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2012 Ferrari 458 Spider (Ferrari)
2012 Ferrari 458 Spider (Ferrari)

Best of the lot

What’s the best sports car for Mr. Rich? Add to ...

I have an issue that most people can only dream about. I have done well in business and, unlike most of my colleagues, I have yet to divorce, so I can take the money I save on alimony and spend it on a car I can enjoy on a nice day at the track. I have a Ferrari F430 Spider and, while it is still a thrill to drive, I wish to trade up. I am looking at the new Ferrari 458, the McLaren MP4 or a Porsche Turbo S. What do you think? If you were president of Bain Capital, what car would you choose? Just remember, it's not about the money. And please don't publish my name; I don't need any death threats. – Doing Well in Toronto

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Vaughan: Mitt Romney, the ex-president of Bain Capital, has started a $12-million expansion for his oceanfront property in La Jolla, California. It has “car elevators” for his four-car garage. Trading “up” to an F458 would be chicken feed for Romney. If you’re in his category, buy all three and save yourself the aggravation.

Cato: Do guys like Romney actually drive themselves? Ever? The last time I saw Romney he was riding on the back of a Seadoo, his wife driving. Newsweek calls Romney a wimp and wimps certainly don’t drive F458s, MP4s and 911 S Turbos. But Romney’s wife? She’d have all three.

2012 McLaren MP4-12C
 

Vaughan: Well let’s start with the MP4 first. You know there is a McLaren dealership in Toronto and Cato got stuffed tightly into one for a test drive for the TV show. The McLaren MP4-12C ($247,500) was launched in 2011 and it’s the first one they’ve done since that awesome McLaren F1.

This one also is built around a carbon-fibre composite chassis. It has a mid-mounted 3.8-litre V-8, twin-turbo engine cranking nearly 600 horsepower. However, if you want to be like Mitt, you will find it difficult to mount a dog kennel on the roof. Besides, it might blow off at 333 km/h.

Cato: Here’s what is so shocking about all three of these supercars, each with the power of a Harrier: they’re manageable in the city, even over speed bumps – twin turbos and all.

2012 Ferrari 458 Spider
 

Now of the three here, the Ferrari 458 is the only one Car and Driver magazine has called “perhaps the closest man has come to creating an animal.” Now the overgrown adolescents at C&D were talking about the 458 Italia, not the convertible version, the Spider. And what a cool folding hardtop it is. In any case, the numbers: 562 hp, 0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds, top speed of 320 km/h and a price tag just north of a quarter-million. For all that crazy performance, I think the Spider, in particular, might be just a little showy for a button-down vulture – venture capitalist of the Bain persuasion.

Vaughan: Pay attention, Cato. The 458 is the replacement for the Ferrari F430 that our man is currently driving. And it’s much more car. The 458 is an entirely new design using technologies developed in Formula One racing. That might be a good thing because I see Ferrari is suddenly winning races again.

Like the McLaren, it’s the in the high-horsepower club. But guess what? It’s the only Ferrari that only comes with an automatic transmission. It’s the same dual-clutch seven-speed Getrag gearbox that’s in the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG supercar.

Cato: Seven speeds seems just the right number of ratios for this sort of wild ride. The McLaren has its own seven-speed Seamless Shift Gearbox, the SSG. And Porsche’s 911 S Turbo also has a seven-speed gearbox, whether manual or the Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch auto.

2013 Porsche 911 Turbo S
 

Here’s what I’ll say about this 530-hp, twin-turbo Porsche, the one completely reinvented for 2013: it’s the kind of car that would appeal to a super-rich One Per Center. Why? Because at $183,400, it’s a bargain compared to these other two. All the rich people I know watch every penny.

Vaughan: But if Moneybags goes for this one he won’t have quite as much horsepower to play with.

Cato: Size matters in Romney-land?

Vaughan: And can he face driving a six-cylinder car? At least the power goes to all four wheels and, as you point out, Cato, the Porsche has the dual-clutch gearbox that the boy racers all love. Did I mention the torque vectoring system to keep the car under control? It’s also available as a ragtop, er, I mean cabriolet.

Cato: Look, if Doing Well wants to be special beyond belief, get the McLaren. If he’s a showoff, it’s the Ferrari. The Porsche is for a modest millionaire.

Vaughan: Flip a coin. Throw a dart. Just stay away from the alimony.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2012 McLaren MP4-12C2013 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo S AWD2012 Ferrari 458 Spider

Wheelbase (mm)

2,6702,3502,649

Length (mm)

4,5064,4504,527

Width (mm)

1,9101,8521,938

Track, front (mm)

1,656 front/1,582 rear1,3001,671 front, 1,605 rear

Engine

3.8-litre V-8 turbo3.8-litre H-6 turbo4.5-litre V-8

Output (horsepower/torque)

592/443 lb-ft530/516 lb-ft562/398 lb-ft

Drive system

Rear-wheel driveAll-wheel driveRear-wheel drive

Transmission

Seven-speed dual clutch automaticSeven-speed manualSeven-speed dual clutch automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,4341,5101,430

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

N/A12.7 city/8.1 highway11.8 combined

Base price (MSRP)

$247,500$183,400$257,000 (est.)

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

You can e-mail Cato & Vaughan here: cato-vaughan@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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