new, naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V-12. For our purposes here in the States, consider the output 691 horsepower, with 509 pound-feet of torque.
The seven-speed transmission is a single-clutch, automated manual unit with paddle shifters. Although it's lurchy and awkward at low speeds, put it in Track mode and get moving quickly and the shifts happen with a near-violent fervor.
From a dead stop, this car will hit 62 mph in 2.9 seconds on its way to a 217-mph top speed. In its frenzied rush toward double-century speeds, the V-12 behind you sings with the coarse voice of angels. Stopping you yesterday are carbon-ceramic brakes with rotors measuring 15.75 inches in the front and 15 inches in the rear.
It's this kind of dramatic flourish that the Aventador masters, thus staying true to Lamborghini's predilection. With a wide and low stance and a design not unlike the love child of a cubist and an origami artist, the Aventador carries itself with civilized brutality like little else on the road.
If seeing a supercar dodging through traffic elicits a sharp pang of envy on your part, take solace in knowing that car is likely very difficult to live with on a daily basis.
Unless that car is McLaren's MP4-12C, in which case the guy cutting you off is likely more comfortable and driving a cooler car than you. Here's hoping he has a rampant case of halitosis.
The 12C is an all-new, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive car, billed by British company McLaren as a machine with Jekyll and Hyde properties. Yet in reality, it's really more like Jackie Chan in a $287,740 suit; smiling and eager everyday, but also capable of doing all its own stunts.
This is evident the moment you sit inside. Outward visibility is excellent thanks to a deep windshield, and you immediately get a sense of where all of the car is. This isn't an accident.
McLaren designed the 12C so that the driver and passenger sit farther inboard because the closer the driver is to the center of the vehicle, the better sense of control he or she has. This is why the only other street-legal car McLaren produced independently — the legendary F1 from the 1990s — had the driver's seat literally in the center of the cockpit.
The 12C is powered by a small and light 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8, producing 592 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. It moves this McLaren from zero to 62 mph in 3.1 seconds on its way to a 205-mph top speed.
Add in an adaptive suspension system, a low curb weight of 3,161 pounds and the excellent driving position and throw it at the road, and the result is a remarkably prescient experience. The 12C goes exactly where you want it, and you always know what the whole car is doing.
The steering talks back wonderfully and aids the sense of precision the driver has. Yet as hard as you push it, the experience never gets raw. For all this McLaren's capabilities, it seems immune to the base emotions long associated with other supercars. It's so good at being good, it cauterizes much of the danger right out of your hands. But the experience is so exhilarating, you may be too out of breath to care.
It's never boring going fast. These cars proved it, even if I didn't go 200 mph in them.
At the end of the day, because these three approach the art of speed in wildly different ways and price points, it's unseemly to pick a winner.
Yet those confined to daydreaming can take solace in knowing that since the real experience is so surreal, you're already halfway there. Buckle up.