The fun of renting an exotic car, the pain of owning one

Posted by Rob Enderle

Last weekend I took out Club Sportiva’s Lamborghini Gallardo Spider for a spin. This is an older 2007 car which comes with a little technology pain, but damn if it wasn’t a ton of fun to drive.  

What I didn’t really expect is what a "people magnet" the car was. I mean, it was like I suddenly became a celebrity. Folks were chasing the car to take pictures of it, screaming “nice car” out their windows as they passed (a distinct improvement over the more common one finger salute) and I even had one guy chase me down to ask if he could drive it. I had to come up with a politically correct nice way to say "NFW."  

Two things really struck me: How much a car like this improves your apparent status (even my neighbors were excited about the car) and just how much car technology has changed in the last 5 years. 

Status

We generally seem to connect status to what a person wears or drives, which probably has more to do with the impression of exclusivity than the actual cost of the car. This is one of the things another author commented on when he was testing a high end Porsche with another exotic like the Lamborghini. Even though the Porsche cost just as much as the other exotic, no one seemed to care about it or its driver because it was a 911 which looked, at least to the uninitiated, like any other 911 for the past 20 or so years. Sure, another Porsche driver would be impressed, yet the folks in the street yawned and moved on.   

This certainly suggests that if you want status you’d likely be better off buying a used exotic rather than a new Porsche or Corvette (the latest model of the latter is pulling crowds because it is new, however I expect that will evaporate when there are thousands on the road). But an old exotic, because it is so rare, still provides status years after it was new.  

Problems

Now this is why I use Club Sportiva and don’t own a true exotic myself. These things are a royal bitch to keep running and get fixed largely because each one is pretty unique and you or your mechanic is probably learning on your car. That’s the nice thing about a Porsche or Corvette, everyone and their brother knows how to fix them and they are pretty reliable. For example, I really wanted to drive the near new Maserati GranTurismo Convertible last weekend rather than the Lamborghini. However, it had been in the shop (Maserati dealer) with an, as yet, unknown problem for several days.  

Now what you also find with an older exotic is that the sound system sucks. Yes I know the “engine” is the best sound system in the cars but I kind of like to listen to my tunes.   In my own older XKR I ripped and replaced the entire sound system and now it is generally better than a brand new car. But the Lamborghini had an old Audi unit as standard which has too little low end, no power (bad if you want to hear it over the engine and wind), and someone had swiped the navigation disk which cost a fortune to replace. This last wasn’t terrible because the navigation apps on both my Windows Phone and on my wife’s iPhone were better. It would take an SD card for MP3s but only an old one, it couldn’t read the current generation. 

Car companies, and exotics are no exception, generally lag on in car entertainment and while some use standard sized, most don’t making upgrading an expensive or impossible problem.  

Buying an Exotic

Frankly I’d recommend renting them from an outfit like Club Sportiva because the folks I know that have exotics mostly leave them in their garage (I knew one guy that kept his in his living room). But there are three basic rules to buying an exotic: Join the related forum first, find an expert and have them help you with your selection. Get one that is well maintained, because chasing problems from the back can be wicked expensive. Also, make sure to get one where you can upgrade the sound system or learn to live with headphones (generally illegal) or without music or navigation that works. Personally I don’t think I can find my way to the bathroom without GPS anymore so having a working nav is pretty important to me.  

Wrapping Up:  Tons of Fun

I will say this, driving an exotic is just tons of fun and I own several unusual cars myself.   But I’d never use one as a daily driver and maintaining one is not for the light of wallet.   Still, in terms of putting a big grin on my face while driving there is nothing really like playing movie star with a roaring engine behind you and the wind in your hair. So if you get a chance, don’t pass it up!