Luxury Hotel Driving Experiences
Written by Brian Johnston
If you enjoy being behind the wheel of an automobile, then reserve your ride at these luxury hotels for the driving experience of a lifetime.
If the names Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsche get you all revved up, then look no further for your next holiday: what could be better than taking to the driver’s seat in one of these legendary sports cars and hitting the open road – or even better, testing your skills on a racing circuit.
The need for speed is not a prerequisite to enjoying an exceptional driving experience, however. Challenge your off-road ability at the wheel of a Land Rover, see how you cope with extreme weather conditions, or really take your foot off the accelerator and indulge in a road trip that incorporates city life, fine dining, and luxe accommodation.
You don’t just slide behind the wheel of three supercars on the Waldorf Astoria Driving Experience, but you also have the expertise of Didier Theys, former world-class race-car driver, to perfect your driving skills. Inspect the Ferrari 458 Italia Spider, Lamborghini LP 610-4, or Porsche 911 Turbo, and get an introductory tutorial. Then set off on a driving tour through the desert landscapes surrounding Phoenix for a three-hour escape with the wind in your hair that sees you driving all three supercars in turn. The experience is available at the exclusive Arizona Biltmore (arizonabiltmore.com), plus five other Waldorf Astoria properties across the USA. If your adrenalin is still pumping after your need for speed, the hotel’s impeccable spa provides after-drive relaxation and a Tranquility massage that will have you unwound for dinner.
Los Angeles, USA
Distance: 13,366 km
Flight Time: 16 hours, 25 minutes
Car lovers have good reason to visit Munich, including the German Transport Museum (deutsches-museum.de), which has a terrific collection of Bugattis, Daimlers, and Mercedes, and BMW World (bmw-welt.com) with its superb collection of vintage and contemporary cars, including Minis and Rolls-Royces. But the Audi Driving Experience will see you away from exhibits and behind the wheel of sporty dream car the Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupé, one in a long line of R8 mid-engine, two-seater racing cars for the company. Take a handling course under the guidance of an instructor and familiarise yourself with the power of the engine and the car’s quirks before tackling a 2.2km race circuit. The experience is offered through Munich’s luxe The Charles Hotel, with its great indoor pool, full-service spa, and suave restaurant.
Distance: 4,305 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
Frequency: 2 flights a day
The Peninsula Academy at luxe Peninsula Properties is probably best known for cooking classes and art tours, but Peninsula Chicago ramps up the heartbeat with its spring and summertime Exotic Car Adventure that takes you from road to racetrack over the course of a full day. Hop into your car of choice outside the hotel for a city drive to the Autobahn Country Club Raceway (autobahncc.com), where you’ll get private training and monitored driving time in the company of an experienced former Indy 500 driver. Then indulge in the chance to drive any (or all) of five high-powered race cars on the raceway, including a BMW M6, Cadillac CTS V, Lexus IS, or Porsche 911 coupé. You can also take one of the cars through a time trial.
Distance: 11,473 km
Flight Time: 14 hour, 35 minutes
Check into Fairmont Le Château Montebello in this riverside town halfway between Ottawa and Montreal. Created in the 1930s as a private club and partially housed in the world’s largest log cabin, the hotel is a rustic yet luxe retreat for golfing and tennis in summer, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. With 26,000 surrounding hectares of forest to be explored, however, you might want to tackle a Land Rover Off-Road Driving Experience (landrover.ca) for a taste of Canadian backcountry. Start with lessons in how to off-road drive, navigate various woodland obstacles, and deal with the car’s pitches and rolls. Then head out in your Land Rover LR4 on a trail-driving session that tests your newly acquired skills on ruts, mud, and tricky bumps. Watch out for moose, just another of the course’s potential obstacles.
Distance: 10,414 km
Flight Time: 13 hours, 40 mins
Frequency: 3 flights a week
If speed isn’t your thing and you’d rather have a relaxed driving experience, then top-notch hotel and restaurant brand Relais & Châteaux has numerous Routes du Bonheur (roads to happiness) that combine sightseeing with fine dining and luxe stays. In central Japan, start off at the redbrick Kobe Kitano Hotel (kobe-kitanohotel.co.jp) before taking a mountain drive out of the city to Mt Rokko, reckoned to provide one of Japan’s best panoramas. In neighbouring Osaka, three Michelin-starred Kashiwaya (jp-kashiwaya.com) features gorgeously presented Japanese haute cuisine in a traditional tatami setting, while La Bécasse (relaischateaux.com/becasse) under celebrated Franco-Japanese chef Yoshinori Shibuya offers French cuisine in minimalist style. In nearby Kyoto, Kanamean Nishitomiya (kanamean.co.jp) provides a traditional ryokan inn experience. Finish your driving experience at hotel Beniya Mukayu (mukayu.com) at Kagashi, with its morning yoga, private hot springs, and delicate sushi dinners.
Distance: 8,046 km
Flight Time: 9 hours, 25 minutes
Few places offer more varied motorcar experiences than Goodwood near Chichester in southern England, a country estate that incorporates a racing circuit famous in the 1950s and early 1960s, when it was used by Stirling Moss, one of the world’s greatest Formula One drivers, and speed record-breaker Donald Campbell. It also hosts the annual summer Festival of Speed. Choose from off-road adventures in a BMW X5 on the 4,800-hectare estate, track performances, or extreme-weather driving, where an instructor will teach you how to deal with car handling in slippery conditions. Racing enthusiasts will particularly enjoy Track Days on the famous and historic motor circuit, following in the tracks of renowned motorists from motor-racing’s golden age. Stay at the Goodwood Hotel, some of whose rooms occupy an 18th-century building oozing English style.
Distance: 5,219 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 35 minutes
Frequency: 6 flights a day