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That Powerball Lottery thing happened last week and yes, it was you with the winning ticket. After you renew your Autoweek subscription to Super Lifetime status, you will need to start arranging a few other things. Sure, there are matters of improving your lot in real estate, significant other and entourage, but we can’t help you with those; we can help you with your choice of conveyance, which really is the most important consideration here.

To that end, we found ourselves in possession of the following: an Aston Martin DB9 GT, Lamborghini Huracan 610-4 AWD and McLaren 650S. There was more firepower in this Euro-performance group than in your average European Space Agency rocket launch — 1,753 hp total and 1369 lb-ft of torque. For comparison’s sake, it would take 14 Toyota Prii to beat that, 25 Smart cars or a battalion of 877 screaming mopeds.

The idea here was not so much a head-to-head comparison, because these cars are too different from one another for that. The idea was to suggest options available to the suddenly well-heeled gentleman or lady. Such a person of means would need to consider the proper car for their newfound status: sporting gran turismo, stylish Italian supercar or roadholding engineering triumph.

We selected these three because they each strongly represented their respective niches. You’d be happy with any one of them. So would we. In this case “we” consists of your author, plus David Undercoffler from our sister publication Automotive News, and contributor Ben Stewart who spent a couple decades as auto writer for Popular Mechanics. We’ve all driven thousands of great cars on wonderful roads all over the world and were ready for three more.

So here we present three separate thoughts on three cars from three drivers: Preconceived Notions, Actual Driving Experiences and What It All Meant afterwards. Read on, McDuff.

photo DB9 1

The Aston Martin DB9 GT is a civilized way to travel. At any speed. Photo by Tim Sutton

Our Preconceived Notions of the Aston Martin DB9 GT

Undercoffler: Power, beauty, age. That’s what Aston’s entire lineup stands for right now. This basic design language and the DB9’s architecture has been around for more than a decade, and in supercar years that’s an eternity. This means handling abilities will have a tough time keeping up with the other two in this showdown. And the DB9 is a front-engine GT! But pull up to the valet in a DB9 of even the oldest vintage and no one would know — or care — how old the car is. Elle MacPherson hasn’t aged this well. 

Stewart: The Aston is a very pretty but also a very old design. And so are those underpinnings. But there’s that V12, so it should sound amazing right? Generally, I thought that this would be a fine grand touring machine but not one that would be particularly fun to drive hard. In fact, I thought it would feel downright sloppy compared to the other two on a good road. Wrong again.

Vaughn: I’ve driven a lot of Astons Martin and have pretty much loved them all. The most appealing thing about them is the looks. Such style, such elegance, such a total outrage that Ford gave the Fusion an Aston Martin grille! On our mountain road of choice would it handle like a sports car, or remain in the category of gran touring elite? I suspected the latter.

Huracan still

The Huracan represents 50 years of Lamborghini evolution. Photo by Tim Sutton

Preconceived Notions of the Lamboghini Huracan

Undercoffler: Lambo is Italy, Italy is Lambo. Loud, boorish, flamboyant, ready for a good time at a moment’s notice, a pain in the culo to deal with for a long period of time. This is what the Gallardo was and the Aventador is. So what does that mean for the Huracan? Can uber-German VW group finally beat some civility into the car?

Stewart: To me, the Lamborghini is a stunner. The design has no odd angles or awkward creases. It’s just tough. Look at those exhaust pipes … does any passenger vehicle besides a dually diesel pickup truck have bigger ones? It’s over the top without being cartoonish. But I thought driving the Lamborghini was going to be a somewhat shallow experience — fun and loud for about 10 minutes and then frustratingly compromised for longer drives.

Vaughn: I always loved the looks of Lamborghinis, and in my youth just assumed anything with that cool-looking an exterior on the poster would also be engineered to go as fast as its exterior promised. I still recall the Countach’s top speed claim of 202 mph with weak knees, whether it was ever true or not. Subsequent actual Lamborghini drives, from a Countach to a Diablo and on up to the Aventador and Gallardo confirmed that these cars did, in fact, look terrific.

650S door

The McLaren 650S makes you wonder how wonderful a world it would have been if McLaren had been building road cars all along? Photo by Tim Sutton

Preconceived Notions of the McLaren 650S Spider

Undercoffler: McLaren is a royal family in the supercar and motorsport worlds. This car comes with a list of ingredients that includes a carbon fiber tub, doors that open “like this” (go watch “Silicon Valley”), a semi-active suspension system and a 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V8. Anyone could put those ingredients together and make a supercar. My only pessimism stems from the 650S’ predecessor, the 12C, which was an amazing car in its own right but neutered of raw emotion.

