LONG LIVE DRIV­ING

Five dif­fer­ent cars, one spe­cial road. Ex­pe­ri­ences like this don’t come much bet­ter

Motor (Australia) - - POWER. PERFORMANCE. PASSION. | CONTENTS - BY DY­LAN CAMP­BELL/LOUIS CORDONY/TRENT GI­UNCO/SCOTT NEW­MAN/CHRIS THOMP­SON PICS ALAS­TAIR BROOK/NATHAN JA­COBS

EN­JOY­ING A GOOD DRIVE AIN’T AS EASY AS IT USED TO BE, BUT THIS QUEER QUIN­TET IS DE­TER­MINED TO KEEP THE EN­THU­SI­AST FIRE BURN­ING

THE FIVE CARS GATH­ERED HERE ARE LINKED BY A DE­SIRE TO EN­TER­TAIN

F YOU’RE read­ing this, you, like us, are an en­dan­gered species. The walls are clos­ing in on driv­ing en­thu­si­asts on ev­ery side, with ev­ery ef­fort be­ing made to thin our ranks. One of the lead­ing causes of ex­tinc­tion is habi­tat destruc­tion; count­less roads around the coun­try have had speed lim­its slashed from 100 to 80 or even 60km/h, mak­ing yes­ter­day’s cau­tious mo­torist to­day’s mis­cre­ant.

Even worse, some man­u­fac­tur­ers are hell­bent on mak­ing driv­ers re­dun­dant al­to­gether. The time­line re­mains un­clear and the chal­lenges are many, but like it or not, au­ton­o­mous cars are com­ing, the process ac­cel­er­ated by the race to be first with this pi­o­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy. They’ll save our lives, but they’ll also take our free­dom. Thank­fully, some car­mak­ers are still on the side of the en­thu­si­ast and that’s cause for cel­e­bra­tion.

The five dis­parate cars gath­ered here are linked by a com­mon goal: the de­sire to en­ter­tain the driver to the fullest ex­tent. Mar­ket and seg­ment po­si­tion­ing dic­tates each go about it a dif­fer­ent way and over the com­ing pages you’ll read about these dif­fer­ing ap­proaches. This is not a com­par­i­son test – though per­haps one car will achieve its goal more suc­cess­fully than the oth­ers – but a chance to en­joy these ma­chines while we still can on one of Vic­to­ria’s best driv­ing roads, the hill­climb to the Lake Moun­tain Alpine Re­sort.

Rep­re­sent­ing the elite end of town is the Porsche 911 GT3 Tour­ing. Even amongst its driver-fo­cused sib­lings, the Tour­ing pri­ori­tises fun above all else. Es­sen­tially a 911R by an­other name, the Tour­ing for­goes the con­spic­u­ous wings typ­i­cal of the GT3, but re­tains the ra­zor-sharp han­dling and scream­ing atmo en­gine. Oh, did we men­tion it only comes in man­ual?

The same is true of the Peu­geot 208 GTi Edi­tion Defini­tive. As the name sug­gests, this is the fi­nal ver­sion of the feisty Pug, which has en­joyed a healthy fet­tling from Peu­geot Sport con­sist­ing of more power, a lim­ited-slip diff, re­vised sus­pen­sion and more. It may sit at the other end of the price scale to the GT3, but it’s equally hard­core in its own way.

When it comes to hard­core, how­ever, Lo­tus al­most needs its own sealed sec­tion. The Elise may have grown slightly longer, wider and heav­ier over the past two decades, but at 904kg it’s still an au­to­mo­tive waif with an in­te­rior as Spar­tan as the front gar­den of Troy. In Sprint 220 guise it’s even lighter, yet still mo­ti­vated by a su­per­charged 1.8-litre four-cylin­der.

Aim­ing to prove that power isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a pre­req­ui­site for a good time is the Mazda MX-5, here in back-to-ba­sics, up­dated 1.5-litre guise. While the sub­stan­tial re­vi­sions to the 2.0-litre cap­tured all the head­lines, its lit­tle brother en­joys an ex­tra 1kW/2Nm (steady on!) and, more im­por­tantly, tele­scopic ad­just­ment for the steer­ing wheel, im­prov­ing driver com­fort.

But if it’s com­fort you want, step in­side the BMW M3 CS and en­joy its heated leather seats. De­spite the in­clu­sion of a few lux­u­ries, the CS clearly states its in­tent with stag­gered wheels wrapped in hard­core Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport Cup 2 tyres. Shin­ing brightly be­hind those rims on this ex­am­ple are golden calipers, sig­ni­fy­ing car­bon-ce­ramic brakes. Add to this a pared-back in­te­rior and ex­tra grunt from the 3.0-litre twin-turbo six and this is as fo­cused as four-doors get. Enough talk, let’s drive.

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