By Paul Gover.
It’s time for last drives in the Audi R8.
And what a way to go.
The mid-engined supercar, with its sonorous V10 engine and old-school rear-wheel drive, is as good as real-world driving cars get in 2021.
Others can be faster, and Ferrari and Lamborghini and McLaren all make models with much more shock-and-awe impact, but the R8 is as good today as it was when it first arrived, close to 15 years ago.
It’s farewell for me because the next R8 will be a battery-electric supercar, without any sort of petrol power, if the global rumour mill is to be believed.
With that in mind, I settled into the latest R8 Coupe and was instantly reminded of the impact it had when it first arrived at the global press preview in Las Vegas in 2006. On the road and on the track, the R8 was a breakthrough and a revelation for a company which was – at the time – best known for its upscale passenger cars.
As the R8 has morphed with engines and drivetrains, and Audi has joined the race into the luxury SUV world, one thing has stayed the same.
The R8 has continued to sit at the top of the Audi lineup and event the basic V10 rear-wheel drive coupe – my test car – costs $295,000, before you worry about on-road costs or any extras. It’s a simpler rear-wheel drive model, even though Audi helped cement its performance credentials with quattro all-wheel drive, but 397 kiloWatt is enough for anyone.
That’s a good price when you look at its rivals, even the Porsche 911, and the mechanical package is all you really need at a time when speeding is anti-social and many fast-car owners are turning to track days to ‘exercise’ their cars.
The R8, for me, is the most practical daily driver in its class, even if getting into and out of the low-slung body is not easy.
It is light and easy to handle in traffic, relatively easy to park – despite restricted rear visibility – and it will happily poodle along on a commute without betraying its ability to slingshot to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds.
There is a lot of tyre noise, particularly on coarse surfaces at highway speeds, but the sound system is great and the technology package is more than adequate without the overkill of giant screens and connectivity in a growing number of upscale cars.
What I like most about the R8 is that you have to drive the car. It’s also fun when people turn to smile, or wave, at a car that is clearly not just a a boring A-to-B box.
It can be very fast, it can stick to a curve like a painted white line, and the brakes are beyond outstanding. The seven-speed DSG gearbox is quick to shift and is a delight to tweak with the alloy shift paddles behind the sports steering wheel.
The economy is not great and, despite Audi’s claim of 12 litres/100km I struggled to get below 14, and it only has two seats and fairly limited luggage space.
But none of the practical stuff really matters, because the R8 needs to be celebrated as a great driving car.
AUDI R8 COUPE V10 RWD
Price: from $295,000
Engine: 5.2-litre V10 petrol
Transmission: 7-speed DSG, rear-wheel drive
Safety: not tested
Plus: a useable supercar
Minus: access, price tag
THE TICK: still a great car