5 Most Memorable Drives of 2016

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In creating a series of memorable track and review videos in conjunction with Cars.co.za's video editor and production team in 2016, Ciro de Siena got to grips with a melange of exotic automotive machinery. In this list, he nominates just 5 of a host of memorable driving experiences...  

McLaren 570S vs Audi R8 V10 Plus

It is a rare and special occasion when you have an entire racetrack to yourself (in this case, Killarney) and two incredible supercars at your disposal. We were filming a special head-to-head feature and even though the demands of filming kept us busy, there were many moments where we found time to really enjoy the cars. The McLaren is a lairy beast – an intimidating car that almost bullies you into being a better driver. It is also exceptionally quick; my colleague, Cars.co.za road test editor and track ace Ashley Oldfield, says it’s probably the best road car he’s driven around a track. High praise indeed.

The Audi is a very different "animal". It wants to help you be a better driver, the suspension setup is more forgiving and thanks to all-wheel drive, the whole driving experience is much less intimidating. The Audi looks fantastic, makes an incredible noise and is plenty fast enough, easily making it one of the best drives of the year. But honestly, and I realise that this statement is the opposite of what I said in our video, but I’d probably take the McLaren home if I could.


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Lexus LC500 at the Monteblanco Circuit

This was very much my surprise of the year. After a thoroughly enjoyable drive along simply astonishing roads cutting through the mountains of southern Spain, we descended and headed towards the Monteblanco circuit. A little-known facility used for Formula 1 testing, it is packed with tight corners and a long main straight. And I was in a Lexus, usually not the sort of car you’d hope to take to a track day. But with a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 under the bonnet, this was no ordinary Lexus.

The LC500 spits and barks on the downshift and emits a goosebump-inducing V8 soundtrack. It is a superb, rear-wheel powered sportscar that pushed all of my petrol-head buttons. In Sports S+ mode, it even allowed me a generous bit of oversteer, which I caught with some opposite lock and it all made me feel like a driving ace. It was most likely just the traction control system flattering my limited abilities, but I’ll take that sort of flattering any day.

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Jaguar F-Type SVR at 300 kph

When Jaguar asked if we’d like to have a crack at reaching 300 kph in the Coventry-based firm's new F-Type SVR, the fastest production Jaguar ever, we naturally jumped at the chance. The venue was Mafikeng Airport. Featuring a 4.5 km runway, the location allowed for runs up to 3 km long – perfect for our mission. The F-Type is a stunning car, but immensely capable too, and the special SVR version, of which there is only one in the country, features AWD, tweaked aerodynamics, a new wing for greater downforce and a beefed up supercharged V8 with a claimed top speed of 322 kph.

It is testimony to the incredible engineering of modern cars that I was never really scared during my runs, but my adrenaline spiked dangerously – in fact, it was through the roof. The Jaguar launched from standstill with incredible precision and piled on the speed like a vehicle possessed. Towards the end of my run I reached an indicated 308 kph – the measured true speed was 303 kph. It was the fastest I had ever driven, and the SVR had taken me there. It took me home too, all the way back to Johannesburg in a very civilised fashion. The F-Type is indeed a car Jaguar can be very proud of.

Experience the drama of Ciro's 300 kph run below:

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Lamborghini vs Lamborghini

The first thing you must know about the Huracan Spyder is that it is very uncomfortable. I’m only 1.75 m tall and I felt cramped in the cockpit. But complaining about being uncomfortable, while driving a Lamborghini is like complaining about the queue when you're waiting to meet the Pope. The truth is that when the road opens up, and you start exploring the capabilities of the Huracan’s naturally aspirated, screaming V10, all other issues dissolve into oblivion and your mind, body and senses are completely consumed by the experience.

That is the special nature of the Lamborghini: its ability to overwhelm you, that almost makes the ridiculous price tag seem worth it. It also helps that the car is achingly good-looking in Spyder form. We drove the Spyder back to back with the 580-2, the rear-wheel-drive Huracan and while it certainly impressed, the pantomime and drama of the Spyder is hard to beat.

We drive the Huracan siblings back to back [video]:

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Ford Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback Auto

When I was growing up, we had a Ford Mustang in the house. It was a beautiful ‘67 Sportback, with a metallic candy-apple red paint job. It made a deep, burbling noise I can still hear clearly to this day. And so when the first right-hand drive Mustang was announced and headed for South Africa, I was the proverbial kid at Christmas.

The latest Mustang is not without drawbacks. The gearbox is dimwitted and clunky, the interior is a bit too cheap for the price tag, and the engine is old-fashioned and thirsty. But this is a car with buckets of charm. And the way it commands attention from the public is absolutely unmatched.

Not that it's without abilities; the way the car builds speed is impressive and it will very easily spin its tyres on launch. It’s a superb GT car, exceptionally comfortable on long drives and I could very easily see myself spending long hours behind the wheel. Even at R830 000, the Mustang may cost too much for what it is, but the fact that they are trading around R1.0 million shows how much this car has buried itself in the hearts and minds of South Africans. It is a very special vehicle.

Watch Ciro's review of the Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback:

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