You too can drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini on B.C.'s Sea-to-Sky Highway

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      I’m sitting sweet and low in the driver’s seat of a cherry-red Ferrari F430 Spider in a West Vancouver parking lot. Testing the turn signals, I’m trying to familiarize myself with this $295,000 convertible before I hit the highway—and, hopefully, nothing else.

      My palms grip the steering wheel, which is covered with supple black leather pulled taut with red stitching. It matches the lipstick-red piping on the black leather bucket seats, which are so exquisitely crafted they make me feel as if I’ve slid into a Birkin bag. My head rests on an embossed bucking stallion, the same equine symbol that blazes black and yellow at the centre of the steering wheel.

      I glance at the speedometer on the dashboard and pause. It looks…odd somehow. It’s not until later, when I’m cruising along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, that I realize why. The numbers run up to 360 kilometres per hour—and at 80 clicks, the needle doesn’t even cross the first quadrant. (The speedometer on my own meagre vehicle maxes out at half of what the Ferrari’s does.)

      “You might want to speed up,” my husband suggests with a grin from the passenger seat. “A Datsun just passed you. I think you made the guy’s day.”

      Alrighty, then! I press my foot onto the gas: let’s see what this baby can do.

      The speedometer on the Ferrari F430 Spider.
      Carolyn Ali

      Most drivers who sign up for a Scenic Rush experience don’t need to be reminded to speed up. “A lot of people phone up and say ‘What’s the fastest we can go?’ ” says Thom Boecker, who co-owns the luxury-car touring business with Bryan Kohare, in a phone interview. “When that’s their first question, I’m not shy about saying, ‘You might be better off going to Las Vegas and doing a race-car experience.’ What we’re offering is a very unique opportunity to drive these cars on a beautiful route on a winding road.”

      Boecker and Kohare launched Scenic Rush in July 2014. Based out of West Vancouver’s Eagle Harbour, the pair have a fleet of four highly coveted vehicles: the aforementioned Ferrari, an orange Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, a pearly grey-black Audi R8 4.2 FSI Quattro, and a silver Nissan GT-R.

      While customers can’t rent the cars individually, they can book a package that lets them drive either two or four of the vehicles roundtrip on the Sea-to-Sky Highway as far as Porteau Cove, Squamish, or Whistler.

      The Audi R8 4.2 FSI Quattro at Darrell Bay.
      Carolyn Ali

      The group goes out as a convoy, with Boecker or Kohare leading the pack in a Porsche 911 Turbo. Customers drive by themselves in each car, or with a friend or family member riding shotgun. (For an extra fee, that person can also drive, and kids or other family members can ride in the support vehicle that brings up the rear, alternating as passengers in the luxury cars.)

      The convoy stops at scenic spots along the route, where everyone can take photos and swap cars. On the 3.5-hour Squamish journey, the tour includes a ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola.

      As you might expect, this doesn’t come cheap: the most popular Squamish package goes for $495. The additional cost of one passenger and a loss-damage waiver brings it closer to $700, including tax.

      “It’s a bucket-list experience,” Boecker says, explaining that Scenic Rush attracts a mix of locals and tourists, of all demographics. “Most of our clients are people that have dreamed about driving these cars their entire lives. They’ve had a Ferrari calendar on their wall, they’ve had a Lamborghini screen saver on their computer. They’ve just never had the opportunity.”

      Over 75 percent of the drivers are male, and many have received the package as a gift from their partner. Boecker notes that when significant others come along for the ride, they’re able to share in their loved one’s excitement and come to understand the appeal of the cars.

      The Nissan GT-R is the fastest car in the Scenic Rush fleet.
      Carolyn Ali

      Drivers switch off cars with the other participants. “Everyone wants to drive the Lamborghini and Ferrari,” Boecker acknowledges. But each vehicle has its own appeal. Surprisingly, the Nissan GT-R is the fastest of the bunch, and it’s prized by fans of shows like Top Gear.

