Imagine, if you will, that you've a pressing appointment at the Casino de Monte Carlo. Lunch, this Wednesday, let's say. Happily, that gives you a couple of days to spend getting there, perhaps taking in a track day you've heard about at Paul Ricard on the way, and returning via the glorious twists of the Route Napoleon. Bliss.
Such a trip seems like the kind of thing the McLaren 720S Track Pack, which we drove earlier this month, was made for. While the standard 720S could never be accused of being dull, the extra bits you get with the Track Pack just make it feel that smidge more special; the carbon-fibre seats hugging you closer, the harness bar adding a hint of circuit-flavoured aggression, and the super-light alloy wheels aiding the ride quality, even if only fractionally. This, in short, is a car designed to lap a track happily for hours on end, but also to deliver enough pliance and convenience to get you there and back in complete comfort, too.
So what to pick as our half-priced used rival for this week's Trade-Off? Indeed, does it even matter? After all, if you can afford a six-figure sum to spend on your next car, chances are you can probably afford one that starts with a two. That said, few people ever got rich by throwing their money away needlessly. When the sum we're talking about saving is in the order of £113,000, that's a fair old slice of cash the McLaren must command. And that's before taking depreciation into account.
Even so, to compete, we're going to need something that feels every bit as special. Ideally with a track-happy edge to it, too. And that latter criterion is why our minds at first turned to the Porsche 911 GT3. It'd seem to be the obvious choice: similar track bias, but as in the 720S, blended with the sort of road-friendly maturity that'll allow you to take in longer trips without irritation. And of course, the 911 GT3 is, without hyperbole, one of the best drivers' cars there is on the market today.
Trouble is, it can't quite match the flamboyance of the McLaren, nor its sense of occasion. Granted, the GT3 is one of the most special 911s there is - but it's still a 911, and that, for some people, just won't cut it as a rival to a fully-fledged, mid-engined supercar. So we'll have to do better - perhaps with this Aston Martin DB11? It certainly ticks the 'special' box, with that thumping V12 engine. This one's a Launch Edition, too with rarity on its side. But the DB11's far more of a big GT than the 720S - so while you'll enjoy it on the wafty bits of the trip, it won't have the McLaren's hardcore edge on the track.
Which is why, in the end, we selected this Ferrari 599 GTB. "It's easy when you want it, insane when you need it." So spake Chris Harris of his own 599 GTB. In other words, the 599 is about the only car for this money that gets close to matching the 720S Track Pack's blend of edgy focus and consummate usability. It's also the only thing that can compete with the 720S's innate supercar-ness, replete as it is with a front-mid-mounted V12 that pastes out 620hp. Yes, that's 100hp down on the Macca, and that does mean the 599 is 0.7 seconds slower to the 62mph benchmark - but given the fabulous noise it'll be making on your way there, do you really care so much?
This one can even match the Track Pack's carbon obsession, fitted as it is with the optional carbon-backed bucket seats, carbon brake discs and carbon steering wheel. There's a smattering of additional options, too, and it's done a very reasonable 28,000 miles, backed up by a full Ferrari service history. It's the right colour scheme for a Ferrari, too, and the best part is that you'll save yourself a few grand from even our half-price budget - it's priced at a piffling £109,995.
So, what say you? Save yourself £120,000 and enjoy a bona-fide Fiorano flyer? Or spend the lot for the joy of owning a brand-new McLaren - and one of the best out there, at that? Well, if it makes any difference to you, we know where our money would be going. All on red, please.
SPECIFICATION - MCLAREN 720S TRACK PACK
Engine: 3,994cc, twin-turbo V8
Transmission: 7-speed SSG, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 720@7,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 568@5,500rpm
Top speed: 212mph
Weight: 1,419kg (fluids + 90 per cent fuel, 1,283kg dry because it has the lightweight options fitted!)
SPECIFICATION - FERRARI 599 GTB
Engine: 5,999cc V12
Transmission: 6-speed automated manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 620@7,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 448@5,600rpm
Top speed: 207mph