Stewart: I thought that a supercar manufactured by a small (yet legendary) company in England would have compromises. Lots of compromises. I thought the build quality and ride comfort would be terrible. And the small turbocharged V8, although ridiculously powerful, would probably suffer from lag and simultaneously lack of character. In short, I didn’t think I’d really enjoy this car. I was very, very wrong.

Vaughn: There would have to be flaws, right? Some kind of flaws?

So off we drove, with preconceived notions intact, up one of our favorite local twisting mountain roads, perfectly empty in the middle of the week. The road was dry, the sky was blue and we had three full tanks of gas. There weren’t even any police! What could possibly go wrong? 

Cars tunnel

It was like Supercar Sunday except that it was Wednesday. Photo by Tim Sutton

What Were They Like To Drive? Aston Martin DB9 GT

Undercoffler: This is a car that begs for sweeping mountain passes or lazy high-speed getaways. There’s power everywhere from the Aston Martin’s massive 6.0-liter V12. The pickup is hearty, though there are a few holes in the torque band. For all the engine’s alacrity, it’s surprisingly quiet. Think of Adele singing into a box of tissues. An aftermarket exhaust system would do wonders for this car’s virility. The steering is direct and on-point, the brakes are superb. The automatic transmission is slow and a near antique in a time when basic Fiats offer dual-clutch gearboxes. And there’s an unfortunate amount of body roll when you push this car to keep up with the others.

Stewart: The coolest part about the DB9 to me isn’t that it’s a little more plush and easy to live with daily than these other two. Or even that it cost about $100,000 less than the others. What makes this car interesting to me is that it drives like a big British muscle car. And one that handles well. This Aston wasn’t nearly as sharp or as quick as the other two. The suspension is relatively soft. But it was really fun to drive hard because there’s something about it that lets you really bond (hah, pun!) with it on a good road. I got into a sweet rhythm driving this car hard and didn’t care that the other two supercars were miles ahead. Of course, one big letdown is that the interior doesn’t feel as finely crafted as most cars costing this much. But more importantly, the major problem for me was that this engine just didn’t have the big V12 wail I was hoping for. It was way too quiet and reserved. That’s probably what Aston buyers want.

Vaughn: This is, indeed, a proper gentleman’s gran touring automobile that proved itself more than adept at cornering and equally impressive at launching itself quickly and with alacrity from a standstill right into somewhere in the middle of next week. It’s not a sports car, when pushed hard on tight corners it doesn’t feel as quick to respond as smaller, lighter cars. But when you want to have fun and still be able to drive to Vegas and back in luxury and at speed, even if you take a route that has some curves, this is the car. The 6.0-liter V12 is immensely powerful and sounds like Beelzebub gargling bowling balls in the basement when the hammer is sent down, which it often is in this conveyance. Cynics — jealous, bitter cynics — would say the design is old, the vertical-horizontal architecture is aging and … they’d probably come up with a third point to make that we can’t fathom. But cynics, you haven’t driven this car! 

McLaren steering wheel

Even the steering wheel of the McLaren is perfect. Photo by Tim Sutton

What Were They Like To Drive? Lamborghini Huracan AWD

Undercoffler: Oh my, this is a lot of fun. It’s still a loud, raucous machine, one that’s never afraid to blare the glory of a naturally aspirated V-10 engine out of four engorged tailpipes. But there’s an added dash of refinement, of maturity, to this car that the more basic Gallardo never had: this is a Lambo with fewer buttons undone on its shirt. The real transformation in this car versus its predecessor is the new gearbox, a seven-speed dual-clutch unit that always delivers quick, crisp shifts in either manual or automatic modes. The Huracan’s handling has a heft and a subtle, neutral feel that makes turning easy at speed but at the expense of the natural feeling a RWD car provides. Blame the all-wheel-drive system for this, though it’s more intelligent than before. With the engine where the universe wants it (mid-mounted), the weight transfer is predictable and linear. 

