Secret Supercar Owner's space
SSO: Summer Recos, from an Audi R8 to a TVR Griffith
April 27, 2013 3:20 PM  |  Posted By: Secret Supercar Owner
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Related Categories: Supercars

With Spring finally coming, quite few friends and acquaintances’ have recently approached me for advice on what to buy for summer motoring fun.  These are normally discussions I quite enjoy and gain quite a few insights from.  Most focus on the more modern cars, post circa 1990, as I tend to be more familiar with a wider range of makes and models in this era.  My first two questions normally are: what is your budget, and how do you plan on using the car.  On the first and for the sake of simplicity here, we will group budgets as £ 15-25k, 25-50k, 50-75k, 75-100k, 100-125, 125-150k, 150-200k, and 200-250k.  In terms of use, focus here will be on weekend fun, with the emphasis on it being a great driver’s car.  As these are all cars that the person would want for immediate enjoyment, new cars have not been considered.  As this is a blog and not a book, I will limit my comments to my top two choices in each price bracket.

Starting at the top of the financial brackets:

£200k-250k range: I found this group to be an easy decision, clear votes for the Porsche Carrera GT and Jaguar XJR-15.  The Carrera GT is a huge amount of car for the money and a real bargain (to the extent you could ever call a £250k car a bargain) right now.  It is a proper old school supercar with a hugely impressive engine, CF tub, 6 speed manual gearbox, Carbon Ceramic brakes, and a reputation for biting if you don’t respect it properly.  The Carrerar GT has ;ots of character and it requires real skill to drive well.  The Jaguar XJR-15 is basically a road legal Group C racecar.  With a 6 liter V12, carbon tub, offset seating position, and huge AP racing brakes, it doesn’t get any more focused than this.  The XJR-15 is a great uncompromised driver’s car.

£150k-200k range: This is another easy one in terms of recommendations.  The two best supercars to be launched in the last several years sit in this price band right now and some early examples can even be found for slightly less.  Both are V8s, mid-engine, ultra smooth dual clutch gearbox, and have everyday usability.   Performance is staggering yet both can crawl through traffic without blowing a gasket or turning into a rolling BBQ.  The two recommendations here are the Ferrari 458 Italia & McLaren MP4-12C.

£125k-150k range: I have always found this a much tougher range to make a call in.  Looking at the market today, the two that would be the most tempting are the Lamborghini Murcielago/LP640 and the Ferrari 430 Scuderia.  Finding a nice Scuderia for sale these days is not easy and there is a very good reason for it, they are great focused driver’s cars that will always put a smile on your face.  The Scuderia is the last in the line of the V8 F1 single clutch models and by far the best of the breed.  The Murcielago is Lamborghini at its best, large, loud, with tons of presence.  Unlike some of the earlier Lambos, the Murci drives brilliantly and does not require physical therapy after more than 10 minutes behind the wheel.

£100k-125k range: Here I would have to go with the unloved and the little known.   In terms of £ for performance you are not going to beat the McLaren Mercedes SLR or the Mosler MT900S.  The Mosler has the pure driver’s car box smothered, and on the track will blow just about everything else this side of an Enzo into the weeds.   In addition to what it can do on the track, the Mosler has excellent road manners and can deal with traffic and speed bumps.  The McMerc is just a huge amount of car for the money right now, a nice balance of comfort in the best of the GT tradition with blistering performance.  The new upgrade packages offered through McLaren Special Operations address many of the perceived negatives and make it an even more tempting choice.

£75k-100k range:  Very tough to make a choice in this range as there are a lot of great options.  Top of my recommended list would have to be the Porsche 911 (997) GT3.  There is a reason the GT3 has won a ton of awards, it is simply an outstanding piece of engineering that is brilliant on both road and track.  Of any 911 range, the GT3 has always been my favorite.  For the second choice, I am going to bend the rules a bit and go with a good but not great driver’s car that gets the nod on looks alone.  I have always has a soft spot for the Aston Martin DBS.

£50k-75k range:  It gets even tougher in this group as there is a wealth of choices.  For performance and fun to drive, I would have to give the nod to the Audi R8 V10 and the Porsche 911 (977) Cabriolet.  Both are beautifully engineered, well built, and exciting to drive cars.  Each has plenty of performance and high limits which make them a blast to push down an empty “B” road on an early Sunday morning.  As a wildcard if you need 4 seats, the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti is a fantastic choice.  It handles and goes like a car half its size.

