Karen was surprised with drives in several supercars at the Prodrive test facility in Warwickshire for her birthday recently. Karen was astounded to discover she would be driving a Nissan R35 GT-R, Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, Ariel Atom, McLaren MP4-12C and an Aston Martin DBS!
Karen's first drive was in the Nissan R35 GT-R. At least the GT-R shared four wheel drive like Karen's race car and Richard's road car. However, it had around 500 horsepower and a flappy-paddle gearbox. Unfortunately for Karen, it began raining just as she began her drive.
Karen had been offered a drive in full automatic mode, but she took the decision to use the flappy-paddle manual mode and had absolutely no problems. It felt natural almost immediately, which bode well for the rest of the day as most of the other cars used the same gear changing method.
The instructor gave Karen a score of 35/40 for her drive in the Nissan R35 GT-R.
The next car in line was the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. Karen was a little intimidated by the car's size and massive 640 horsepower figure.
This time, the weather was dry although sections of the track were still damp. Karen could certainly feel the immense torque of the Lamborghini V12 over the top of engine of the GT-R. Karen was surprised how much she enjoyed her drive and was certainly grinning from ear to ear when she stepped out of the car.
The instructor on her Lamborghini drive gave her a score of 35+/40.
Karen's next drive was in the Ariel Atom.The Atom is a mid-engined rear wheel drive car open to the elements. Luckily, although cool and windy it was still dry for Karen's drive.
Karen had been supplied with a helmet and gloves, but unfortunately the wind was catching under the helmet along the main straight and making it ride up which affected her confidence. This was the only car on the day which used a conventional clutch and manual gear change with a gear stick.
Despite the problems with the helmet, Karen really enjoyed her drive in the Atom. Although not as powerful as any of the other cars, it was much lighter and nimble and the power delivery felt just as fast. Karen's legs felt like jelly afterwards and we took that to mean she enjoyed it!
The instructor gave Karen a score of 36.5/40 for her drive in the Ariel Atom.
Richard had been eagerly anticipating Karen's next drive. This was the McLaren MP4-12C, a twin-turbo V8 engined car producing nearly 600 horsepower. The chassis is supposedly exemplary and the car can provide all the required performance without sacrificing comfort.
Once again the car used a flappy-paddle gear change, but Karen was now an old hand at this. Karen felt the steering to be initially quite light compared to the previous cars. Acceleration was simply in a different league and it took Karen's breath away!
The McLaren astounded Karen with its performance, both in terms of power and handling. It was also so easy to drive it was a devastating combination. The instructor was so impressed with Karen's drive that he gave her a big hug when they got out of the car!
The instructor gave Karen a score of 38.5/40 for her drive in the McLaren MP4-12C.
Finally, a real touch of class as Karen's ultimate drive was in the Aston Martin DBS. Not content with the car used by Daniel Craig as James Bond 007 in the film Casino Royale, this version was a convertible!
Karen found the car to have a wonderful interior with a very upmarket and executive feel. If that lulled her into a false sense of security, then the performance soon shattered that. The DBS was nearly as fast as the McLaren!
The instructor gave Karen a score of 39/40 for her drive in the Aston Martin DBS!
Karen thoroughly enjoyed all her drives, but she was left trying to decide her favourite between the McLaren MP4-12C and the Aston Martin DBS. She's decided on both. The DBS as her daily drive and the MP4-12C as her weekend weapon!
All photographs of the day can be found here: Karen's Supercar Showdown