Matt turns back the clock and drives the three best track-focused supercars from 2007 to find out if they offer something missing from the supercars of today.
Written by: Matt Parker
For me, there are two kinds of cars we petrolheads hold closest to our hearts. The ones we had on our bedroom walls as teenagers, and the ones we dreamed of owning when we first started driving. Well, for me, the Ferrari 430 Scuderia, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera and Porsche 997 GT3 RS are a bit of both.
I was 16 when they were released and they were still the ultimate track-focused supercars when I finally got behind the wheel of my instructor’s Citroen C3 the following year, and to this day I think this era produced the best driver’s cars.
Since these cars came onto the scene in 2007, their successors have all boasted much more power (200bhp more in Ferrari’s case!), improved handling, better efficiency and more tech, like four-wheel steering and active aerodynamics, but for me that takeover of technology, ever-tightening emissions regulations and enhanced refinement to create a car that is all things to all men has started to distance the driver from the action.
These are uncompromising cars built purely for the driver, and today, thanks to their very kind owners, I’m going to drive all three of them back-to-back on some of the best roads in North Wales – yes, I know you hate me!
The traffic light trio really stood out on a grey day in the hills and attracted plenty of attention from passers-by, even BAC and Top Gear Korea who we had a chance encounter with while they were shooting the Mono on the same road.
I decided to kick things off in my German comfort zone with Royd’s stunning GT3 RS. Everything about this car is immediately familiar after the miles I’ve covered in the SCD GT3, just turned up to 11. The luminous Viper Green paint, graphics and fixed carbon fibre wing are all iconic symbols of the 997 Gen I RS over the GT3, and I soon learned the splitter is even lower too – no pressure getting out of the car park in front of its owner then!
On the road, this generation of RS just feels right in every sense. It’s the only manual of the trio and the heavy clutch and gearshift mean you can’t sit back and drive it lazily; you have to get involved and grab it by the scruff, and boy does it respond. You get out what you put in with the RS and it does nothing for you; it’s up to you to get it up in the powerband, rev match downshifts and manage that rearward weight balance.
All that means it provides one of the most rewarding driving experiences you can get, accompanied by a proper motorsport soundtrack from the howling Mezger flat six. It’s seriously capable by modern standards too; the way it turns in is borderline telepathic with the lack of weight up front, and the hydraulic rack sends constant messages about what the front tyres are doing right to your fingertips. Ceramic brakes were often a bit strange on cars of this era, but these have perfect bite at the top, they’re easy to modulate and they’re capable of pulling your face off when hauling the RS down from speed.
It’s one of those cars that manages to be planted yet feel alive all at the same time, and it’s no slouch either. It’s 100bhp down on its Italian peers, but it doesn’t feel lacking, even back-to- back with them.
Riad radioed in to let me know he had everything he needed, which is probably for the best as I’d have happily stayed out there driving up and down that stretch of road all day.
Next up, it was time for two extra cylinders with Brian’s 430 Scuderia. As soon as the carbon- clad door clunks shut, the Scud feels even more sparse and racy than the RS, with Alcantara and carbon everywhere, and even bare metal floor with exposed welds.
As soon as I fired the 4.3 V8 into life, Brian showed me the all-important button for extra noise. The car has a standard exhaust, but Brian has fitted a remote to permanently open the valves, and it really doesn’t need any more than that – If you think an RS is loud, this is an aural assault! It’s not just the exhaust either, it just seems like there’s no sound deadening at all, and surely that’s what you want in a car like this?
I’ve been lucky to spend time in another SCD member’s Scud before and I’ve always loved its single-clutch F1 gearbox. They’re not usually for me, but Ferrari absolutely nailed it with the Scud before they ditched the tech in favour of double- clutch units. Flat shifts in race mode are instant with a satisfying jolt in the back, downshifts are equally quick and it just has a character a double- clutch can’t match. Brian says the shifts are better than those in his Lamborghini SVJ which came out 12 years later, so it was an impressive piece of engineering, and for me, it defines the racy feel of the Scud.
The engine is awesome. It’s not as tuneful as the other two but it still sounds great and thumps them when it comes to outright volume. It pulls from low down, builds to a dramatic top end which buzzes through the seat into your back and, again, it just feels like the right amount of power.
It’s the only one of the trio which is tractionally challenged if you’re not careful. It’s not lairy and it can easily put its power down out of corners in the dry, it just keeps you on your toes and insists upon smooth inputs to keep it in line. The brakes don’t bite quite as keenly as the RS at first, but you quickly get used to them and never feel the need for more stopping power.
