Touring, grandly and with the top down Wind, Sun and Stars - Lexus SC 430, Maserati Spyder GT, Mercedes-Benz SL500, Jaguar XK8, Cadillac XLR, Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet By Peter Egan • Photos by Marc Urbano September 2003 If someone had told us 20 years ago that we would one day be chasing a hard-driven Porsche 911 Cabriolet down a sinuous California mountain road in a Cadillac convertible — and keeping up fine, with no particular stress or drama — we might have found that prediction hard to credit, or seen it as a dark omen of some future chaos or unforeseen social upheaval. But there we were, six of us, whistling down a beautiful road north of Morro Bay, nose-to-tail in a muted flurry of high-performance engine growl, big downshifts (of both the automatic and manual type), flickering brake lights and the sound of broad tires scrubbing the dry pavement, with none of our cars losing ground on the others. The Porsche led, and the Cadillac followed effortlessly in second slot, the two drivers enjoying themselves only in small differences of degree, rather than worlds apart. Somehow, the convergence of famous family traits in those two cars — Porsche's tradition of pure sport and performance mingled with the age-old Cadillac reputation for coddling the car's inhabitants — defined what this comparison test was all about. All six of these convertibles are, with varying degrees of emphasis, a mixture of sporting capability and luxury, with surprisingly little compromise on either front. They are fast, expensive, powerful and fine-handling convertibles that — unlike the fluttering ragtops of yesteryear — also provide the kind of civility and comfort that encourage you to travel long days and long distances. They are grand touring cars, with tops that go down. Some grander than others, of course, and some markedly sportier. It was the search for that ideal balance point between driving excitement and quiet pleasure (not to say somnambulance) that led us over Interstates and busy two-lane highways into the serpentine wilds of the California Coastal Range for three days of driving, discussing and filling notebooks with colorful opinions and equally colorful rejoinders. Rating sheets were duly filled out, prices pondered, cars wrung out at the drag strip, skidpad and slalom course, and here are our conclusions: ----- 5th (tie) — Lexus SC 430 - 531.2 points Why am I starting with 5th place in a six-car test? Because, amazingly enough, after three days on the road, a (long) day of track testing and a lot of editorial intellectualizing, two cars came up with identical points totals of 531.2. In all else, the two cars were diametrically apart, proving something or other. Some cars were sportier than others, and the Lexus SC 430 had either the bad luck or good fortune (depending upon what kind of car you're looking for) to be the Responsible Citizen of our trip. Which is not a bad thing; the Lexus is a quiet, competent and beautifully engineered car filled with many thoughtful touches, but it simply doesn't have its hair on fire to the extent that some of the others do. There are other equally well-engineered, luxurious cars here that simply have more personality and soul. On our rating sheets, it came out a distant last in driving excitement. Suspension is on the soft side, so the Lexus floats and wallows more over dips and transitions than the other cars, and when pushed hard in a corner, it responds with marked understeer and a warning tone of stability-control activation. Highway ride is superb, with a very low level of road noise and vibration. Driven moderately fast and smoothly, the Lexus is quite serene on the road, but it doesn't like being pushed. It was the slowest of our group through the slalom and around the skidpad. "An excellent boulevardier" is how our Engineering Editor summed up the Lexus' chassis dynamics. Another place the SC 430 lost points was in styling. Seen in your rearview mirror, the XK8 looks like a Jaguar, the 911 looks like a Porsche and the SL500 is undeniably a Mercedes and so on, but the Lexus doesn't define itself except to look like a nice, rounded, modern car of some type. It's not a bad-looking car — and from some angles quite handsome — but in this glamorous crowd it doesn't stand out or leave a lingering image in the brain. Some drivers, of course, don't want to appear glamorous; they just want the quiet satisfaction of owning a well-built luxury car with good performance and a top that goes down. Those folks will find much to like. Such as the 4.3-liter aluminum 4-cam V-8, which is electrically smooth, motors along with a satisfying subdued deep rumble and pumps out 300 bhp and gobs of torque at any speed (325 lb.