What's different from everyday road experience, of course, is what you're driving: something from the game's varied and comprehensive selection of classic and modern exotica, all capable of at least 140mph and including a handful of motorbikes.
When coupled with the showroom shopping experience (and tiny details like the need to start your engine before driving off) this is where the game fully, brilliantly realises the concept, enshrined in the franchise's title but long forgotten, of the test drive.
There are more accurate, supple and entertaining simulations of these cars' handling out there than Test Drive Unlimited's, for sure (although with driving aids off it's more than adequate, with good road surface feedback) but there's no better emotional simulation.
When it comes to the substance, structure and set-dressing of a major modern videogame, developer Eden has been similarly adventurous, with more mixed results. The design of the challenges themselves is mostly excellent, if fairly easygoing in the difficulty stakes.
Above: With garage space at a premium, you're initial car-buying decisions will be made with thrift and sentimentality
Giving lifts to shoppers and hitchhikers, or delivering packages, requires a fine balance between fast and safe driving. Best of all are the car delivery missions which let you take the rarest, fastest hardware in the game for a spin and don't set a time limit, but scrub off their huge cash rewards with every scrape or off-road excursion.
The unlock structure is also smart, measuring progress by Gamerscore, which with a broad range of achievements available (covering clothes shopping and exploration as well as single and multiplayer race medals) means you can make headway in your own style.