Disclaimer #1: I drove these cars over very short distances, i.e. approximately two to four miles per car.
Disclaimer #2: In declaring that none of these cars impressed me, I am not under the influence of crack. I swear.
Aston Martin Vantage S
Engine: 4.7 liter V8 430 hp
What I got from the manufacturer: The chance to drive an Aston (!!!); the chance to see the inside of a $15 million mansion (it was the venue for the test drive); and a fancy drink made of watermelon juice, soda, and fresh sprigs of rosemary.
Impressions: It's a beautiful car. The exhaust note (in sport mode) is viscerally charged. It's loud but not obnoxious. The ride was firm but not kidney busting. And obviously, it is a fast car. But, I just was not wowed by it. This Aston is the most expensive and most powerful car I have ever driven. And it's what James Bond drives (not this model, but you get the idea). But the interior controls felt cheap (plastic-ky) and haphazardly cobbled together. Nothing inside felt luxurious. It's supposed to be a supercar that is also classy. I was not feeling it. At all.
BMW 640i Gran Coupe
Engine: 3 liter 6 cylinder 315 hp
What I got from the manufacturer: 3 spam emails (so far) asking me to go to my local BMW dealer.
Impressions: I understand that like the CLS and the A7, this is a more compact, coupe-sedan hybrid. But it was positively claustrophobic in the cockpit. Also, the dashboard and controls were overwhelming. The car comes with a joystick gear shifter. I had trouble with it on my friend's new 5-series. I had the same difficulty with the 640's. While parallel parking, I could not figure out what gear I was in. When I looked at the dash for help, dozens of lights, pictograms, and abbreviations stared back at me. All of these minuses distracted me from the car's looks, as it is stunning.
Engine: 5 liter V8 429 hp
What I got from the manufacturer: A fancy, faux moleskin Hyundai notebook.
Impressions: The reps were eager to let me sit in the back seat and try out the massage chair first. Though it was comfortable, I was shocked at how little legroom there was in the back. The Phaeton and the new BMW 750Li have much more room to stretch one's legs. What cheapened the experience was the remote control for the seat functions. It looked and felt cheaper than a 1980s Mexican-made Magnavox TV remote. Rolls-Royce does not have to worry about this "competitor". My favorite part of the car is the wooden steering wheel, although I would have preferred it more if it was a bit chunkier. Despite all the hype surrounding the big Hyundai, it felt like driving a Camry-- competent, but not superlative in any way.