Ah, supercars! They are the thoroughbreds of the automotive world. They can cost millions, they go very fast, and they attract plenty of attention in traffic and when pulling up to valet lines.
People dream about owning a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a McLaren, a Pagani, or a Bugatti all their lives, from a tender young age right up until they experience that third or fourth midlife crisis. And though these storied brands make more domesticated, “practical” machines, it’s the super-sexy supercars that capture the imagination.
But … are they really all that?
Well, they are. But they’re also, on many levels, beautiful, exotic, alluring, exciting total pains in the arse. Here’s why.
Ground clearance isn't a supercar forte. It can't be -- these high-performance machines are supposed to slip though the air, cheating the wind, and their aerodynamics are designed to keep them glued to the road.
This of course means that a modest blemish in the roadway can result in thousands of dollars in damage to the car. America's crumbling infrastructure is an ever-present, high-stress foe.
It kind of sucks the pleasure out of driving your Lamborghini if you have to keep a constantly watchful eye out for potholes and speed bumps and if you can't even really navigate your own driveway.
What do you do with horsepower in excess of 600 ponies? Who knows, because in 99.99% of driving circumstances, you're not going use it.
But you will still incinerate gasoline at an alarming rate.
If you do try to tap into the power, you run a gamut of risks. You could lose control of the car and have a very costly accident. You could pay no attention to your actual speed and endure a very costly speeding ticket.
You could also just get depressed. Nothing is sadder than a supercar stuck in traffic, looking gorgeous but with no hope of unleashing its potential. You paid for that power! But you'll rarely get to experience it.
The cheapest supercars are still quite expensive, and you always face the question of whether your sub-$US100,000 'supercar' is a true supercar. So you feel the pressure to man up for the pricier shiny metal.
And then you will invariably:
1. Bang into something and need to get your investment repaired.
2. Have to get something fixed that goes wrong with your ride.
In either case, you'll be parting with huge sums of money -- eye-watering, staggering sums, in fact, if you're used to dropping your Lexus off at the dealership for a brake job.
You may also have to wait months to get the car back.
Plush freeway-cruising sedans are optimised for the comfort of the driver and passengers.
Supercars are not, with few exceptions: The Acura NSX has a reputation for being compliant, and the McLaren 650S is easy to drive.
But the whole point of the supercar is to tuck you down in a low tub made of carbon fibre or magnesium, swaddle you in firm, bolstered, racing-derived seats, and scare the bejeezus out of you as soon as you put the pedal down.
And then just try tooling around town. I spent some time with a McLaren 675LT last year, and though I was grateful for the nominal cupholders (a supercar rarity), and I certainly enjoyed the spirited driving part, by the time I was heading back to Pasadena, California, from Malibu and trying to get through Downtown Los Angeles, my lower back and I were no longer on speaking terms.
You may not be, but this is a risk you take when you go in for supercar ownership. The jerkiest photos ever taken of me have featured me behind the wheel of a supercar -- and I'm not going to even try to deny it.
They change your character. You become a swaggering rock god, when in real life you might be a meek bureaucrat. There's nothing you can do about it. It's like slipping on a bright yellow suit. There will be judgments.
Supercars aren't allowed to be dirty. Heck, they aren't allowed to be smudged.
Fingerprints must be immediately buffed out. And let's not even talk about that which birds will sometime do in the vicinity of cars. You're best off keeping your supercar inside when it rains.
The implicit requirement that you maintain your supercar in showroom-new condition, if not art-gallery-level nick, is oppressive. These are no machines that you can run through the gas-station car wash. No, they demand detailing. Every single time they're cleaned.
And not just any detailing, but, rather, supercar-grade detailing. So if you're accustomed to that twice-yearly detailing bill of $US200, well, get ready for Special Forces-calibre detailing -- and the massive hit to your bank account.
No one ever tells you this.
They just assume that you'll be able to get on with the rest of your life after you buy a supercar.
But supercars aren't meant to be ignored. They command attention. Your attention. All the time.
I recently borrowed a Ferrari 488 GTB from the manufacturer to review, and I kid you not -- I literally had to remind myself to stop looking at it and do something else. I was hypnotized.
Supercars don't have much cargo capacity, unless you define cargo as a couple of bottles of Champagne.
This means you won't be taking many road trips in your supercar.
The legal speed limit it much of the US is 65 mph.
A lot of supercars can brush that off in less than 4 seconds, on their way to top speeds that threaten or exceed 200 mph.
How awesome! You spend hundred of thousands on a car that can legally achieve about a quarter of its performance potential.
Here's the thing: You drop your several hundred grand for the privilege of supercar ownership -- and then you are informed that actually driving the thing will destroy its resale value.
Yep, nobody wants to pay top dollar for a high-mileage Pagani or Lamborghini or Ferrari. So your new baby will spend most of its time in a temperature-and-humidity controlled garage, gathering gazes and spending very little time putting rubber to road.
There is no art without struggle.
You will have rough patches with your supercar; you will agree that the two best days for a supercar owner are the day you buy and the day you sell.
But then the light will come down at just the right angle and catch the car just so, and your ride will take your breath away again the way it has so many times before.
Maybe I'll keep it!
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