Goodwood Media Day - Wednesday 27th March 2019
I’ve been lucky enough to whip around Goodwood a couple of times now, but I’m by no means a competent track driver. A better description would be absolutely terrified and slower than your 90 year old gran. So it was an absolute pleasure to get some tips and encouragement from a couple of well-experienced pros.
I was told when to start breaking before a corner, what kind of line to take and when to whack my foot to the floor. And despite still having countless cars overtake me, I found myself grinning from ear to ear and wanting more. My first drive at this particular Goodwood event, however, was on the road in the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
The event organisers at Goodwood are well deserved of some recognition here. Not only were media presented with a handful of fantastically boisterous sports cars to hit the track in, but were given access to a large fleet of road-worthy models to eat up the miles on some of the nearby windy B roads - a welcome relief after tearing around the track several times.
The mix of road and track driving ensured we weren’t getting dizzy and also meant that there wasn’t an enormous queue of journalists jostling with each other in the pitstop. I was therefore able to drive a stack of different cars. Here are my top picks.
When opening the door to any Rolls-Royce I expect to be met with lavish luxury and extravagant details. The Cullinan delivers on both of these fronts, but it also offers a little more too - the ride is simply exquisite. I’ve tested plenty of new cars over the past year, and I’d probably go as far to say that none of them have been as comfortable as the Cullinan. Remember ten years ago when your mate was the first to get a memory foam mattress? That feeling of jumping on it and becoming weightless, like you were floating on top of candy floss… that’s what it’s like getting in the Cullinan.
From one extreme to the other - the McLaren 720s. The supercar was getting a considerable amount of attention in the paddock, but I was lucky enough to have it to myself for a quick spin after taking one too many videos of the dihedral doors opening.
With a newly developed lightweight carbon-fibre chassis, an updated suspension system and a 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, the driving experience delivered by the 720S is nothing short of breathtaking.
I didn’t exactly get to test it to the extremes, and so while the zero to 60mph time of 2.9 seconds that McLaren says it will do is pretty mindboggling, it’s almost lost on me. But despite the fact that my impression of the 720S was based on a much slower toodle on some country roads, I still got a sense of the capabilities of this utterly stunning machine.
Aston Martin Vantage
I then decided to take to the track in the Aston Martin Vantage. The first point to make about the Vantage is how wondrously stunning it is, both inside and out. The body design was heavily influenced by choices made to enhance aero performance and the interior is kept minimal. The result is simple yet satisfying.
There is also the stunning sound produced by the 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, like an angry grizzly bear. And although it may not be the fastest sports car on paper, the responsiveness of the engine and the smoothness of the ZF eight-speed auto transmission makes for a whole lot of fun. There’s some clever wizardry done with the stability control system and damping system too, all of which means you can be bold as brass in the corners and on the straights without having to hit the brakes due to fear of ending up in a fiery ball of flame.
I literally could not help myself. The G-Class may not be realistic for me - I live in central London, I don’t have a designated parking space so often have to squeeze into the smallest of spots, and I don’t have a family or own a group of farmyard animals that I need to transport on a regular basis. But nevertheless, seconds after spying it at the Goodwood event I found myself cruising happily down the road.
There’s something about this SUV that is loveable, despite it’s inherently bonkers nature. Perhaps it’s the way it tears up the rulebook. Let me explain: the G-Class should not work. It weighs 2.5 tonnes, is two-metres tall and has an AMG-developed 4-litre biturbo engine. But instead of toppling over at the first sign of a corner, the G-Class somehow manages to stick to the road. And thanks to its mega suspension and off-road capability, the most enormous crater of a pothole will feel like driving over a single hair from my fine head.