-ft. at 3400 rpm, to be exact). The car moves out smartly and satisfyingly when you put your foot down, although it was still the slowest of this very fast-moving group in both 0-60 times and quarter-mile acceleration. Automatic shifts of the transmission are seamlessly smooth, but there's a bit more delay in the kickdown than we'd like. Manual downshifts to 3rd and 2nd gears require lever movement through notched gates, rather than the "blind" toggle movements of two other automatics in this group. Interior accommodations are a mixed bag. On the down side, there's almost no luggage space in the trunk when the top is down — the least of our group — what with an internal "continental kit" mounting of the spare, but at least there's a little more room with the top up, and some added luggage space in the vestigial rear seats. On the good side — there's almost everything else. The Lexus tied with the Mercedes as highest in the ergonomics/controls category. No small thing, on a Grand Tour. Seats are superbly comfortable and adjustable for all shapes, the sound of the Mark Levinson stereo is almost too good to be true, and the radio and temperature controls are so logical and easy to use that one driver noted, "The other manufacturers should be forced at gunpoint to copy this radio and these controls. This is the only car with systems you can operate at a glance, without a long owner's manual session, yet it does all the things you need done, and better than most." The interior is tasteful, decorated with polished wood, and, like the whole car, exhibits a high level of fit and finish. Overall, the Lexus is a very posh car that offers comfort without challenge, and when you've reached the end of a very long day on the road in a more demanding and visceral car such as, say, a Maserati Spyder GT, that can seem very nice indeed. With a list price of $62,025 ($63,884 as tested), it's also the cheapest car here — by about the cost of a good used C4 Corvette. Food for thought. ----- 5th (tie) — Maserati Spyder GT - 531.2 points "What do you think?" someone asked as I stepped out of the Maserati after a one-hour stint behind the wheel on a winding road through the ranch country east of San Luis Obispo. "This car is so Italian," I said, grinning, "and this engine alone is almost worth the price of admission." Easy for me to say, because I didn't have to cough up the $97,355 our Maser cost, as tested, but the personality of the car would make a strong impression at any price. By "so Italian," I meant to imply, of course, that the Maserati is taut, responsive, mechanically crisp and makes all the right sounds, in addition to having randomly placed switches and controls that are almost impossible to find on short notice. One control that's quite easy to find, however, is the gas pedal, and the payoff is big, because it's connected to the most charismatic engine in this group. It's a beautiful (visually and aurally) Ferrari 4.2-liter 4-cam V-8 that spins out 390 bhp at 7000 rpm and 333 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm, and you feel every pony and lb.-ft. of twist. It's a raspy engine that manages to be both free-revving and deeply muscular at the same time, with a sound and thrust level that make your eyes roll back in your head from some combination of g-forces and ecstasy. And, yes, you heard right — it's built by Ferrari. Maserati left the U.S. market 11 years ago, and in 1997 Ferrari bought its old arch-rival and has invested lire and technology in bringing the cars up to date and back to the States. Only two models are available, the Coupe and Spyder, configured with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a "Cambiocorsa" (racing change) paddle-shifted 6-speed. Our test car here is the Spyder, of course, equipped with the manual 6-speed. The Maserati has a rear-mounted transaxle rather than a transmission directly behind the engine, for better weight distribution as well as traction. It shifts firmly through precise gates, but with just a touch of notchiness. That same firmness may be found in the brake pedal, which shares with the Porsche 911 a solid and immediate race-car feel — and, just behind the 911, markedly shorter braking distances than several of our pack. Steering takes a few corners to get used to; with just a quick twitch of the wheel, the Maserati knifes into corners with an alacrity that'll have you running over your first apex or two, but makes the car feel nicely agile once you adapt. Steering-wheel position, in the Italian manner, is a bit high and horizontal, with the pedals a bit closer than our long-legged staffers liked. Yours truly, at 6-ft.-1, also couldn't get the driver's seat to tilt back far enough for comfort. Handling is balanced and communicative, but the car likes smooth roads better than rough ones, where the steering column and wheel can be seen to shake visibly over stutter-bumps. Generally, the Maserati doesn't have that soak-up-everything suspension compliance of the Porsche or the Mercedes; it's a little stiffer and has to be driven attentively rather than simply dumped into a corner on its four fat and forgiving tires. You drive with your fingertips — and the gas pedal — and in this regard it feels like a classic Italian race car of the '50s or '60s. The other cars are easier to drive, but you get the feeling that Fangio or Moss would go fastest in the Maserati. It's a real driver's car. One area not rated highly was styling. Nearly everyone remarked that the Spyder — especially for a Giugiaro design — is