Test Drive

Taking five luxury vehicles for a spin
The Ultimate Driving Experience, Times Five

By Erica Bailey

I’ve died and gone to car heaven.

Like most people, I think buying a new car is a major investment. After scrimping and saving, I went and bought something reliable. But always, in the back of my mind, there was a dream: After the lottery gods smiled on me, I’d indulge in an incredibly expensive car.

Having the enviable job of test-driving these sticker-shocking cars, I sampled a little bit of luxury – OK, a lot of luxury – in a Mercedes-Benz S600.

Switching gears, the next car was a Porsche Cayman S. In the immortal words of Tom Cruise as Maverick in “Top Gun,” “I feel the need . . . the need for speed!” Let’s just say I may have driven over the speed limit – just a little.

Not to ignore those good, old-fashioned American muscle cars, I took a 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 out for a spin.

Next, with a Cadillac XLR Roadster, a luxury convertible sports car, I was able to feel the wind in my hair.

I wrapped up my test drives with the Hummer H3 – a vehicle that doesn’t know the meaning of obstacle.

After all that, I realize that I love my job! And I really need to win the lottery.



Mercedes-Benz S600

NIGHT VISION An infrared camera behind the rear-view mirror actually sees 500 feet beyond what your eyes can see. When it’s pitch black outside, turn it on and a screen pops up on the console, showing you what the camera sees.

FRONT SEAT A/C Worried that leather upholstery is too hot in the summer? Push a button and small fans in the seat send cool air through the pores of the leather. The seat also has a heater in case it gets cold. 

COMMAND CONTROLLER It’s a mouse for your car. Situated on the middle console, you can control all of the digital features of the car. And if that’s too complicated, there also is a voice-activated help menu to make it easier to operate.

CRUISE CONTROL Not only can you set the speed of the car but also the distance between you and the car in front of you. If the car in front suddenly stops, the S600 will stop itself within 7 to 8 feet without you ever touching the brakes. When the car in front moves again, your car automatically will speed up.

BACK SEATS With fully reclining back seats, even your passengers will feel the luxury of the S600 with separate controls similar to the front seats. The leather is made from 18 cowhides for ultimate comfort.

PRICE TAG: $130,000-$139,000

2007 Porsche Cayman S

COOLEST FEATURE: Being low to the ground has its benefits: The car handles smoothly in tight turns at high speeds. Race car seats mean no slipping and sliding for the car – or you.

OVER THE TOP FEATURE: You could easily spend $20,000 on interior extras such as race car seats and a Bose surround-sound stereo system.

PRICE TAG: $65,000-$70,000  

2007 Ford Shelby GT500

COOLEST FEATURE: Carroll Shelby reunites with the Ford Mustang, including features that harken to the ‘60s version: the body design, LeMans racing stripe and improved cloth-top convertible.

OVER THE TOP FEATURE: This convertible packs in a 5.4-liter, supercharged, 32-valve V-8 engine with 500 horsepower and six-speed manual.

PRICE TAG: $42,000-$47,0002007 Cadillac XLR Roadster

COOLEST FEATURE: The heads-up display projects driving information onto the windshield, so you can keep your eyes on the road and on your speed at the same time.

OVER THE TOP FEATURE: It’s all about luxury in this roadster. Even the instrument panel is designed by the Italian jeweler Bulgari.

PRICE TAG: $77,295

2007 Hummer H3

COOLEST FEATURE: A test track at the dealership highlights all of the fun things Hummers can do; my favorite was the 16-inch step that the Hummer easily climbed over.

OVER THE TOP FEATURE: Two push-button four-wheel-drive options: The high range setting is for on-road and the low range is for off-road.

PRICE TAG: $30,000-$42,000

Categories: Quick Reads