On a road like this, the Scud never rests; it’s quick and capable, but it loves following imperfections in the road and the wheel wriggles in your hand. It’s like keeping an excitable dog under control on a lead as it goes where it wants, and I’m sure that’s not for everyone, but they just don’t make cars like that anymore, and it’s the most thrilling of the three to hustle along.
The inevitable radio call came in again and it was time to head back for car number three, the raging bull. The Gen 1 Superleggera is the only one of the trio I hadn’t driven before, and some still hold it as the best V10 Lambo ever made, so I was keen to put it through its paces. Paul’s Superleggera looks stunning in Arancio Borealis, and it’s such a clean design by today’s standards of random creases, slashes and vents. Like the Ferrari, the interior is covered in Alcantara and carbon fibre, but it’s much more civilised with its dual-zone climate control and infotainment system borrowed from Audi – it even has floor mats!
A shrill starter motor is followed by a bark as the 5.0 V10 awakens, and it always takes a couple of minutes to get used to the shallow sloping screen of a Lambo, like you’re peering through a letterbox. The brakes immediately get my attention as they’re more like you hear people describe ceramics of the day – the pedal travel goes straight from nothing to through the windscreen. Really, you just need to get some heat in them to make them behave, so it’s best to be on it in this car!
The engine is special. The 5.0 V10 has more of a wail at the top end than the 5.2 used in the Huracan or even the LP570 Superleggera which followed, and I think it’s all the better for it.
Downshifts are absolutely savage as I learned from the outside when we were doing some filming by the side of the road!
Like the brakes which you have to work with, the gearbox is also more of its time. It’s a single- clutch E-Gear system and, like most cars fitted with them, it’s the weakest link, but it isn’t enough to break what is a very exciting chain. Downshifts are very good, but it really does pay to lift a little on upshifts to stop it throwing a strop and trying to break your neck. It’s one of those things that adds character, but I can only imagine how good the Superleggera would be with the Scud’s box, or better yet, a manual – never offered from factory, but there are a few cars out there with manual conversions!
The Lambo is definitely the brute of the trio, but I was surprised by just how well it handles. Sometimes it can feel like Lambos just tolerate going around corners even if it’s not really what they want to be doing; the Superleggera was made for corners and it feels like it. It lives up to its name and is genuinely light by modern supercar standards, so it turns in very well, throughout the corner it is absolutely rooted to the ground, and the four-wheel-drive system keeps things that way when it’s time to put the power down. It isn’t alive in your hands like the other two, but it’s extremely capable.
The radio call comes in again and calls time on my fun; time to actually let the owners get behind the wheel for some shots rather than watching me blast past repeatedly! That did at least give me chance to mull over the driving experience of these cars, and for me, they all offer something their modern counterparts don’t.
They’re still fast, but useably so; they’re not so fast that you can’t use that performance when you hit a clear stretch of road. You might have noticed though, that I didn’t mention power figures, 0-60 times or top speeds for any of these cars, and it’s because performance isn’t why you buy them anymore as their manufacturers’ current offerings have much more in that respect. You buy them because of their rawness, the connection you get with them as a driver and the challenge of getting the best from them.
They also look like remarkable value compared to the supercars of today too, especially when all three are pretty rare. They come from a time when numbers weren’t necessarily limited, people just didn’t really buy these track-focused versions unless they were serious drivers, and so far fewer were sold than you’d expect today – you even didn’t have to send your sales manager on a week’s holiday to Dubai or leave a new Rolex on their desk to stand a chance of getting the latest and greatest limited-run model.
The Scud is the most expensive at around £200,000 for a good right-hand drive example. The RS is more like £120,000 which looks like
a great buy to me, but the real bargain is the Superleggera, with a few examples floating around at less than £100,000. That makes them look massively undervalued in my opinion and I can only see them going up long term.
Driving each car back-to-back made it clear that these are three very different characters, so really it comes down to what you want from a car, or maybe even brand loyalty if you still can’t decide. The Porsche is the precision instrument; the one you take to the track or to neatly carve your way through a tight and twisty road, and of course it’s the only choice if you want three pedals. The Ferrari is the hooligan; the one that screams the loudest and moves around underneath you, always keeping you on your toes when you fancy a wild ride. The Lambo is the sledgehammer; punching you in the back with its thunderous V10 and aggressive gearbox, while it’s four-wheel-drive system keeps things rock solid through the corners too.
Honestly, you could quite happily have all three of these cars in your garage to suit your mood on any particular day, and you could almost buy all three for the price of a 488 Pista on the used market – just think about that!
If you’re calling cop out and forcing me to pick one, I think it’d have to be the Ferrari because it’s just unhinged. Ask me again tomorrow and I may well take the RS, but for now, I’ll take the Scud. Now let’s leave it there before I change my mind!
This feature was taken from issue 35 of the SCD magazine, you can get your own copy using the button below.