surprisingly bland. Meanwhile, the painted roll hoops behind the seats and yellow stitching in the leather upholstery seemed a bit garish to some. Not a knock-out combination. The coupe version of the GT is quite beautiful, but the loss of that roofline seems to leave the convertible a bit shapeless, except from the front, where it looks nice in your rearview mirror. Things get better under the hood, too, where the engine, with its red, crackle-finish cam covers, is a thing of beauty and looks like a real engine, rather than a collection of plastic modesty panels. Most interior controls work well enough, except for the ridiculously complex touch-screen display in the center console, which one driver simply described as "an abomination." In its defense, one younger staffer, more versed in the ways of computer games, announced triumphantly that he had not only changed radio stations successfully, but had actually managed to turn the radio off! If only my grandparents could have lived long enough to see this proud day. As a strict 2-seater, the Maserati has no storage space behind the driver and passenger seats, but trunk space is reasonable in size and, like the Jaguar, happily independent of top storage. After our first day of driving, someone remarked that we had "two sports cars and four GT cars in this group," and the Maserati is definitely one of those two sports cars. It tied the Porsche in 0-60-mph times at 5.0 seconds, and was just a tenth behind it in the quarter mile, at 13.5 sec. It was also second-fastest through the slalom, just after the 911. But the numbers alone don't describe what this car is all about. It is how those numbers are delivered that defines the Maser, both to its benefit and otherwise. Dollars most validly enter the analysis. Both the Maserati and Mercedes nudged downward in our final standings because of their near-six-figure prices. But note, too, the Maser placed no better than midpack in our Subjective ratings. This is a fast, charismatic car that likes to be driven hard by someone who's willing to learn its idiosyncrasies. "If the Maserati is your choice," said our Engineering Editor, "none of these other cars is even in the running. And vice versa." Again, I'm struck by the points tie of the Maserati and the Lexus. Talk about extremes: the most and least sporty, the most and least idiosyncratic, (almost) the most and least expensive. Yet, for utterly different reasons, they each earned 531.2 points. I could not have planned this if I had wanted to. ----- 4th — Mercedes-Benz SL500 - 542.2 points In our notes on this trip, nearly everybody described M-B's 2-seater, introduced in 2002, as "timeless" in its styling. From any angle, it's a rich-looking car, neither too cluttered nor devoid of eye-catching detail. It has classic SL styling cues going all the way back to the '50s, but integrated without a blatant retro feel; handsome in the most modern sense. New, yet...timeless. And the careful detail you see on the surface goes all the way through the car. To include the engine, a 5.0-liter sohc 24-valve V-8 that does a pretty good job of hauling this 4130-lb. car smartly up to speed. It's satisfyingly torquey at the low end and feels strong through the entire rev range, moving onto the highway with a classic, deep V-8 burble combined with a silky lack of vibration. One of those engines that simply gets the job done, any time you ask. In performance, both in the quarter mile and 0-60 times, it tied our Jaguar XK8 for fourth spot, launching itself to 60 mph in 6.1 sec. and through the quarter mile in 14.5 sec. The engine is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission that changes gears smoothly, but with just enough impact that you feel something has happened, unlike the Lexus' more invisible shifting. In manual mode, the slap-shift lever allows you to upshift and downshift quickly without ever looking away from the road. If the engine and transmission are slick in operation, the brakes are another matter. This is the first Mercedes to use electro-hydraulic braking, a system with 8-piston front calipers, modulated by fast-acting valves that tell each corner of the car how much braking it needs, depending on road surface and cornering conditions. The brakes are powerful and linear at road speed, but become annoyingly grabby and hard to modulate at low, traffic-crawling speeds, so as you creep up to stoplights you feel, as someone remarked, like a clumsy kid taking his driver's test. You gradually learn to vary your foot pressure on the pedal to brake smoothly, but why should you have to? None of our other cars do this, and two of them stop faster than the Mercedes. Another case of what our Engineering Editor, Mr. Simanaitis, calls "why-tech." Handling of the SL is hard to fault. Ride is superb, and the Mercedes blazes down a winding road with effortless ease, almost no body roll and a sensation that four big fat tires are out there somewhere, gripping the road tenaciously on your behalf. Steering is quick, precise and creamy-smooth in its assist, but without as much road feedback as you get with the Porsche or Maserati. A few of our