Drive: Edwards to Steamboat Springs & Return, Colorado USA (250km)
Pix: Dawn Green, Bill Reiss
With 5500 rpm summoned, the LP560-4 fairly blasts out of the Colorado canyon’s fast, inviting sweepers, putting its power down in the comprehensively sure-footed signature way of a Lamborghini all-paw.
The flow of info sensed through the steering wheel is detailed and it’s patently obvious the aspirational Italian marque has crafted a chassis that can well handle 560 stampeding horses.
It’s all good, except for the carbon ceramic brakes. They lack the progression that I’d like, with plenty of bite at the top of the pedal, then deadness — then more bite.
Regardless, after about half an hour, the Lambo has won me over with its otherwise all-round competence — but, by then, it’s time to pull over and swap cars.
We’re a third of the way into our drive, launched from the impressive Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, a salubrious Euro chateau-style ski resort atop a privately-owned mountain outside Edwards, high in the spine of the Rockies.
The occasion has brought together five driver pairings, mostly the male of the species and his better half, all aquiver with anticipation of some serious wheel time in the 560-4, Alfa-Romeo 8C Competizione, Ferrari 430 Scuderia, Callaway C16 Roadster and Maserati GranTurismo.
All but the C16 might sound familiar. At the risk of oversimplification, think C6 Corvette, supercharged to the max, decked out in lightweight, custom body and bristling with competition-standard suspension, wheels and brakes.
First, some mandatory happy snaps around the cars before setting off in convoy. Destination – the quaintly-named Steamboat Springs, via a hotbed of snaking, other times arrow-straight, driving roads; then return to Cordillera.
I’ve laid claim to the 8C first up, a car long lusted over. Just seated behind the wheel, in a world of quality leather, glossy carbon fibre and generously milled aluminium, is rewarding.
But fire up the 4.7-litre Ferrari-derived V8 and the 8C pays out an even greater dividend. Its wild call is among the most stirring to flow from an exhaust system, particularly on angry over-run, as I find to my delight, staying with the LP560-4 through some tight and twisty stuff.
The steering, which felt heavy at first, weights up ever so-nicely under power and the 8C’s gorgeous, sculpted front arches indicate an eagerness to sniff out every apex.
Again, the brakes take some getting used to, revealing a propensity for longer travel and softer initial feel than I was expecting, given they’re also found on Ferrari’s 599 GTB. But, make no mistake; the Alfa is a truly engaging, rewarding drive.
With such hard acts to follow, what else but a Scuderia will suffice? To max out the experience, I dial up the Manettino switch several notches to its Race setting.
This is a veritable ticket to the fun park, enabling full-throttle gearshifts just 60 milliseconds apart. Say again – 60 milliseconds.
Here’s how it goes: power on, flat shift at 6000 rpm; bang, a jolt goes through the car and, before you have time to wince, the tacho needle has soared back to 6000, a red-light blinks again on the wheel, and it’s time to go for the hair-trigger paddle-shifter. All the while the cabin reverberates with Ferrari V8 delivering on full promise.
Proving it has the whoa to match the go, the Scud possesses an utterly-convincing middle pedal with linear bite and sustained stopping power. You can lean on the chassis’ reserves of prodigious grip, but push really hard and the steering hints at a front-end edginess. But, hey, it’s more a feel of being alive in my hands than lack of grip.
Switching to the C16, I’m advised that to fully appreciate this bad boy, leave the shifter in auto and simply let the blown 6.2-litre V8’s copious swell of torque, some 800+ Nm, do its thing. So, I do.
Someone once wrote of the Callaway’s awesome grunt, “Bury your right foot, the supercharger’s air-raid siren howls at full 7.5psi pitch and the C16 rockets off into the middle of next week.” I wish I had said that, because it’s spot-on.
But there’s more than just point-and-squirt to this rowdy Yank. Thrown a curve or S-bend, the Callaway surprises with its ability to turn in keenly and remain balanced all the way through, shifting attitude subtly in response to right-foot urging, yet clinging on resolutely.
Put this down to the newly-developed Callaway/Eibach Multi-Pro coil-over suspension, so I’m told, specifically the spring/damper system which offers 10-position compression and rebound adjustability.
The brakes are pretty damn impressive too, thanks to 6-piston front and 4-piston rear callipers gripping 355mm x 32mm rotors.
Four down and one to go, the GranTurismo, a kindred cousin in a tenuous way of the 8C, which is based on a shortened GT platform.
There’s no question that this is one of the most lascivious bodies of its time but, among such hyper company, the question is, does the sexily-heeled Armani conceal a soul bristling with sprinting spikes.
Err, not quite. Here, we have more beauty than beast.
Weighing in at some 1880kg, this svelte 2+2 coupe trades ultimate performance dynamics for a practical fusion of long-distance capability, class and comfort. A grand tourer in name and nature, then.
Back at the ranch, we enjoy lunch. Given our Italian quartet on the drive, a bowl brimming with herbaceous, aromatic pasta seems fitting fare to wind it all down.
All the talk is, of course, is of a day when all the cherries – great cars, great roads, great company – lined up.