Thursday 29 September 2016

The sublime Audi R8 is a party starter

Even a rude interruption by Gertrude couldn't spoil my dream date with this supermodel, writes Philip Hedderman

Philip Hedderman

Published 07/02/2016 | 02:30

Engineering perfection: Philip cosying up to the Audi R8 V10
Engineering perfection: Philip cosying up to the Audi R8 V10

The timing of my dream date with Ireland's only available supermodel could not have been worse. For starters the weather was miserable and was about to get even nastier with Storm Gertrude making landfall in the afternoon.

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Furthermore, as I made my way to Sandyford to pick up my curvaceous companion, news had just broken that one lucky punter had scooped €66m on the Euromillions.

Now, stepping out with something as stunning as the new Audi R8 (and this was the super strength V10 Plus) was always going to be a very public affair, but nothing could have prepared me for the level of interest generated by this magnificently sleek two-door coupe.

Was it the supercar looks, with massive air intakes that begin at the nose carving deep scoops along the flanks and through the sexiest of rear bumpers?

Could it be the fabulously futuristic cabin finished in the softest of leather and trimmed in state-of-the-art carbon and polished chrome.

Maybe it's the awesome cockpit (amongst the finest ever made), which is dominated by a Starship Enterprise-like 12.3 inch TFT digital screen with separate power and torque dials?

Or perhaps it's the jet fighter buttons peppered around your finger tips like the red ignition to 'fire' her up or the press-if-you-dare chequered flag to engage launch control?

It may even be the sheer power and virility as the naturally aspirated 5.2 litre V10 generates a jaw-dropping 610bhp, which will rocket this machine from 0-100kph in an ungodly three seconds and has a governed top speed of 330kph (200mph)?

I suspect the allure was a combination of all the above - plus a pinch of the spine-tingling noise it makes.

My 12-year-old co-pilot best described the engine note as akin to Chewbacca laughing hysterically during an aerial duel with several TIE fighters (from the Imperial Fleet, to non-Star Wars geeks).

It was that very racket that drew the attention of two fun-loving gardai who stopped for a chat as I left the city centre last Saturday night and even they were smitten by this very special fraulein.

Yes, having people stare at you in the street is, I suppose, one of the benefits or drawbacks - depending on how much of an exhibitionist you are - to a car like this.

What's not, though, is the engineering brilliance that is choreographed to the millisecond to make the R8 worthy of the supercar moniker.

I know this because I have been in training for the past two years - slowly moving my way through the Audi ranks of the S to RS - sampling the delights of the S3, RS3 & RSQ3, TT/TTS and of course, the mighty RS6 Avant.

The latter being the quickest load lugger on the planet.

It's here the Vorsprung Durch Technik boffins have honed their craft with every nut, bolt and washer refined, tweaked and lightened to near perfection to ensure that the seven-speed, S-Tronic gearbox is in perfect timing with the quattro all-wheel drive. In fact, the transmission is so quick and seamless that it was faster and more efficient than their best track drivers using manual versions.

What you get is F1-like responses - all you have to do is plant your right foot and the car does everything else.

The all-wheel drive grip is heightened even more by clever electronic traction gadgetry, which allows the driver to choose three extra modes - Wet, Dry and Snow - although only the Germans would be crazy enough to take this beast out in a blizzard.

Fear not, though, as the electro-hydraulic steering is sure to keep everything in check, ensuring that it'll not misbehave no matter how hard you push it.

And we did just that - burying the throttle and giggling like schoolgirls as the rev counter veered towards 8,500rpm before looping back up with an aggressive snort and pop only to eye-ball you again as the digital speedo registered triple figures in the a matter of seconds.

Handling is sublime, body control exquisite and traction simply untouchable. The only down side being its clinical excellence tricks you into thinking you are far more capable driver than you actually are.

Thankfully, as it savages another tight bend and the odd country lane chicane, the automotive pixies are busy making sure you look good and, above all, keep safe.

When not acting the hooligan, the R8's usability sets it above its rivals too and we were surprised how easily it negotiated underground car parks and everyday supercar obstacles.

In fact our test car came with built-in wi-fi and even had digital TV reception - should you decide to watch a bit of telly in rush hour. Just as well, because you won't be sitting at home with this party animal raring to go.

And considering the R8 missed the first big Irish hooley (only bursting through the door in 2007 as the party ground to an abrupt halt), the second generation is just in time for the one that's kicking off now - and the R8 V10 Plus is top of the guest list.

Only trouble is ... this is a rather exclusive and private shindig and only €263,000 (or €296k with some added extras) will get you behind the velvet rope.

Philip Hedderman is Copy Editor of the Sunday Independent and Motoring Editor of The Herald.

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