younger staffers (and at least one who remains masochistic and immature) thought the SL was almost too easy to drive fast, taking away some of the sense of fun and driving involvement. But, however you read it, the Mercedes' chassis is a piece of work, and you'd have to be quite determined to put this car off the road. The Mercedes' top is the show-stopper of the group, and of all the retractable hardtops, the Benz does the best job with storage space in both top-up and top-down modes. At the rear, there's a tilt-forward button that allows you to lift the folded top slightly to get at suitcases in the trunk. It's small but carefully engineered touches like this that define the SL500 and make it perhaps the most refined and complete real-world touring car in our test. It's a car for people who expect everything to work very well, and all at the same time. ----- 3rd — Jaguar XK8 - 544.9 points Although the Jag is beginning to feel its age a bit next to these newer designs, it continues to be thoughtfully updated and remains a delightful car to drive in many ways. The XK8 still offers that "fuselage" feeling of sitting in a long, tube-shaped body, with an expansive hood in front and a long, tapered tail behind you. The interior is snug without being cramped, and the full-width wood dash, with its recessed, vintage-looking gauges, is unlike any other modern car. It feels very much like a Jaguar — and quite English — in the best traditional sense, and yet the ghost of unreliability past seems to have been thoroughly expunged. For at least one of us, the Jaguar finished a close second in this comparison based on its styling, luggage space, ride quality and all-around charm, but it fell down in rating points on a couple of fronts. First, it scored rather poorly (just above the Lexus) in "driving excitement." Compared with some of the shorter, quicker cars in our group, the Jag feels a bit long and ponderous on a tight, winding mountain road. Steering is excellent in feel and quickness, grip is high and shock damping well controlled, but the car lacks the tidy tossability of, say, the Porsche 911. The Jag was fifth through the slalom at 64.0 mph (just a tick behind the Mercedes) and it tied the SL for fourth around the skidpad, at 0.85g, so it's still operating in a fairly elevated universe of handling and adhesion at the test track, helped this year by wider rear tires and the same large 18-in. wheels formerly used only on the XKR. On the road, it'll easily keep up with any car here, but doesn't feel as quick and agile doing it. The XK8 really is a GT car, in the civilized, elegant sense of the term, in a group that includes a couple of thinly disguised, high-voltage sports cars. The Jag's new-generation AJ 4.2-liter V-8 has a personality that follows the same pattern. It delivers a mellow stream of power at all speeds (294 bhp at 6000 rpm) and has a delightfully hard-hitting clout at stoplights that shoots you effortlessly ahead of the other traffic, but it doesn't have the edgy, barely suppressed fury of some of the others. Not as exciting, perhaps, but the engine is still your big, smooth friend, with 303 lb.-ft. of torque on tap at 4100 rpm. You have to go to the supercharged, caffeinated XKR if you want a higher-pitched song under the hood. Automatic shifts are appropriately posh and unintrusive to power flow, and the delicate detents on the J-pattern shift lever allow you to hand-pick your gears with a light touch when you're really hustling along. A few drivers thought they were a little too light and wished for a more defined feel to the stops. The Jag finished third in our comparison and scored three bests of category. It had the biggest trunk, was judged to have the best styling in the group and ties for first in its EPA-average fuel economy. All that useful trunk space (it became the camera equipment hauler on our trip) can be attributed to the XK's convertible top, which folds down into an external pile with a snap-cover over it, rather than folding into the trunk. The top goes up and down with just the push of a button, but you have to get out and unsnap the cover before you raise it. Top down, the Jag has a very pleasant level of wind flow and noise in the cockpit, incidentally, only lightly tossing one's golden or possibly graying locks. If the XK8 isn't the nimblest-handling or quickest car here, it's still an impressive all-rounder that provides a lot of visual and dynamic motoring pleasure on the road, and it's an easy car to live with in daily use. Looks good too. The end of our trip left one staffer casually combing the want-ads to check on the supply of affordable, slightly used XK8 convertibles. ----- 2nd — Cadillac XLR - 551.9 points As we mentioned in our recent road test (July 2003), this is not your grandfather's Cadillac, unless your grandfather was Briggs Cunningham. And not even then, we hasten to add. Nor is this a car related to the disappointing Allanté convertible of the late 1980s. Reputations are built up slowly in the car world and they are undone slowly. And then, sometimes, they are built up again. The XLR is yet another sign that Cadillac