Is there a perfect car to take an advanced driving course in?

It depends on what you are looking for and what car you drive most of the time – that’s the advice we mostly give clients. But what about taking an advanced driving course in a sports car as a one-off experience? It’s a question we asked ourselves and decided to answer. On Friday, 28th April, we drove a route from Shrewsbury, where our head office is located, to Barmouth on the Welsh coast. An approximately 140-mile round trip. The range of fast, windy challenging roads are perfect for mastering car control and, of course, perfect for commentary driving and advanced observation – key elements of advanced driving.

The Car:

The sports car we used for the day was a 3.5L V6 supercharged Lotus Exige. It combines incredible handling abilities with plenty of power – 0-60 coming up in just 3.9 seconds.

We left Shrewsbury on a rather busy Friday morning and headed out on the A5 bypass. Shrewsbury is busy at the best of times. It was at this point, sitting in traffic, when the Lotus showed its slightly impractical but expected side.

It’s Manual (Thats good and bad both at the same time)

The clutch was heavy, the throttle was super responsive, and it was not that easy to navigate the manual gears at low speeds. It was tiresome in traffic, but that was soon forgotten as we experienced the visceral feel of quickly moving up the box when traffic conditions allowed. As we left the town, we continued heading westbound on the A458.

Lots of traffic travelling at or close to the national speed limit meant there was no need or opportunity to overtake and open up the engine.

The problem with fast cars…..

We love fast cars – but for road use, they can become a little frustrating as you can’t use anywhere near the power, that is, if you like having a driving licence. For those that don’t, we do offer pre-court driving courses 🙂

That was the first sign of frustration with using a sports car for an advanced driving course. You had to be very aware of your speed, especially as the car was regularly inviting you to open up the power and press on. So very quickly, the course became an exercise in:

  1. self-control
  2. speed awareness

What makes things harder here is that you need to be doing both of the above while still making good progress – again, a key element of advanced driving. In a more docile car, it’s so much easier to do as there is less power, less theatre, and the handling characteristics mean you naturally moderate the corner speeds. There is no urge, no urgency – it’s all quite calm and relaxing, which isn’t a bad thing. But things are different in a high-powered sports car. Your world changes somewhat. The whole experience of such a car can temporarily remove you from real-world confines. We refer back to points 1 and 2 above. It may not be so much of a problem if you’re used to such cars, but for those that are not – it’s something to consider.

The Journey Through Mid Wales

As we progressed into Mid Wales, the road holding of the Lotus was incredible. The day was dry but a little overcast. As the traffic was lighter, we managed to push on, but again mindful of the speed. In such situations, we found commentary driving was a real help – although a fair bit got drowned out by the nightclub behind our seats.

These roads were perfect for applying the limit point – which is a way of assessing the severity of a corner for maximum safety while making good progress. The Lotus felt incredibly safe and compliant – as you would expect from a machine which is mainly designed for track use. The steering was nicely weighted, which helped when progressing through corners. Our observations and planning meant we were looking far ahead – as we would do regardless of what vehicle we were in.

If we were taking a client out in such a car for an advanced driving course, a few points for consideration are:

  1. the size of the car – little space between driver and passenger
  2. sound – it can be noisy, which makes Q&A, commentary driving and general discussion a little harder

But these are points most are happy to put up with for the enjoyment and benefit of the session. We have done many advanced driving courses in sports cars before. If you’re considering such, it’s just something to be aware of.

As we approached Barmouth, an increase in slower traffic meant we could not push on much at all – and the drive became somewhat of a procession. In a comfortable, sensible car, that would be fine. But in a Lotus, it felt all the more frustrating and tiring.

What the Lotus excels at – from a vehicle for driver training:

+ Superb handling on fast rural roads
+ Acceleration when moving away from hazards or exiting corners
+ It’s a very engaging drive
+ Excellent overtaking abilities
+ The connection with the car and surroundings helps with commentary driving and observation
+ Creates an excellent sense of fun and occasion

And the negative points:

– You need to be much more aware of your speed
– Self-control
(both the above can be considered advantages too!)
– Noisy
– Lack of space
– Can be frustrating in slow traffic

So would we recommend taking an advanced driving course in a sports car?

Yes – totally. But be aware it can be hard work, even overwhelming for some, at least at the start. If you’re doing such a course in your own sports car, you will no doubt be familiar with the noise, sense of occasion, speed and so on. So these points will not come as a surprise to you. If you’re new to driving such a car, it may be a different matter.

But if you really really want to enjoy a sports car like an Exige, you need to head to a race track!

We offer two types of performance driving courses:

Performance Driving Course
Millbrook Pro Advanced Driving Course