Posted Jun 1st 2012 5:31PM
No one will question that 1,763 horsepower can provide a lot of thrust. That could easily push around 15 econoboxes or 10 family sedans by current standards but what if we told you that was the gross power figure generated by only three cars? Well then, the figure becomes far more interesting and the experience it provides becomes almost inexplicable. But since we are journalists, we have to continue to forge an explanation using words and pictures to deliver that experience to our readers. Our recent road trip from LA to Vegas in some of the hottest vehicles ever made would definitely be a highlight among a wealth of experiences in the business.
Plans were put in the works for three fortunate Editors from diverse media outlets to take a turn at one of three exotics on an amazing one-way desert run. Starting from the glamorous Santa Monica coastline in Los Angeles, the route would snake through the sprawling metropolis, negotiate treacherous mountain passes and end up on the straight stretch of two lane blacktop spanning from the foothills to Sin City.
This route is one with a rich history connecting two very important destinations, one that has a sensational side and a more sinister dimension riddled with tragedy and criminal activity. There would be little to no mobile phone service and the nearest hospital isn't really near at all. A perfect combination for driving excitement along with a high dose of danger to spike the pulse.
Ride shotgun with us after the jump.
Related GalleryPennzoil Ultra: LA to Vegas cruise
The premise behind the journey was for Pennzoil lubricants to show off how they protect even the most complex and exotic of engines in extreme conditions. After all, we would be pushing these vehicles through the steep Sierra Madre mountain grades, sustain serious G forces through turns and then crack the throttle wide-open in the most scorching place on Earth – Death Valley, California. The Pennzoil reps would ride shotty, not to chaperone because they provided the cars but to converse about the merits of proprietary technology in their line of automotive lubricants. The mission was to have "fun" while actually experiencing the capability of Pennzoil Ultra during the drive.
After an early morning roll-call, we packed up our bags and headed out to see the assembled fleet, which had miraculously appeared in the Valet overnight. It was almost what we expected but some last minute substitutions had to be made after the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera developed transmission problems and the Murcielago LP-640 was plagued with engine gremlins. The roster was still exciting and we quickly started posturing to get in the vehicle we wanted our mitts on first.
Sitting before us was the Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible, the Audi R8 V10 and finally the mighty Mercedes McLaren SLR. We figured the other journalists would be fighting over the latter two and as expected they did, so we happily hopped in the Bentley first. Why? Well, because we knew the first leg would be in horrendous LA traffic down the 10 eastbound and what better car to spend that in other than a massive droptop with luxurious seating and appointments than the Bentley?
Although driving a Bentley rag in LA isn't going to turn too many heads, it might when the driver is not a silver fox who has completed a lifetime of real estate deals. Well, that and it was being tailed by an R8 and SLR helps too. This big boy is a 2,400 kg (5,280-pound) behemoth jammed with technology and the added weight of an AWD system. Even at 621 hp and 590 lb-ft we didn't expect much from this whale of a car. But the big Bent surprised us with the low-down grunt from the 6.0L W12 twin turbo that pulled nicely to redline. As we drove beyond Pasadena into the foothills where the city grid gave way to twisted ribbons of road, how would it fare? In short, not bad at all since our vehicle was equipped with massive carbon ceramic brakes with enough suspension tweaks and a RWD biased system to hold over 1g in cornering. It all seemed impossible but the vehicle was carving up the canyon roads holding its own versus a much lighter Jaguar XF-R pacecar... at the hands of a former IndyCar driver!
After a brief stint in the canyons, the Bentley was starting to show signs of a performance drop-off as everything got heated. It was at this time a well-needed cool down was taken to check out the stunning views from a rest area and to get a bit closer to the R8 V10, which would be an ideal canyon weapon. And a weapon it was, as the eager 5.2-litre FSI sprung to life banging away on all 10 slugs. The R8 was the lightest, most balanced and ideally tuned in the bunch to grab the pavement in a choke hold and not let go until it was done with it. The Quattro system performed flawlessly and the power could be applied early out of the apex in order to rocket out for the corners. The soundtrack to the drive was all Audi since turning on the radio would almost be a sacrilege to drown out the harmony of a naturally aspirated orchestra at full crescendo behind your ears.
