A Supercar For Every Day
By Simon Lawrence
The man from Audi was an hour late, it was also raining heavily, the defining blast of the winter storm that had paralysed the eastern United States before rushing across the Atlantic to us.
‘I’ll see you at midday,’ he said. The wind lashed his zipped up jacket. I looked past him at the rising river level. The rain wasn’t just falling, it was hard, torrential. During the night, the wind had blown so violently, by daylight I’d expected my little wooden home to be splinters across the lawn.
I hunkered in the doorway, in the dry, but I could still feel the damp air seeping into my bones. ‘She’s yellow!’ I said. He shot me a hard look. ‘Yes!’ Then turned and sped away in a waiting car. In my mind she was blue… the sprint blue you only see highlighting performance Audis. But my mistress for the day was canary yellow, like a sunflower or an egg yolk!
My little weather station had promised the downpour that had already unleashed itself… but it was now assuring me of some sunshine later, and more warmth when the wind was less hurried. I could see a crack in the cloud and almost immediately the rain became a drizzle and then stopped. I have just 4hrs to road test this car, I’d better get started. So let’s go and play!
This is the all-new V10 R8, the second generation of this awesome car. It’s nearly 10 years since Audi first produced this powerful mid-engined supercar. It was quite a statement then, and it has helped transform the whole look and appeal of the Audi mark ever since. The front of this new car looks much more aggressive, more angular and at last, they have streamlined the side cooling vents, it was the one design feature I felt spoiled the profile on the older model. There’s lots of carbon fibre too, not just the cooling vents, but the mirrors, the solid rear wing and all around the engine bay… and through the vast rear window, you get to see that wonderful 5.2 litre, 602 bhp engine, one this R8 shares with the Lamborghini Huracan. It sits there, just in front of the rear wheels like a ferocious, tethered lion waiting to be set free.
Open the door and inside you feel you are climbing into an altogether different car. Audi have made significant changes in here, and I think each carefully thought out and measured tweak, was worth all the hard work. They have not just changed the sweep of a dial but redefined your entire experience. It begins wherever you first settle your eyes, and finishes when you peer out through the steeply raked glass. It seems miles away, finally touching the bonnet on the distant horizon.
At centre stage is a huge digital display which not only tells me how fast I will be travelling or how hard the engine revving, but also doubles as a screen to let me know what tune I will be listening to, it will also answer my phone… It is genius, a press of a button and it becomes a satellite navigation system. To be honest, I could waste half the time I have with this car just fiddling with it, it’s like a computer with which I could create a whole play for the theatre.
Push the big red start button on the steering wheel… and she sounds fantastic, muted on the inside, but the sound from the exhaust… now I need to go and find a tunnel, open the windows and keep driving through until someone calls the council to issue me with a noise abatement order.
I can manually change gear with the paddles behind the steering wheel, but I’m going fully automatic until I get used to her especially whilst it’s this wet… I know she packs a punch, from standing still here at the end of my drive to 60mph in 3.2 seconds, which is right up there with the other supercars I’ve driven… It’s about a mile through the narrow twists and turns to the junction with the main road… she feels so fluid, light, athletic, and the suspension no harder on my bum than if I were driving a station wagon. Whilst many manufacturers are moving towards smaller capacity turbocharged engines, Audi have clung to this wonderful naturally aspirated V10 lump and I love them for that.
Press the throttle and it’s like she’s taken an entire course of steroids all at once, a whole bag of sweets full of E-numbers, she goes bonkers, a full symphony all the way beyond the 8000 rpm rev-limit. I can feel myself smiling a broad smile. The seven-speed gearbox is rapid, decisive, and the changes so smooth I barely feel the shift. She grips, she turns, she’s like a catapult… bloody hell she goes, effortlessly, very quickly.
The steering wheel is covered with buttons, virtually everything is there, I hardly have to move my hands. A click of the drive select button and she immediately downshifts with a roar from the exhaust, and as I lift my foot momentarily from the throttle it crackles, the Lion is free, I just love that. I certainly feel this is a car I could drive every day, in fact, it’s a car anyone could step into and feel right at home. She’s as exhilarating as any supercar I’ve ever experienced.
Up front under the bonnet is… well, the boot. It’s small but large enough for a couple of soft bags, or one sizable suitcase. It has swallowed my substantial camera bag and a modest tripod. I know this Audi’s lack of storage has had some criticism, but this is not a car you would take camping, or to Ikea to buy something for the sitting room either… I think it more likely seen pulling up to a lavish hotel… where a smiling doorman in Persil white gloves and a stiffly ironed shirt beckons you through to a different world.
There is more space behind the seats, again it’s small, really only somewhere to put the milk you’ve picked up on your way home, or a bunch of flowers for your loved one to appease her because you’ve been out far too long enjoying your drive in this wonderful car. Go on, go and buy one, you don’t even need to wait for a midlife crisis, it’s not that sort of a car, oh wait, what does this piece of paper say… £134,000… I had better get saving, I’m already past my midlife crisis and I definitely want this Audi on my driveway.
© Simon Lawrence