Being a car enthusiast is always about wanting more. If you’re like me, every day you’re itching to drive cool cars you randomly see like a Nissan GT-R, Acura NSX, or a Toyota Previa. (I really want to drive that egg.) It’s a torturous feeling as there’s no easy way to get your hands on different kinds of cars unless you’re rich enough to own them all or have rich friends who do. I have neither. But there is another way.
You could also ask to drive other people’s cars, which I do on occasion, which requires prolonged sessions of begging and pleading. But that process is not so much fun. When you finally get to drive someone’s car it’s likely that they will be in the passenger seat watching your every move. They’re thinking: “Hey, buddy, don’t leave fingerprints on the steering wheel! Don’t brake too hard... and stop eating Pringles!” How can you possibly enjoy driving the car when all you want is for your passenger to disappear?
These short test drives don’t really provide you an opportunity to truly experience the car. Wouldn’t it be much nicer if you could just have the car to yourself to drive it and enjoy it? Well, folks, I have a solution for you. All you need to do is find other motoring enthusiasts like yourself who are willing to temporarily trade cars and go driving together. I call this the swap-and-drive experience. I’ve done this every so often and here is what makes it so much fun.
Here’s what I mean by “trading up.” During one of my early car-exchanging experiences, I got to drive someone’s Porsche 997 911 Carrera while he drove my Ford Mustang GT, which I owned at the time. I never thought that a Porsche 911 owner would have any interest whatsoever in a Ford product but he did. It was like an owner of a mansion wanting to spend a night in a shack—why?
He was a muscle car fan and in some ways was more excited about driving my Ford than I was about the 911. I was baffled by his giddiness in driving a car worth less than a fifth of what he owned. The Mustang did have a mean sounding V8 though.
So you see, it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility that you might find yourself in a Ferrari F40 one day soon as part of this momentary bartering deal where the F40 owner can’t wait to drive your Mitsubishi Mirage. You never know, multi-millionaires may just be obsessed with Mitsubishi Mirages.
Recently, I met up with Patrick from Hooniverse, an automotive site about all things that have wheels and an engine. He owns a 2000 Mazda Miata and so we picked a Saturday morning to drive each other’s cars. I have never driven a Miata from that generation before so I was looking forward to driving a car that so many seem to rave about.
Meanwhile, I tossed him the keys to my E60 M5. I told him to watch it with my car and not do anything dumb. No, I’m joking—he was perfectly respectful with my car and even wrote a nice piece about his experience with the M5 here.
Driving in a group is so much more fun than driving by yourself. It can easily turn into a half day event including lunch, chitchat about cars and exploring new roads you didn’t know existed. Meanwhile your loved one at home will be wondering why you are spending so much money on gas and hanging out with strangers, driving around town like idiots.
By being alone in the car, no longer are you subject to the owner’s questioning glances and vigilant eye. You can drive in peace. Also, you can also keep an eye on your own car while you’re driving theirs. That way if you spot your swap-and-drive partner pulled over, slamming your car’s doors over and over again to carry out the “door-closing thunk sound test,” you can pull over as well and slap him on the face.
Also it wouldn’t be fair to cram someone else into a one-person car like a Miata. You’d just induce fear and nausea in them while you threw their car around turns as fast as possible.
This could be just me, but I really enjoy watching my own car being driven. This is arguably as much fun as driving the car itself. I love taking in all the sights and sounds of my own car. My M5 is so loud that there were times when I couldn’t even see the car but I heard it echoing and booming through the canyon roads. No wonder I got this note from a friendly neighbor.
They hated me when I owned a loud Lexus IS-F and now they want me dead because I own an even louder M5.
Driving another car for a couple of hours before coming back to your own car might make you ponder a few things that you hadn’t considered before. Like why people feel the need to talk so loudly on their cell phones when folks on the other end can hear just fine without all the yelling. Or, that your car isn’t as horrendous as you thought because somehow you managed to swap with a car that’s worse than yours. Or in my case, how much more I appreciate the computer-controlled M5 after driving the analog Miata.
Patrick’s car was great in that it provides a simple and straightforward driving experience that’s not modified by technical wizardry. The M5, on the other hand, is filled with complexity and has software and algorithms that are constantly adjusting things to make sure you don’t crash.
And you know what? I’m fine with that. I love the fact that I can suck as a driver, which I do, and that the M5 will find a way to make me look great. I can comfortably take corners and turns at high speeds knowing that all the nannies will save me from crashing. If I somehow crash in spite of all that, I probably should never be allowed near a car again.
As much fun as it is to drive each other’s cars, it isn’t always easy to arrange something like this. But if you can find a way to do so, it’s well worth the effort. I can’t wait to swap keys again and hopefully, this time, I’ll be able to trade up to... I don’t know, a Bugatti Chiron. It’s possible. Just like winning the $500 million Powerball. Hey, a man can dream.