Showy you're not. You don't have the means or the moxie to cruise the Champs-Élysées in a super-flashy SLR McLaren. But secretly, you'd die to do it. Luckily there are ways to drive dream cars that don't require selling your firstborn.
World Class Driving (worldclassdriving.com) tours the globe with a dozen exceptional sports cars, giving participants the keys and letting them rip on twisty back roads. In one day I was able to drive some of the world's sexiest cars—including the Alfa Romeo 8C, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Audi R8, Ferrari F430 Scuderia, Ford GT and Lamborghini Superleggera—along Southern California's Pacific Coast Highway and through the Malibu hills.
The program's dozen or so cars tour cities in the U.S and Europe, in one- to five-day events. Drives start at $1,695 for a full day. Each single-day event gets participants into six cars (chosen by the company) for drives of up to an hour each. A fleet service ships the vehicles city to city and country to country.
World Class Driving does an outstanding job selecting roads that are lightly traveled. In my Malibu-coast drive, I snaked up challenging mountain roads that revealed all the pleasures of these sporty cars. While in the Ferrari F430, I thrilled to the car's extraordinary road handling and quick-shifting transmission.
Equally impressive was the line of cars to my front and rear, which included a Callaway-tuned C16 Corvette Coupe, Lamborghini LP 560-4 Spyder and Maserati GranTurismo. Nothing short of automotive porn. It's not just the ride that's fun, it's also watching six super-cars wend through mountain roads. At scheduled stops, where drivers change cars, the camaraderie is all about exchanging stories and ranking the performance of the cars.
For car fanatics who want to buy but can't commit to one car, Gotham Dream Cars (gothamdreamcars .com) is a fractional ownership club that has a couple of dozen exotics in the New York and Miami areas. Memberships range from $18,000 to $49,000, depending on how many days you want to drive. Available cars include the Saleen S7, Porsche 911 GT3 and Bentley Continental Flying Spur.
Gotham also rents these beauties and gives instruction to help drivers get the most out of the car. Twenty-four hours in a Saleen S7 (a $400,000 street-legal race car) will set you back $2,750 (even more on the weekends). The Ferrari F430, a $229,000 car, is a relative bargain at $1,450.
Those looking to buy an exotic might consider renting for the day or weekend to get the real feel of a car. Think of it as a dating club. Only here, instead of roses, bring your driving gloves.