is a player again on the world stage, able to compete in both luxury and performance with cars not conceived in America. To compete in this group, of course, a car needs a well-developed chassis, a strong engine, good interior detail and ergonomics and styling that sets it apart (in a favorable way) from the mundane. In all of these, the XLR succeeds. As mentioned in the intro of this comparison, the Cadillac is a competent back-road hustler and easy to drive at speed. The suspension and chassis are shared with the next-generation C6 Corvette, albeit with Cadillac's own tuning, and it's a pretty impressive package with interesting technology beneath the bodywork. It has a steel frame surrounding a stiff central tunnel, with aluminum cockpit panels and composite floors. Bolted to this structure is suspension using double wishbones and transverse leaf springs damped by variable tube shock absorbers that use iron-particle-impregnated fluid. The viscosity of the fluid is changed electromagnetically, using wheel motion sensors to adapt immediately to changing road conditions. As a result, the suspension can go automatically from plush to taut in milliseconds, depending upon cornering loads and the surface of the road. Sounds good in theory, and in actual practice it works very well. The Caddy absorbs all manner of mid-corner bumps with aplomb, yet accelerates through turns with minimal body roll and maintains excellent grip, keeping things tranquil in the cockpit, even when the road is not. The car is reassuringly connected on a winding road, and it was third-fastest through our slalom and generated an impressive 0.87g on the skidpad, also good for third best in this group. Steering has a strong self-centering tendency and gives you an excellent feel for the road surface, sending clear messages to the driver. Exit speed — and all other types — are provided by a very smooth, new-generation quad-cam Northstar V-8, with variable valve timing and a higher 10.5:1 compression ratio, good for 320 bhp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine lacks a little of the massive tip-in torque of the Mercedes or Maserati, but really charges as it builds through midrange and beyond, good enough for third-quickest in our 0-60 (5.8 sec.) and quarter-mile (14.1 sec.) acceleration runs. Nice engine, all around. Like the Maserati, the Cadillac uses a rear-mounted transaxle for weight distribution (48/52, front/rear), but in this case it's a 5-speed automatic, which shifts seamlessly under hard acceleration. It also has a computer-controlled memory that adapts shift points to your driving style, be it lead-footed or laid-back. In manual mode, the gear lever commands quick and slip-free shifts without wind-up or waiting for the power to arrive at the rear wheels. Surrounding all this technology is a body that manages somehow to stay connected to its Cadillac lineage while looking very stealth-fighter modern. The aggressive nose, high beltline and folding roof are all defined by crisp edges that give the car a taut, businesslike stance on the road. The overall presence of the car is impressive, and it drew more than its share of attention from bystanders. The interior echoes the no-nonsense tone of the exterior, with a clean and functional layout set off by eucalyptus wood accents and nice, simple instrument faces designed by the jeweler Bulgari. At medium speeds, wind flow in the cockpit is quite serene with the top down, but above about 65 mph it gets a little windier than some of the other cars, and judicious raising of windows helps the high-output heater keep things snug on a cool day. You sit low in this car, surrounded by high bodywork, which helps. Interestingly, the Cadillac finished fourth in our Performance ratings, as well as third in our Subjective ratings, which is an impressive feat, in this company. It combines innovative technology, superb driving dynamics and real styling flair into a fully balanced car that's fast, comfortable and fine-handling. In this, Cadillac seems to have finally sidestepped the old criticism of giving us both more and less than we want at the same time. ----- 1st — Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet - 568.3 points When we stopped to trade cars and I finally got behind the wheel of the 911, we had the misfortune to be making this car swap in the parking lot of a café in Cholame, California, right next to the famous James Dean monument. Dean was killed when his Porsche 550 Spyder collided with a left-turning Ford on Highway 46, about a half mile away. "I'm not sure this is a good place to be climbing into a silver, high-performance Porsche convertible," I said, to rather restrained and nervous laughter. We humans aren't as superstitious as we used to be, but perhaps some things are better left unsaid. It was late in the day, the shadows were long and we were all a little tired as we turned off on the narrow and twisting nearby Bitterwater Road for the drive south. Whatever melodramatic sense of foreboding I had about the silver Porsche soon disappeared when I got behind the wheel. If there is any car that will save your