£25k-50k range: In the more affordable category are two of my favorite Ferraris, the 360 Spider and the 550 Maranello.  On the 360 Spider, personal preference would be for the 6 speed manual.  On a nice summer day with the roof down, the sound of the 400 bhp flat crankshaft V8 is enthralling.  The 550 Maranello is more than a worthy successor for the Daytona and it seems to only be getting better with age.  It is hard to beat a Ferrari V12 and the 550 is one of the best. 

£15k-25k range: And finally in the budget category, two old favorites, the TVR Griffith and Lotus Elise.  The TVR & Lotus are both hugely fun to drive, can be pushed hard, and have character in abundance.  Before buying a Griffith though, taking out a RAC or AA membership is not a bad idea as the TVR can be as frustrating as it is brilliant.  The Elise is the car that saved Lotus and for good reasons, to this day it is one of the sweetest handling cars ever produced.

The above is just one Petrolhead’s opinion.  At the end of the day, you should buy the car you really love..


My Twitter account is @SupercarOwner . I will send out a message when the latest Fast Fleet entry or blog is posted.

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Giannis at 7:08 AM May 1, 2013

Thinking of the lower end of your budget how about a Honda S2000? Might not initially seem as characterful as say the TVR but you can get a 2009 car for comfortably under £15k, it has an amazing engine that revs to an insane 9000RPM, can out-corner many higher end cars and even though it's a 10 year old design in my eyes it still looks fresh and exciting. Maybe it does not offer the instant gratification of something with more torque but you can't argue with the chassis dynamics and even stock you'd be surprised by how track capable they are. I didn't pay that much attention to them but after an expertly driven completely stock S2000 showed me a clean set of tailpipes on a twisty mountain road a couple of years ago i've grown to respect them greatly.

David_Yu at 10:59 PM April 30, 2013

On looks, handling, noise; the 355 has the 360 beat. I'll give you the roof mechanism though; that was a pain on the 355! But it had pop-up lights. Case closed.

Secret Supercar Owner at 10:08 PM April 30, 2013

On looks, have to agree with you on the F355 over the 360. However the F355 always felt fragile where the 360 was much better built. If just considering the Spiders, just on roof alone, I would always opt for the 360 over the F355.

David_Yu at 9:59 PM April 30, 2013

Another great blog, SSO. I find no fault in your choices in all the price ranges, except for one: the 360 Spider. Although older and less reliable, I would much rather go back to an F355 Spider (LHD to negate the terrible driving position of the RHD afterthought) than an understeery/snap oversteery, ugly 360. But as Sherlock once said, "Opinions are like anii; we all have one." ;)

Secret Supercar Owner at 6:26 AM April 29, 2013

There is an article in the SLR upgrades offered by McLaren in the latest issue of EVO (#183).

straightsixer at 2:13 AM April 29, 2013

Can you please provide more detail on the upgrades that Mclaren offers for the SLR? PistonHeads also mentioned something about these upgrades and I am curious to see what they are doing to the cars compared to what aftermarket companies like Renntech or Brabus are offering. Having seen on in the flesh, they do have a Gotham like presence to them. Love that AMG sound as well.

Josh at 9:34 AM April 28, 2013

It is sad in a way though isn't it? I recall reading about the B7 RS4 when it was first released and the Audi engineers bragged that it had a proper manual gearbox, not a wussy DSG (their words). Now I believe their entire range basically uses DSG. Do people in your position actually get approached by manufactorers and get asked what they look for in a supercar? Surely as time goes by, numbers are becoming less important?

Secret Supercar Owner at 7:45 AM April 28, 2013

I don't believe it is the buyers/consumers that are really driving the manual to paddle shift. It is more the manufacturers. Supercars have always represented the latest technology and today that is dual clutch automated gearboxes. These are also cars in which the performance numbers matter and you are always going to get better numbers with the paddle shift boxes. It also helps on mpg & emissions. However, I doubt any paddle box will be able to match the enjoyment of running up and down the gears in a great manual box like the one in the F50.

Josh at 1:23 AM April 28, 2013

Love your insight SSO, I have to totally agree with the inclusion of the Carrera GT,it seems to tick all the right boxes and it has a manual gearbox. I was just wondering what are you thoughts of the demise of the manual gearbox? Years ago having a paddle shift was a selling point, but in years to come I think having a clutch pedal will be. Now it is simply a matter of manufacturers thinking they know what consumers want or is it simply that in general, people who can afford these vehicles (458, MP4-12C, 991 GT3)are not true car enthusiast (obviously discounting yourself)and it's all about the status of owning such a vehicle?

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