Stewart: The Huracan is all about theater. The interior has crazy video game graphics on a gauge package that looks like it belongs in a flight simulator. The row of toggle switches is also very cool and seems purposeful. And yes, there’s the big red starter button under the flap. To me, it’s all fun and designed to make you feel like this this a special experience. It is. The engine is a nasty brute that revs like a maniac and sounds furious. I love it. There’s a reason you see (and hear) people downshifting these cars all over Los Angeles — the shriek from the engine at redline is so good, it makes you want to hear it all the time. The view out the front is somewhat compromised by the car’s design. It’s not exactly a “gun slit,” but you can see more of the world around you from the driver’s seat of the other two cars here. Of the three modes, “corsa” was too stiff on just about every road. So I left it in “sport” for our mountain drive. The steering is very, very precise but a little lifeless compared to the McLaren. In fact, just about everything in the Lamborghini feels a bit artificial and “managed.” Like there’s a digital overlord controlling every aspect of the drive. Still, that overlord knows what he’s doing because this is one astonishingly quick car on any road. Put the system back into “strada” and the Lambo’s hard edges are softened and I reckon this could be a car you could drive daily. Maybe.

Vaughn: The Huracan cancels out everything you’ve heard about how Lamborghinis drive. Suddenly they can turn and stop as well as launch into oblivion in a straight line. Finally, the engineering matches the exterior. Victory for the Italians!


The 650S, oh baby, or whatever they say in the UK. Photo by Tim Sutton

What’s It Like to Drive? McLaren 650S

Undercoffler: Surprise! It’s amazing. What makes this McLaren (and all others I’ve driven) is that bedrock of any good relationship, communication. The driver has an innate sense of everything this car is doing at every moment. There are no surprises. Combine this with extraordinary capabilities and the result is a machine that takes you right up to your limits as a pilot. There is nothing more pure than a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car of any size or power. The engine is alive in a way it wasn’t in the 12C, the sport exhaust is sporty, the steering is so good the U.K. should designate a national holiday in its honor. The 650S artfully toes the line between civility and slavish hedonism. The gearbox is good but if we’re nitpicking they were crisper in the Lambo. And the feel of the McLaren’s brakes take a little getting used to. 

Stewart: I can’t imagine a car that offers a more pure driving experience in this class. I’ve not driven a 488 GTB but I’d imagine these two would be very close in terms of capability and overall feel. The elegant and talented McLaren made the Lamborghini seem a little loud and obnoxious. I’d get one in the most understated color and drive it every day. Los Angeles is a place where Lamborghini and Ferrari sightings are not rare. Since McLaren is such a small volume company, you likely won’t see many others. So the McLaren has the exclusivity to match the driving experience.  

Vaughn: Short of the mighty and all-powerful (and now discontinued) million-dollar P1, this may be the best pure road-feel car ever built. Grab the steering wheel — even the wheel is perfectly formed for human hands — and give it a twist on even a slight curve and you immediately feel a connection to the pavement formerly reserved only for street sweeper bristles and patches of sticky bubble gum. The balance is perfect, perfect! And while you might get better looks from a Ferrari 488, you’d have a heck of a time buying one. To paraphrase Jay Leno’s potato chip ad: Buy all the McLarens you want, they’ll make more.

supercar group shot

Those tire marks were there when we got there… Photo by Tim Sutton

Our Final Analysis Aston Martin DB9 GT

Undercoffler: Make no mistake about it: this is an old-school GT machine. With a V12 the size of the La-Z-Boy I’m sitting in mounted up front, comparing it to the others is almost unfair. It’s not built to lap tracks like the McLaren or lap the Nobu parking lot like the Lamborghini. It’s built to cruise at constable-meeting speeds. And while it devours the miles comfortably, it looks better than anything else it’s sharing the road with. You forgive (and forget) this car’s age the moment you see it. Which is why Aston’s been able to keep the DB9 around for so long: no one can say no to this car, even if pure performance is better left to other brands. Its beauty has kept it competitive.

Stewart: The Aston is out of its league in terms of a supercar that’s really racetrack capable. The DB9 is a tasteful, understated and gorgeous long-distance touring machine. This would be the one to take up HWY 1 from LA to Pebble Beach. In that regard, it might compete more with a Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG S-Class Coupe. Still, in world where supercars costing multiple six figures are fitted with all-new chassis and powertrains regularly, this Aston seems outdated. Even the aforementioned Mercedes-Benz is a brand new machine.

Vaughn: As close as it comes to a usable daily driver, you can’t make the DB9 be the really practical Swiss-army-knife problem-solver that some kind of only-car would be. Actual children we interviewed, who should theoretically have fit into the rear seats, made it clear they hated them, especially when an arch-rival sibling got the front seat. This opinion held true even for short trips. In fact, going to the grocery store I preferred a small subcompact to this. I actually had that choice and made it. But if you want a performance coupe that is far more livable than a sports- or supercar, then this is it.

