Sunday 26 March 2017

Why I want more from Audi's €300,000 R8

It's all there but just fails to ignite

Supercar: the Audi R8.
Supercar: the Audi R8.
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Sometimes I'm treated to special meals in special places. I daren't look at the prices. Half the time the meal, the company, the experience, the ambience seem, to my frugal perspective, worth the astronomical money. Sometimes it's not, despite all the fussing and detailed explanations about what they did to the poor duck.

The Audi R8 is a supercar sampling at stratospheric prices. It's a superb piece of motoring cuisine, cooked to perfection with the best ingredients money can buy.

But I do think it's too much to pay for what I got from it - and that's not me being overwhelmed by the sums involved - my test car was nearly €300,000.

It is wonderful in many ways with technology to drool over and has an unbelievable power train and straight-line acceleration. But it didn't all come together in that sensational burst of 'wow' factors you have every right to expect for the price of a good three-bed semi.

It pains me to say this but I preferred the previous one; it had an edge to it, a hint of adventure, the sense of ferocious pace, a gripping feeling of power and propulsion.

The new R8 V10 Plus (there is a lower-powered V10) outstrips it in refinement and technology, pace and power.

Yet it seldom felt like what I imagined a €300,000 supercar should. We are talking about rare breeds here; rivals include the Porsche 911 Turbo S, McLaren 570S, Aston Martin V12 Vantage S to name just three.

I wanted more. I wanted something to make the hair stand on the back of my neck. I wanted to feel I was a racing driver, so close to the tarmac that every bit of feedback told me this was special; that if I had €300,000 I'd be delighted with my choice.

I've driven different models of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and Maseratis and one thing most - not all, mind you - had in common was a sense of explosiveness. Not straight-line speed but hair-raising raw impulse that demanded your total attention.

The R8 only hinted at it - and that was after I used the Individual mode to get a stronger feedback on the steering.

Please don't get me wrong. I got a lot of fun out of surging it to open-road legal limits; and I enjoyed my back-road riffs across Wexford, Carlow and points east. I embraced the 'sporty' burble of throttle (still not a match for the Jaguar F-Type Coupé) but I never felt like raving about it.

I was truly taken aback by the attention it drew though. At one stage there were 15 people, all on bicycles, surrounding me on Burgh Quay as I waited for my daughter. I tried to explain I didn't have 'lots of money' but it was futile.

In car parks, I was approached by mature men, ladies and, in one case, two whippersnappers who refused to leave until I floored the accelerator for a rasp of the exhausts.

All wonderful in their own way but the serious business out on the road kept me waiting for that breakthrough moment.

I loved its shape, the fact you can see the engine; the cabin is a bit tight but the dash and especially the stuff on the steering wheel (power start button and all) make for a wonderful cockpit.

For all that, I have to say there is no way in the wide world I can give you a definitive verdict - for one simple reason.

This car has 610PS, has technology not even awoken on the road, and abilities masked by the low demands of legal tarmac travel. It needs to be given its head on the track, afforded the opportunity to bare its teeth.

I know whoever buys one can only drive it most times like me (possibly much slower to be honest) but they - and I - need to be able to detect a hint of what really lies beneath. It is the least you'd want before parting with €300,000, especially when cars half that price can thrill you as much.

Facts & figures

Audi R8 5.2-litre V10 Plus, quattro, 7spd Stronic auto, 610PS, 0-100kmh 3.2 ses; top speed 330kmh; 12.3l/100km, 278g/km, €2,350 tax.

V10 starts: €231,500; V10 Plus €263,000; Test car/options: €296,859.

Standard equipment includes: 19ins alloys, park assistance, Audi Connect, Drive Select (with performance mode), virtual cockpit, ceramic brakes, climate/cruise control, nappa leather, high beam assist, gloss carbon fixed rear spoiler, LED MMI navigation. Plus: bucket seats, sport suspension. Options included: laser light/headlights, sport exhaust, Bang and Olufsen, nappa leather.

My side of the road

You'd often wonder how people got their driving licences judging by the way they park. Think about it; parking is a key skill nowadays with space at a premium in our towns and cities. Yet I despair when I see the way cars are left, often straddling two spaces or at such an angle it is impossible to park alongside. Parking isn't easy but lots of us need much more practice. 

ecunningham@independent.ie

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