(All photos: Clifford Atiyeh for Boston.com)
One of these cars is easy to drive fast. The other is easy to slide off the road and kill you.
In the last week, I was fortunate to drive both red and blue cars -- a Nissan GT-R and Jaguar XKR-S. Both have more than 500 horsepower, sophisticated 6-speed automatics, monster brakes, and super wide tires that cost about $2,000 to replace. And judging by the way these two race-ready cars are meant to be driven, you'll be replacing them often.
First, the Nissan. I haven't driven this car on the street so I can't say what it's like in everyday situations. But on the track -- the Monticello Motor Club, a private race track in upstate New York -- it's supremely easy for a racing novice like me to drive fast. The all-wheel-drive pushes you out of tight corners, and the power comes on smooth and progressive (after a bit of lag from the twin turbochargers).
You can throw this car into a turn with little or no planning (or skill) and it'll claw out without complaint. It brakes so hard without fade and the suspension is so settled that it's hard to imagine this is a street car that's only $90,000, when its prime competitor, the Porsche 911 Turbo S, costs almost double.
The blue car I could only drive on the road, a place that can barely contain its 550 horsepower sent only to the rear wheels. Jab the throttle from a start or while cruising in second, and prepare to hang on. The traction control puts up a good fight, although it can't stop the Jag from wiggling and darting over the lane. It is properly scary, a car that could not be tamed on a winding, tough track like Monticello without someone with many more moons of experience than me.
The XKR-S wants to slide and do burnouts, as if it's some $132,000 Shelby Mustang (and its French racing blue paint is quite similar to the Grabber Blue on the 'Stangs). Of course, its suave aluminum body and supreme leather interior (even covering the roof) does not make this Jag a Ford. It's posh and civilized at all times, except when you make the motor angry. Then, unlike the Nissan, you cannot hope to predict what happens next.
With every track day I'd like to hope I become a better driver and more in tune with a car's responses and behavior. With the red GT-R, I thought I was much better than I actually was. The blue Jaguar is a sobering reminder that I'm not that good -- and that I'm mortal.
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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee