The lesser-engined R8 is arguably the most conceptually perfect of Audi’s supercar family. Why? Because it’s the R8 that most closely resembles an extreme Audi without delusions of Ferrari. You can admire it as much for its honesty as for its ability. And, even without its roof, boy does it have ability…
No V10 and no roof? Compromised surely?
You might not be saying that at 186mph. In fact, you might not be saying ANYTHING at 186mph. But the R8 V8 feels perfectly engined, beautifully balanced and in no way structurally hampered by its rooflessness. It’s incredibly comfortable with the roof down, even at speed (though possibly not at 186mph) and driving it this way allows you to drink in the delightfully mellow throatiness of the 4.2-litre 24-valver behind you.
This isn’t a Ferrari-style howl or even the thunderous torque-rush of sister act Lamborghini – no, it’s more of a rising surge, an escalation of pitch rising to a racy crescendo up around the 7000rpm mark.
This model has a manual gearbox. Better or worse than the auto?
A matter of taste, obviously, but for me the manual wins through every time. You’ve got to hand it to Audi for delivering the six-speed shifter with an open gate, reminding us of the glorious past now busily being left behind by the supercar glitterati. The noisy clack of the aluminium stick slamming into the gate is delicious, and all the more so for the sympathetic stacking of the ratios which, unlike those long-geared, big-beat Lambos, allows you to play with the whole selection on a normal drive.
I recently had the pleasure of the open-gate manual in the Lamborghini Gallardo Balboni, but this R8 is even better because of that sympathetic usefulness. It defines the whole car. The R-tronic is naturally readily available and most R8s will pack it. Your call, but a nice dilemma to have.
What about the price? Can we call it good value?
That’s the beauty of the V8 model. Yes, it’s £96k, but that’s £20k less than the V10, and I absolutely guarantee you’ll never catch yourself yearning for those extra pots. Whether any Audi can ever really be lux enough to justify such a tag is a moot point. On the one hand, the interior is massively understated, beautifully built but willfully underdesigned, but on the other hand it’s pretty much knob-for-knob what you’ll get in your wildly pricey Gallardo.
If you wanted to criticise you’d have to admit that when the roof’s up the whole experience falters somewhat. It’s cramped in there, visibility is radically curtailed and the happy noise of the engine is replaced by a less pleasing vibey thrum from the wind. But you can say that about most super-cabrios.
And this R8 IS a super-cabrio.