The Audi R8 V10 left an impression. Perhaps not the same impact as the V8 did when we first flogged it way back in 2007 but this was a new chapter written for the mid-engine platform. It had more get up'n'go, a more impressive exhaust note and naturally, plenty more jam under the lid. Our seat time in the Audi supercar seemed brief although it was actually quite a long stretch that blew by while concentrating on the twisty road. The canyons had consequences, many of the drops were hundreds of feet down on one side flanked by a sheer rock face on the other. There were rocks and gravel galore creating the possibility of hitting a loose patch or having a sizable stone kicked up and going through your windshield. However, these threats only added to the allure of the whole experience. And just like any wild ride, it was time for a cool down for the technology and the organic matter inside the car, the occupants who were sweating like pimps in church.
We were in Barstow, California now, a town that is often a pit stop for those passing through or those on the run. There are interesting characters living out here in the desert and they all found us city slickers in "them fancy cars" awfully amusing. Rolling through this town of 10,000 out in the middle a nowhere did generate some very unusual reactions. Many motorists wanted to race, swerve in front of you and essentially antagonize you into opening it up. We watch horror movies, we're not falling for that old move because we know the next scene involves us being pulled over by a cop, who is their half-brother and we end up shackled up in some wood shed while they joyride the R8.
After a meal at the
After popping the dihedral doors, we slipped inside and strapped in. Although having never driven the SLR, we've handled 600+hp machines before, so the $450,000 supercar was in capable hands. As expected the SLR does everything you demand of car in that range. It looks the part had all kinds of technology and aero to keep it grounded at insane speeds. The 5.5L handbuilt motor is supercharged and gobs of torque and broadcasts that to other motorists with its side-exit exhausts. 0-60 mph (96 km/h) happens in under 4.0 seconds and this swept-back missile continues forward with unyielding thrust deep into the triple digits.
Our driving experience spotters were well up ahead and we got the all-clear over the radios. Without too many gritty details, let's just say myself and passenger Mark Ferner, Pennzoil Product Specialist were pinned to the seats of this menace with nothing but grins sprawled across our faces. And let's not forget I have a 600 hp Nissan GT-R and Ferner rocks an insane drag Vette, so we know fast. What impressed us the most was how refined and luxurious... and fast the SLR was because it is never easy to nail all three.
As luck would have it, Ferner and I also had the SLR as we rolled up on the Vegas strip. Not many people can say they have cruised the famous street in a McLaren SLR but as fate would play out, here we were. Tourists were going bananas fighting for a clearing to photograph the car or capture some future YouTube video. You could tell that most were examining our faces to see if we were famous or not, well Ferner and I must have a couple fans and certainly more after this stunt.
As we navigated the busy strip it was time to check-in and head to an upcoming Pennzoil event. As the three supercars and their Jag escorts rolled under the portico of the Wynn hotel, it was as if time stopped. The people froze, everything got really quiet and had there been a record playing in the background, the needle would definitely scratch before it went silent. The scenic route we took required most of the day and now that the cars were being shuffled back into their trailer, we realized how worn-out we really were. We had just completed an intense drive in three very different cars, well suited for their terrain and our bodies were definitely feeling it.
We certainly learned a lot about how Pennzoil Ultra performs in different cars, in different conditions with various powerplants during the drive. The Bentley was turbocharged and ran through a load of stop'n'go LA traffic, so Ultra needed to maintain its viscosity and resist sludge. The R8 was a high-revving NA powerplant that needed adequate protection at those lofty rpms. Finally, the McLaren SLR was a supercharged menace running though a hot and extremely silty desert that benefited from the ability of Pennzoil Ultra to keep pistons 65 per cent cleaner than the highest testing standard and 25 per cent cleaner than its closest competitor.
Both drivers and cars made it to the other side unscathed and brought back a story of a real-world test that would be difficult to top.
Image Credit: Copyright 2012 Dave Pankew / AOL