Supercar group shot

Buyers in the $200,000 to $300,000 range are well-taken-care-of. Photo by Tim Sutton

Our Final Analysis Lamborghini Huracan AWD

Undercoffler: Lambo made a lot of improvements on this car and in the process created perhaps the first daily driver in its history. This car’s selling point is its naturally aspirated engine. With Ferrari’s 488 and everything in McLaren’s lineup using turbos, the lack of forced induction is becoming a bigger asset. There are holes in its delivery of torque, but they’re minor; just put the Huracan’s excellent new transmission to use. The styling is clean and masculine but still hangs on to that Italian flair that gets you noticed. This is for the buyer who wants more noise than the McLaren, literally and figuratively. 

Stewart: The Lambo is built to attract attention and thrill its passengers like almost nothing else in the class. Few cars are louder in terms of engine or personality. This is not the understated choice in the $300,000 price class. But it’s also a lot of fun. The McLaren is a better driver’s car, with more delicate and nuanced controls — how I imagine a Ferrari 488 would be. So I think on a racetrack, the Lamborghini might be a step behind those cars.

Vaughn: It is so much better than any Lamborghini ever made. All Lambos past were basically beautiful mounting points for very large engines. Turn a corner in a previous Raging Bull and you could feel the massive V12 (or V10) lean over and drag along next to the car like a designated driver’s woozy passenger. They were terrific in straight lines, so much horsepower and so much torque, and they were always beautiful to look at, but they couldn’t turn worth a 10-lira banknote. Now, Lamborghini has made a car that can turn corners and even brake at stops. It’s a proper sports car that is no doubt giving those poseurs in Maranello nightmares. If there was an award for most improved, Huracan would get it. It turns, it steers, it stops. 

McLaren 650S

McLaren 650S drives as well as it looks, better even. Photo by Tim Sutton

Our Final Analysis McLaren 650S

Undercoffler: Driving the 650S begs the question: why didn’t McLaren start making more road cars sooner, 1990’s F1 notwithstanding? With an enviable motorsports pedigree, daily-drivability and more exoticism (it’s a word) than a Ferrari of its stature, the mere existence of the 650S should make any car nerd smile. Plus, anyone can walk into a McLaren dealership with a pillowcase full of cash and drive out in one of these cars, rather than deal with the multi-car/multi-year screening process Ferrari puts up. This is the one-and-done supercar: if you have to choose one once, not the billionaire’s quiver of machinery, there are no regrets associated with parking a 650S in your driveway. Ever. 

Stewart: The Lambo is built to attract attention and thrill its passengers like almost nothing else in the class. Few cars are louder in terms of engine or personality. This is not the understated choice in the $300,000 price class. But it’s also a lot of fun. The McLaren is a better driver’s car, with more delicate and nuanced controls — how I imagine a Ferrari 488 would be. So I think on a racetrack, the Lamborghini might be a step behind those cars.

Vaughn: Oh man, oh man, oh man. It may not have the styling of the Ferrari, but it also lacks the Italian’s pretense. And the precision with which it slices and dices curves is just about unmatched in my experience. If you are looking for a sports car not to impress others but to impress (and entertain) yourself, this is easily the one. Oh baby.

supercar group shot

Photo by Tim Sutton

Our Final Answer

For style and grace, buy the Aston Martin. For straight line speed, marvelous street presence and now even some turning, get the Lamborghini. For superb sports-car handling perfection — oh man — get the McLaren.

On Sale: A couple years now

Base Price: DB9: $202,775; Huracan: $243,695; 650S: $288,600

As Tested Price: DB9: $213,100; Huracan: $299,075; 650S: $317,720

Drivetrain: DB9: front-mid 6.0-liter V12, 6-spd transaxle, rwd; Huracan: rear-mid 5.2 V10, 7-spd dual-clutch paddle-sifted auto, AWD; 650S: twin-turbo 3.8 V8, dual-clutch 7-spd auto, rwd

Output: DB9: 510 hp @ 6500, 457 lb ft @ 5500; Huracan: 602 hp @ 8250, 412 lb ft @ 6500; 650S: 641 hp @ 7250, 500 lb ft @ 6000

Curb Weight: DB9: 3935; Huracan: 3135 dry; 650S: 3236 DIN

0-60 MPH: DB9: 4.6 (0-62); Huracan: 3.2 (0-62); 650S: 3.0 (0-62), 2.9 (0-60),

Pros: Yes

Cons: Sticker shock, some daily practical considerations, none that couldn’t be overcome