Irecently had a chance to drive two state-of-the-art supercars — a McLaren 720S and a Ferrari GTC4Lusso T. The press kits that accompanied each car were full of cutting-edge technobabble. Lightweight turbines capable of 160,000 rpm. Twin injectors improving fuel nebulization. Magnetorheological dampers. They carry price tags worthy of their prowess. The 720S that I drove stickers at $324,135, while the Lusso is at $347,930. If this seems like a lot of money to you, you’re probably not a target customer of Ferrari or McLaren. The 720S and the Lusso are aimed at wildly different markets. The McLaren is a 2-seat guided missile while the Lusso is a 4-seat boulevardier. Each will get you from point A to point B in a ridiculously short amount of time — at a highly illegal rate of speed. Both have twin-turbo V8 engines and 7-speed automatic gearboxes. The Ferrari produces 601 horsepower at 7,500 rpm from 4.9 liters. The 4-liter McLaren puts out 710 horsepower at 7,000 rpm. Previously, I’ve had the chance to drive a McLaren 650S and a 570GT. All McLarens share the DNA of being race-car bred. They have a sense of urgency about them from the moment you fire them up. I asked SCM’s Legal Analyst John Draneas to join me for a 300-mile day trip. We started by heading out along the Columbia River. The interior of the McLaren is simple and inviting. Unlike the Ferrari with its complicated, control-bedecked F1-style wheel, the McLaren keeps its switches to the center console. The selections for chassis and drivetrain are Comfort, Sport and Track. We found that when Track is selected, the car feels like it “shrinks to fit.” It’s as if you are wearing a leather ballet slipper that has stretched just so to accommodate your foot while still allowing you maximum sensory input for your battement tendu. In Track mode, the shifts of the 7-speed, dual-clutch seamless-shift gearbox are lightning-quick and verge on being brutal. The car leaps forward with each new gear. It’s exhilarating. Part of the responsiveness comes from the car’s light weight. Dry, it tips the scales at just 2,829 pounds. That’s 1,404 pounds less than the Ferrari Lusso at 4,233 pounds. Cars continue to gain weight. SCM’s 2006 Lotus Elise weighs just 1,984 pounds. The largest Ferrari we have owned, our 1963 330 America, weighed just 2,888 pounds. The increase in weight is partly what makes today’s cars so much safer than the cars of the past. Nonetheless, just as being physically overweight taxes every joint in your body, so does every additional pound on a car mean that the engine, gearbox and brakes have to be that much more substantial to manage the extra mass. The McLaren’s large dash-mounted screen is easy to read. In a satisfying application of digital trickery, when you shift into Track mode, the display in front of the driver swaps out to show just the tachometer and speedometer. After all, when you’re whistling along at three-digit speeds, what more do you need to know?

Los Angeles in a Ferrari

I picked up the Lusso at the Petersen Museum in downtown Los Angeles, where I attended their annual fund-raising gala. I drove the Ferrari up the Pacific Coast Highway to the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard. The Lusso was quiet, comfortable and fast. The interior is spacious — my 86-year-old aunt fit neatly in one of the rear seats. Its styling is controversial. To my eyes, it resembles a Volvo 1800ES estate wagon that has gone to a Pininfarina finishing school. I couldn’t help but wonder if the Lusso is a transition to a Ferrari SUV. Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche have already blazed this path. Consumers are clambering for larger, wider, taller vehicles. Why should Ferrari ignore this lucrative market segment? The 60-mile trek back to Los Angeles took more than two hours in stop-and-go traffic. The Lusso never misbehaved. Left in full comfort mode, it could have been a Mercedes S-Class in an Armani suit as it cut a path through lesser cars. Despite the traffic, I was constantly reminded that I was in a Ferrari. The car responded instantly to throttle input and made glorious sounds. The dash combined functionality and modernity; Apple Play was included. I was swathed in leather luxury while having super car performance. While much of today’s driving is tedious, the Ferrari made getting from A to B an experience. Frustrated by my lack of spirited seat time, the next day I was up at 4 a.m. and headed towards the Angeles National Forest — a ridge of mountains that rise above Pasadena and Glendale. There was no traffic, and the Angeles Crest Highway was clear. I cruised through towns with names like Cedar Springs, Paradise Springs and Big Pines. I began to explore the capabilities of the car, but soon enough, I found myself being cautious. Like some other supercars I’ve driven, when pushed hard, the turbocharged engine of the Lusso was able to overwhelm the brakes and suspension of the car. When I drove a 488 on the same roads a year ago, I don’t recall feeling this way. That car felt taut, compact and by comparison, light on its feet. It was a very different experience. Simply put, the Lusso was a cruiser and the 720S was a sports car. If I needed a car for daily driving, it would be the Ferrari. It swallows four people and some luggage with ease. The McLaren, while not nearly so practical, makes traveling on sports-car roads an unforgettable experience. The 720S and the Lusso would make a perfect two-car collection. The McLaren makes a statement like a striking, penetrating Oregon Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. The Lusso is a full-bodied, take-no-prisoners Horse Heaven cabernet from Washington state. I’ll take one of each, please. ♦

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