bacon by allowing you to brake, turn and swerve around some impending road disaster, it's the 911. After a mere 5 miles of continuous curves, I slapped the steering wheel with my palms and said aloud, "Now this is a car!" Not to imply that the other subjects of this test are anything less, but the Porsche has such delightful blend of horsepower, suspension compliance, cornering grip and gearbox precision — topped off by a lovely view down the hood that really does remind you of the ethereal 550 Spyder — it's hard not to become effusive. Like the Maserati, the 911 feels as if there's a highly evolved race car just beneath the surface, but the Porsche comes with an added dash of logic, civility and balance. That balance showed up everywhere in testing. It tied with the Maserati as quickest from 0-60 (5.0 sec.), quickest in the quarter mile, fastest through the slalom and grippiest in the skidpad, at 0.92g. It also had the shortest braking distances, and tied for best fuel economy. But the Porsche is more than just a numbers car; it feels good while generating all this measurable excellence, and was rated best of group, subjectively, in driving excitement, handling, steering and brakes. As Executive Editor Doug Kott noted, "You pretty much think about where you want to steer this car, and it goes there. A taut suspension, a feeling of minimal unsprung weight at each corner and a sense of zero wasted motion allow you to just attack the corners. Ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortable for a long trip. It offers the most direct, pure driving experience, with so little of the 911's historical tail-happiness that it's a footnote rather than an issue." Part of that composure on the road comes from a very rigid body structure. The 911 feels like a solid, one-piece object whose suspension operates with hydraulic smoothness as it encounters pavement changes. MacPherson struts are used in the front suspension, with a multilink setup in the rear, both with aluminum components to reduce unsprung weight, and the rear end uses wider, lower profile tires than the front to balance grip. Quick-ratio rack-and-pinion steering provides excellent telegraphy with the front tires, so you always have a good sense of remaining traction in a corner. You also have plenty of power to play with. Porsche's water-cooled boxer-6 was bumped to 3.6 liters last year (from 3.4), and, with its variable cam timing, puts out a very broad and tractable 315 bhp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine has a beautiful high-rpm snarl, but pulls willingly and effortlessly from very low rpm and builds to a nice, fat wallop in the midrange. Acceleration (and everything else) is helped by the 911's relatively low curb weight of 3370 lb., which makes it the lightest car in this group — 300 lb. less than the Cadillac, which is second lightest, and 760 lb. less than the portly Mercedes. It's a difference you can feel. Porsche's immensely satisfying engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission (a 5-speed Tiptronic S is available) with short throws and slick engagement. You shift the Porsche more by a rocking action of your wrist than by arm movement. The brake pedal is competition-car firm, powerful in effect and easy to modulate, with no interference from electronic trickery other than a you-decide-to-invoke ABS. Good seats hold you securely in place while you generate the heady linear and lateral forces of which this car is capable. Overlapping round instruments are easy to read — with the tach in the center, where it should be — and cockpit switches and controls have, blessedly, not been designed to outwit the unwary. Baggage space is good in the deep front trunk, and the top goes up and down without affecting the extra luggage room atop the tiny rear seats, which fold down to form a nice flat parcel shelf. Putting the top up and down is effortless; hold a button down and everything is done, from right where you sit. Wind flow is quite good with the top down, even though there's no back shield to keep cool breezes off your neck. A little side-window adjustment seems to do the trick. Is there anything at all to complain about in this car? Well, some of our staff thought the front clip was still too similar to the Boxster's, even though Porsche made some subtle changes in the 911 last year. If you really like the Boxster, of course, this is hardly a problem. In any case, that view of the pontoon fenders through the rounded windshield is quite a nice one, and the Cabriolet version of this car somehow makes the car look and feel even smaller than the Coupe. It's the compact, narrow, nimble feel of this car that gives it much of its charm, the sense that you are slipping into a comfortable running shoe when you get behind the wheel. Add a wonderfully flexible engine, superb suspension and quick steering and you have the closest thing in this group to a dynamic expression of your personal will. It's a great sports car, but with all the comfort you need for extended travel. "Damned near perfect," Road Test Assistant Shaun Bailey wrote in his notes, "and it has cupholders."