A Rolling Impression
When attending a high school or college reunion, you try to make a good impression. You want your former classmates to know what you do, what’s important to you, and you want to share your success. This might seem a bit shallow, but one way that reunion attendees project success is via the car in which they arrive. I recently attended my 30-year college reunion, and the moment I decided to go my first thought was, “What car should I drive?” What we drive says something about who we are, and I was looking for a vehicle that would tell my former classmates about me — primarily that I’m an auto writer and still a certifiable car nut. With a few hundred miles to travel from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to my alma mater in the middle of Iowa, the vehicle also had to be comfortable and fun-to-drive but — most importantly — it had to stand out from the crowd. What follows is a fantasy consideration list. What car would you pick?
If you’re looking to make a splash when returning to your alma mater, it’s hard to get a bigger reaction than arriving in a Lamborghini. Back in college, a friend and I once discussed how we would ideally return to school if our plans for success came to fruition; we would pilot Lamborghinis through campus — in our minds that would define success. Because of this conversation, I seriously considered arranging for a Lamborghini to drive to the reunion. The exotic-looking Huracan would certainly get attention — especially in Verde Mantis (bright green) — and the reverb of the big V10 engine would be bound to turn heads. With more than 600 horses on tap, the Lambo hits 60 mph in around 3 seconds with a top speed of more than 200 mph — certainly a spectacular car in which to arrive. But ultimately a Lamborghini would be a bit too flashy for Iowa and would look too much like showing off.
Ford F-150 Raptor
Another reunion option is to go big and bold, and there isn’t much on the road bigger and bolder than an F-150 Raptor. The school I attended is in a small town in the middle of Iowa, so the thought occurred that perhaps a truck would more fitting in farm country. If you’re going with a pickup truck, the Ford F-150 is the logical choice — it has been the top-selling vehicle in America for more than 20 years, and the version to drive would have to be the F-150 Raptor. The Raptor differentiates itself from the standard F-Series with a unique grille, bold styling, big off-road tires and impressive off-road agility. The Raptor’s EcoBoost engine puts out 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque and makes a pretty sweet sound while doing it. But with a planned 500-plus mile drive to and from my alma mater, the expected 16 mpg would be a tad costly — so the Raptor was out.
When returning to school after a 30-year hiatus, a unique way of arriving is in a modern-day version of whatever you drove in college. There are plenty of auto nameplates still on sale after three decades, such as the Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang and BMW 3 Series. However, 30 years ago I was driving a 1979 Chrysler Newport (two-tone green with green cloth interior). The Newport didn’t make it past 1981, so to recapture my ride from 30 years ago I considered driving its eventual successor — the Chrysler 300. The 300 is now aging a bit but still looks classy and offers plenty of interior space with a smooth, comfortable ride. But where the Lamborghini was trying too hard, the 300 probably wouldn’t be trying hard enough — too easily mistaken for a rental car, and that wouldn’t do.
Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible
The F-TYPE is one of the sexiest cars on the road and would make for a great ride on the trip from Chicago, so it was certainly in the consideration set. With styling reminiscent of classic Jags, the F-TYPE offers impressive performance to go with its good looks. The F-TYPE of choice would have to be the all-new SVR. Developed by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations, the F-TYPE SVR is lighter and more powerful than the F-TYPE R, with a supercharged V8 engine that has been bumped up to 575 horsepower. Sixty mph arrives in 3.5 seconds, and the one of the best-sounding exhaust notes on the road would be heard loud and clear across the campus upon arrival. However, the F-TYPE is a 2-seater with limited trunk space, so taking former classmates for a drive into town required more space.
The AMG S65 sets the standard for the ultimate luxury-performance sedan and would certainly make an impression driving into small-town Iowa. The commanding style screams wealth — as it should with a price tag north of $200,000. Inside, the S-Class remains the epitome of luxury with thick carpeting, massaging seats that can be heated or cooled, and all surfaces covered with premium materials. Then of course there’s the enormous power provided by a hand-built twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 engine that delivers 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque. As wonderful as this car would have been for the 500 miles of driving, it seemed a bit too ostentatious for a reunion at a small liberal arts college in Iowa.
Since this is a fantasy list, why not push fantasy to the extreme and arrive in style with one of the most powerful cars on the road? The Chiron is the latest offering from Bugatti, and in our opinion much more attractive than the outgoing Veyron. This is a car that grabs everyone’s attention, even if they don’t know what it is. Performance stats are almost unbelievable — 62 mph in less than 2.5 seconds, 124 mph in around 6.5 seconds and — most amazing of all — 186 mph in less than 14 seconds. This is accomplished via a quad-turbo W16 engine making 1500 horsepower. But with a price tag approaching $3 million, the odds of obtaining one of these was quite low, so the Chiron took itself off the list.
Range Rover Sport SVR
Heading out into the wilds of Iowa, you never know when you might have to venture off pavement, so a Range Rover might not be a bad option. And if you’re thinking Range Rover, it might as well be the high-performance SVR. The ultimate combination off-road capability and on-track performance, the SVR feels just as comfortable cruising on the highway as it does tackling a muddy, rutted dirt track. This special Range Rover Sport looks extremely stylish, and it boasts a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine that puts out 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque, making SVR the fastest and most powerful Land Rover to emerge from the factory. But this still wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
Final Decision — Audi RS 7
Eventually you should choose the car that best represents you and, as a car enthusiast, the answer for me was the Audi RS 7. Ultimately the RS 7 checked all the right boxes. It’s sexy without being over the top, it offers outstanding performance, it’s comfortable for long drives, and there’s plenty of room for passengers and cargo.
The unique 4-door hatchback design — unusual for a luxury/sport sedan — provides not only a spacious cargo area but also creates a beautiful silhouette. The RS Sport Seats are attractive and comfortable front and back — there was no problem spending several hours on the road.
The RS 7 looks classy — especially in black — and those in the know will notice the large trademark grille, the carbon-fiber trim, big exhaust outlets and the exclusive 21-inch cast-aluminum wheels — all indicators that this is not a typical Audi.
The real beauty of this special Audi resides under the hood. The vehicle I drove was the RS 7 Performance, which is powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that produces an immense 605 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. With full-time quattro all-wheel drive and a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, the RS 7 jumps to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and can reach 190 mph. And every launch to 60 mph gets accompanied by a wonderful V8 roar that you want to hear again and again.
The RS 7 turned out to be the perfect car for my 30-year college reunion — great fun on the pre-reunion road trip, an excellent conversation starter at the event, and it certainly looked good in front of the campus. And who knows what the future holds — maybe by the time my 50-year reunion rolls around I’ll be ready for that Lamborghini.