Major Transformers: Ferrari 458 Italia & Corvette Stingray

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Ferrari 458 Italia and C7 Corvette Stingray at Exotics Racing

Is there ever a bad excuse to drive a Corvette Stingray and a Ferrari 458 Italia on a racetrack? Probably not. Why did I recently get to drive a C7 Corvette and a Ferrari 458 Italia on a racetrack? Because Transformers: Age of Extinction just came out on Blu-ray and Digital HD. That’s my excuse.

The Short of It

Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth movie in the Transformers film series, is a film for people who like cars and action. A C7 Corvette plays one of the starring roles, so I’d recommend this film to any member of the Corvette Forum audience. The newest Transformers film will also satisfy the chambers of your heart reserved for exotic supercars and modern American muscle. The Corvette’s co-stars include a Bugatti Veyron, a Pagani Huayra, a Lamborghini Aventador and the famous “Bumblebee” Camaro. All that automotive talent mixed with a bunch of chase scenes combine for an entertaining experience that will dazzle those who love cars and action in their movies.

Because Transformers is so much about cars and action, Paramount Pictures invited me to Exotics Racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for some action-packed hot laps in hot cars. Again, I’ll ask this question: is there ever a bad excuse to drive a Corvette and a Ferrari?

Below is a short summary of the press event surrounding Transformers: Age of Extinction’s release on Blu-ray and Digital HD.

The Long of It

Admittedly, I had never seen a Transformers flick until this fourth installment, Age of Extinction. If you’re in the dark about the whole Transformers franchise, you’re not alone because I was right there with you up until a few weeks ago. Growing up, I wasn’t a Transformers tyke or a fan of the children’s action genre. I was more of a Muppets, Popeye and Dennis the Menace kid, but even those all paled in comparison to my penchant for MotorWeek, which explains why Transformers didn’t become relevant to me until it became live-action (with real cars!) for the film series which began in 2007. It also didn’t hurt that Transformers’ foray into live-action meant the casting of women beautiful enough to cause full-body paralysis — namely Megan Fox (films 1 & 2), Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (film 3) and Nicola Peltz (film 4).

So let’s flick on the lightswitch for those in the dark. Transformers is about these alien robots called the Autobots (the good guys) and the Decepticons (the baddies). Throughout the film series they all beat the hell out of each other and cause a lot of collateral damage, which looks majestic on the silver screen.

In Age of Extinction, the battling is over a superb contraption called the “Seed”, which can transform any piece of matter like a Beats Pill portable speaker (don’t you love product placement?) into any other piece of matter like a gun. As you can imagine, seeing all that alchemy in action on the big screen is pretty mesmerizing. When the cars start molecularly reforming, the visual ante is upped even more.

If you haven’t seen the movie, let me warn you that it is 165 minutes long. That’s exactly 9,900 seconds, or about three hours if you include your mid-movie bathroom break. I’d suggest finding someone extra-special with whom to cuddle during the flick because if you watch this, you’re in for the long haul. Also, to be honest, if it didn’t have all the captivating visual effects and beautiful cars, this wouldn’t be a good movie. The story falls short of being compelling. If an hour of fat were trimmed from the dialogue, I’d call it decent, but on story alone, let’s just say you won’t catch me reading the script anytime soon. I’d suggest getting to know your cuddle companion a little better when you hit a gristly portion of the celluloid, especially when the Autobots are speaking utter nonsense to one another.

Peter Cullen, the voice of “Optimus Prime”, is a man who has quite the history with Corvettes. Below is my interview with him.

My On-Track Experience

My favorite part of Transformers: Age of Extinction? The fact that Paramount Pictures knows how to throw a party surrounding the release of the movie on Blu-ray and Digital HD. Press junkets for movie releases are fun and all, but few involve Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Corvettes. Next time you’re in Las Vegas, pay a visit to Exotics Racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and get some seat time in a few sports cars and exotics. I promise you, the experience will be transformational, hence the title of this piece: “Major Transformers”. Any car you choose to dance with at Exotics Racing will transform you, but some will reinvent your sensibilities more than others. As the famous catchphrase goes, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” One exception, however, is the trove of memories and euphoria that remain after you wring the neck of a Ferrari 458 Italia … but more on my experience with that later. First, let’s talk about my time on the track with the C7 Corvette.

On Track with the C7 Corvette Stingray

Corvette Stingray at Exotics Racing

My most transformative encounter with a Corvette happened on the evening of May 26, 1992 when my dad bought a brand-new C4. In the first 50 feet of riding in that car, I went from a car fan to a car fanatic. Somehow physical reality was different through the C4’s generously raked windshield — it was the reality I preferred. Since that time, my exposure to Corvettes had been, at minimum, an intravenous drip that gave me my transformational fix.

