Audi R8

It’s taken me three years, countless emails, and more than just the odd phone call:    I’ve been pestering Audi so long for an R8 that I’m pretty sure they must recognise my number instantly when it shows up on their phones. And, just to add further complication to my quest, the lady I originally contacted even de-camped to another brand; she’s with SEAT now. I do hope she didn’t jump-ship because of my persistence.

In fact, in the time I’ve been nagging Audi to relinquish their grip of the keys to what is their answer to Porsche’s 911 even World history has changed forever. William and Kate not only got married, they started a family too. Bradley Wiggins, once just a guy with a yellow jumper and push-bike is now a household name, and The London Olympics have been and gone. Finally though they relented, for a whole week the R8 V8 would be mine.

Since my initial request Audi’s mid-engined flag-ship has had a bit of a make-over. Being Bavarian though the changes are subtle, discreet even; think evolution rather than revolution.  There’s a new grille, but really it’s only the new headlamps and some rather groovy sci-fi like scrolling LED indicators that make any noticeable differences, even those are hard to spot. You can have your R8 painted in a range of new colours should you wish to though and even a matt finish if that’s what floats your boat.  “Mine” was turned out rather discreetly in Estoril Blue, broken up with by contrasting silver “side-blade”.

Judging by the amount of heads that turned as I drove past Audi’s choice of hue goes down well. Or perhaps it’s the sound that the R8 makes that gets Joe Public’s juices flowing The 430bhp V8 (there’s an even more powerful V10 version available too) makes a deep, bassy rumble, when pottering round town, the kind only a large capacity performance engine can. Work it harder and its timbre gets more intense, eventually turning into the kind of noise more associated with piston engined fighter planes. It’s beautiful, intoxicating even and well worth, once in while at least, letting the fuel consumption figures fall in to single figures for.

But you needn’t gun the engine if all you want to do is admire it; only the R8’s glass engine cover separates it from the outside world so it’s always on show. In fact if ever you’re not sure if you’re looking at an R8 or its smaller TT sister – the R8’s more-rounded-than-your-usual-supercar styling can sometimes confuse the uninitiated - a glance through rear window is all it takes.

If you were to glance through the side window though, your confusion may continue. I’m usually a big fan of Audi’s interiors, the way they’re constructed and the use of materials is impeccable; thin chrome dial surrounds, red needles, beautifully damped switches and knurled aluminium knobs make Audi’s feel special. Yet strangely there lies the problem. In the R8 an interior that’s uses the same indicator stalks as an A1, the same switches to adjust the mirrors as an A4  and the same sat-nav as a five year old Polo – even the fat rimmed, flat bottomed steering wheel  from the RS models - simply don’t feel special enough. In fact, was it not for the open gated gear-change, the lower slung driving position and a speedo that reads up to 220mph you could be in any other Audi you can think of. Engineers of Ingolstadt, in a car that starts at £92,710 surely you can do better than that?

There are other problems too. There’s no denying the R8’s performance is electrifying. 0-62 in 4.3 seconds and 180 mph+ are never to be sniffed at, but the R8 never intimidates you in the way you feel a supercar should. Four-wheel drive means it sticks to the road like the proverbial sticks to a blanket, the steering and pedal weights are all just so, and the visibility in nearly every direction is excellent; everything is just so easy. You really could drive it very day – I did. There’s something missing, somehow the R8 is too polite, too gentlemanly in the way it drives. Dare I say it? It’s almost too refined.

Let’s not loose perspective. All I’m trying to say is when you compare – which when spending this kind of money you inevitably will – the R8 with either of it’s direct rivals, namely the aforementioned Porsche 911 or indeed Aston Martin’s Vantage V8 (a completely bespoke car which incidentally starts at £6K less!) the R8 lacks that certain sense of occasion that turns an afternoon’s driving in to a true event.

That might soon change though. There’s a new R8 on the cards for 2015. I might just give Audi a call…

 

Audi R8 4.2 Fsi Quattro Coupe

Engine: 4163cc 8Cyl 32V petrol

Transmission: 6 speed Manual, four wheel drive.

Power:  424bhp @ 7000 rpm

Torque: 317 lbft @ 4500 – 6000 rpm

0-62MPH: 4.6Sec

Max Speed: 188mph

CO2: 332g/km

MPG: 19.9 combined

Price: From £92,710

Many thanks to Audi’s UK press office for the loan of their R8

www.liam-bird.com

@bird_liam

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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