It is something of a trope that whenever any of our clients acquire a new car that they want to brag about, that my boss will invariably refer the conversation to me as I have a liking for the automotive arts. One of the joys of getting a new car if you happen to have a surfeit of shillings is that you can show it off to other enthusiasts. This has meant that I have driven cars that I otherwise would have never have set foot in and the latest of this ilk was an Audi R8.
As someone who pinches pennies so hard that they scream, I neither have the means nor the inclination to buy a low slung sports car. My ideal car is a small hatchback because I like both the smallness and the utility of the thing. During the buying process of our current car, in which we very happily settled on a Mazda 2 my wife and I looked at several vehicles and I ended up with my second favourite choice (I would have preferred a Ford Fiesta), and the offering from the Volkswagen-Audi Group were the uninspiring Polo and the Audi A1 which retailed for twice the sticker price of the Mazda that we got. Consequently, the amount of time that I'd spent if anything built by VAG, was nil; so I had precisely zero experience to comparable the R8 to.
To sit in the R8 is a confused sensation. My expectation before I'd stepped into the car was that because it was a high end sports car, that it would be a spartan affair but nothing could be further from the truth. The R8 is Audi's weapon in GT3 racing and so there is a kind of attempt in the cabin styling to let you know that one of this car's cousins is used in anger, with accents in what appears to be brushed aluminum but the leather seats feel more like the wingbacks at the Cricketers' Arms and as if you need to be holding a copy of Thackeray's Vanity Fair, have a cat sitting in your lap and have a pint of Old Speckled Hen next to you. It is a place to be but totally unlike being in a sports car.
There was a big stupid looking sat-nav/infotainment screen in the centre console; which is common with most new cars now but at least it wasn't sticking up proud of the dashboard. To be totally honest, I don't want a gazillion options; all I want is an AM/FM/DAB+ radio with an aux plug. I don't need Bluetooth/Wi-Fi/64-bit Cheese Waffle or whatever else options that they try to sell you because I really don't care.
As for driving it? That's a completely different experience altogether.
The steering wheel is sculpted to look like a full on racing machine but is slightly oversized to remind you of a past that never was. I have no idea if the accelerator is fly by wire or not but the springs give you a very nice sensation to let you know that you are in control of a very powerful machine.
When you do depress the accelerator pedal the red level wants to draw its arc with the sensitivity of a seismograph; which is quite deliberate because sitting behind you is an earthquake generator. If you wanted to commit suicide by snapping your neck, then this would be the car to do it in. Even on a wet road in Sydney, all of the horsies wanted to be unleashed from the 5.2L V10 behind you and they bit the tarmac very effectively thanks to Audi's Quattro four-wheel-drive system.
I lament not having a clutch pedal and I was confused by the 7-speed S-tronic dual clutch gearbox. I grew up in an era when the three gears in the Holden Tri-matic was enough, found that 5 speeds in my Ka was pure joy and where 6 speeds in my Mazda is too many. 7 gears is overkill. I shudder to think what the 10-speed box in a Ford Mustang would be like.
I was really surprised at how responsive this car was. It still felt big and cumbersome like a Falcon and was a little reminiscent of driving an old XB Coupe due to the claustrophobia that not having very much glass behind you induces but the steering was communicative and the car didn't suffer from the same kind of pitchiness that a Toyota 86 gives you. Mostly this is because the car weighs less than the Nissan Skyline R31 that I had; so that means that it isn't fighting the laws of physics.
It is however fighting the laws of common sense. At a price tag of more than $392,000, the Audi R8 is not remotely sensible. Having said that, it is slightly less not remotely sensible than the Lamborghini Hurracan, with which it shares a drivetrain. The chap who let me drive this said that he was tired of driving an eyebleed green Hurracan because of all the looks that he got and that the silver Audi R8 was far more anonymous in traffic. That I think is the point of this car. It is for someone who wants to drive an almost race car on the road but the only thing that they want other people to look at is a couple of red lights disappearing into the distance. Mind you, if I had a lazy 300-odd thousand dollars lying about that I wanted to spend on race car, I'd but an actual race car.
I felt a little sad after driving this car. I knew deep down that this probably will be the most expensive car that I will ever get to drive in my lifetime and the fastest that I got to drive it at was a pathetic 100km/h. This is a car which is designed to burn down the autobahn and not for pootling about in the suburbs of Sydney. Maybe you could use it at Eastern Creek but apart from that, I don't see how you could use this car properly without PC Plod having lots of very stern words with you. The argument for driving an Audi A1 makes so much more sense to me; as does a Volkswagen Polo but that car is so uninspiring it isn't funny. Ironically, driving an Audi R8 makes me appreciate my wee ickle Mazda 2 a lot more and given the choice on an Audi R8 or nineteen Mazda 2s, I think I'd have the latter.