If permanent birth control and keen anti-social skills mean you have no use for a back seat, the C7 Corvette is the perfect car to drive every day for the rest of your life.

When I started driving at the age of 16, it was the middle of the C5 era, and my dad had another new Corvette. The transformational drip sped up.

I’ve driven several C5s and C6s on autocross circuits since that time, but this was my first exposure to the C7. Being that I am no stranger to transformation in a Corvette, the C7 felt like the next logical step from the C6; in other words, it was a minor transformer that added another layer to the lifetime of transformation that Corvettes have offered me.

I was impressed with how much the C7 felt like a GT car on the straights, yet it was sporty enough in the turns to keep its title as America’s sports car. Overall, I loved how premium the Stingray felt, from the driving experience to the interior at which Europeans can no longer poke fun. If permanent birth control and keen anti-social skills mean you have no use for a back seat, the C7 Corvette is the perfect car to drive every day for the rest of your life.

After my track session with it, I came away from the C7 with the feeling that I had just driven a very capable sports car, but because I am used to what a Corvette can and should do, and because the C7 does everything a little bit better than the C6 (except for the interior, which is a major leap forward) I left the Corvette feeling pleasant satisfaction.

On Track with the Ferrari 458 Italia

Ferrari 458 Italia at Exotics Racing

This was one of the most surprising experiences of my life.

basketball_pea_to-scale

You know those illustrations that show you how small Earth is in comparison to the Sun? An example of that is the photo illustration to the right where a pea represents Earth and a basketball represents the Sun. My experience in the Corvette (a wonderful experience, mind you) was the pea. My experience in the Ferrari 458 was the Sun. Much like the Sun gives life to everything on Earth, the Ferrari gave new life to me … it was a major transformer.

Before driving the Ferrari, I had expectations. As any reasonable human being would, I expected the Ferrari to be better than the Corvette. If I was pleasantly satisfied after driving the C7, I thought I would be sufficiently chuffed after the 458.

I did not expect my world to be shattered.

When I dove hard into the track’s first right-hander, everything I thought I knew about how a car should behave on a track flew out the door faster than a dog in pursuit of the mailman. There was no way this thing could have been built by mortals. How could a non-sentient machine communicate telepathic desire to me? How could an inanimate object communicate to me that it wanted to turn right more than I wanted to turn right? I have driven cars that felt like extensions of my body, but never before had I driven a machine that felt like it possessed human consciousness. This was, by far, the most spiritual experience I have ever had in an automobile.

Because six laps in a Ferrari did me about as good as six days at an ashram in the Himalayas, it goes without saying the Ferrari is the best car I have ever driven.

Now, here’s the kicker: I am still no fan of the Ferrari 458 Italia. Yeah, I just wrote that, and I refuse to press the “Backspace” key. Here’s why.

In a Ferrari 458, the dual-clutch tranny is more irritating than poison oak rash on your genitals.

When going slow, the 458 Italia is a dud. Even though I am a manual guy, and I constantly remind people that “Manuel only drives a manual,” I still love dual-clutch transmissions. It’s just that between zero and 8 mph, they are slightly annoying with their robotic clutch engagement.

Specifically in the Ferrari 458, the dual-clutch tranny is more irritating than poison oak rash on your genitals. In an Audi R8 V10 S tronic, go easy on the throttle until the clutches engage, and parking lot speeds are no problem. If you ever find yourself in a parking lot with a Ferrari 458 Italia, just get out of the car and walk. The Ferrari cannot handle itself at speeds less than 8 mph. You can try to go 5 mph, but what the car will actually do is slowly oscillate between 2 and 8 mph. It’s dreadful.

Also, that beautiful exhaust noise that provides the perfect score to heroic track acts becomes a nagging drone at idle. You would not want to be caught in traffic in a 458.

If some maniacally generous person gave me a 458 Italia to use as a daily driver, I could forgive its low-speed shenanigans because it’s a Ferrari, but that would also make me resent the car like a disgruntled British subject who is compelled to be polite to the Queen, or a disgruntled husband who has to be polite to his mother-in-law. That sums up my problem with the Ferrari. It’s too smug about its ranking in the automotive world. It’s the valedictorian, but it becomes a complete asshole in key everyday driving situations, because everyday driving is so beneath a Ferrari.

To hell with that. Get me in a Corvette.

Yell at me on the forum. >>

Here’s what Transformers stunt driver Sli Lewis has to say about all the cool driving trickery in Transformers: Age of Extinction.

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