      The cars are all automatic with a manual paddle-shift option. Since ICBC car insurance and credit-card collision insurance exclude exotic-car rentals, customers are encouraged to purchase a loss-damage waiver; $90 buys a policy with no deductible and peace of mind.

      Indeed, driving a Lamborghini for the first time can be intimidating. But as Boecker says, a little nervousness is healthy. Participants get a vehicle orientation in the parking lot and then cruise along a 30-kilometre stretch of Marine Drive before they reach the Sea-to-Sky Highway. “By the time they’re on the highway, they’re usually comfortable.”

      So is driving a Lamborghini any different from driving a Toyota?

      “These cars are more powerful,” he points out. “They’re wider; they’ve got an expensive badge on them. But at the end of the day, they’re just cars. They’ve got four wheels and a steering wheel.”

      The view over the Ferarri's leather dashboard ahead to the Lamborghini.
      Carolyn Ali

      After a few minutes on the highway, I do ease into driving the Ferrari. In fact, I can’t believe how much fun I’m having. The wind is whipping my hair, my husband is hooting and hollering over the thrum of the motor, and the shoulder-check views are spectacular.

      I’d thought it would be difficult to drive this car, but it’s actually far easier than driving my chunky SUV. The centre of gravity is so low that I feel suctioned to the pavement. Cornering requires only a slight turn of the wheel: I merely need to lean left—or think left—and the car obeys.

      Scenic Rush's Ferrari at the base of the Sea to Sky Gondola.
      Carolyn Ali

      When I switch vehicles with the other participants, I find the sleek orange Lamborghini imparts a similar thrill. (It’s so low that my six-foot-five-inch husband must fold himself into the fetal position in the bucket seat, with his head almost touching the quilted-leather ceiling.)

      Travelling with three other eye-candy cars is actually part of the fun: when I’m driving, I get to enjoy looking at the other vehicles ahead of and behind me.

      Often, there’s enough distance between us that I feel like I’m on my own. During one stretch, I test the acceleration and am shocked at how quickly the car’s speed doubles from 60 to 120 kilometres per hour. (According to the specs, it goes from 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds.)

      The power is a rush—but what surprises me most is the feeling of control. Suddenly, I understand why somebody could drive these cars at over 150 kilometres per hour: as when travelling in an airplane, you hardly feel the speed.

      The views on the Sea-to-Sky Highway are spectacular--especially with a Lamborghini in the side-view mirror.
      Carolyn Ali

      But of course, you still have to obey the speed limit. Scenic Rush has strict rules about responsible driving. “You don’t have to drive these cars crazy-fast to enjoy them,” Boecker explains. “It’s the zero-to-100, it’s the cornering, it’s the handling…and of course the reputation.”

      In my experience, that’s all true. One of the funniest moments comes in the GT-R when we slow down to a crawl for a construction zone. Approaching a hardhatted worker, I watch his eyes bug out and his jaw drop to the pavement as he blurts out incredulously, “Is that a GT-R!?”

      It feels pretty good to be the person behind the wheel of such a fine automobile. Even if you’re not an exotic-car aficionado, driving one is utterly thrilling; it’s one of those things that are so far out of everyday experience that I’ll always be glad I’ve done it.

      In the words of Ferris Bueller—who took a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California for a spin in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—“It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

      ACCESS: Scenic Rush operates from April to October, weather permitting. The writer’s Sea to Sky Experience was complimentary.



      Oh Please

      Jun 16, 2015 at 10:15am

      What a dick measuring contest. Consumerism at its worst. Not to mention a disaster waiting to happen putting inexperienced drivers behind the wheel of these ultra high performance vehicles on a notoriously dangerous highway. I agree with the owner when he suggests to go to Vegas and drive a race car in a controlled environment. Unless they cap the speed on these some asshole is going to cause a huge accident or speed so excessively that the car gets impounded.