We’re waiting with bated breath for the new 2015 Audi R8.[Not a valid template]
As a 12th victory at Le Mans since 2000 has proven, Audi clearly knows how to make fast cars. In the early 2000s, Audi’s R8 prototype confirmed its place in the history books by taking 63 wins from 79 starts, took American Le Mans Series championship honours every year from 2000 to 2006, and won five times at Le Mans. It came as no surprise when Audi’s first supercar hit the streets in 2007 bearing the same R8 moniker.
A formidable piece of kit it was too: a 4.2-litre V8 that coughed out 420hp, a six-speed transmission (most of which were R-tronic for seamless gear changes), a projected top speed of 300kph and a 0-100kph launch time of 4.6 seconds. All of which was wrapped in a sleek yet menacing bodystyle, complete with glaring headlights, an air-intake-y front bumper and the snazzy – albeit ruinously expensive – carbon fibre sideblade optional extra behind the driver’s door.
Some five years later, mild tweaks to the exterior go almost unnoticed (it’s new LED headlights and an enlarged front spoiler just FYI). But alongside the updated 430hp V8 stands a new 525hp 5.2-litre V10 – with newer, sportier seven-speed S tronic gearbox much to the relief of drivers across the land – and the uber sporty 550hp V10 Plus. It looks the nuts, it sounds superb and drives brilliantly.
Here’s the kicker though: chances are the R8 won’t be in many of your fantasy garages.
For all its incredible assets, the problem is that the R8 is a little… technical. Everything – from the 43:57 axle weight distribution to the adaptive damping system, the ‘light emitting diodes’ in the headlamps to the LEDs that illuminate the engine bay – has been meticulously honed and crafted, and while the rest of us who cannot hammer a nail into a wall without a trip to A&E look on in awe, it doesn’t have us jumping up and down on the sofa with excitement either.
Take the Bugatti Veyron for instance. It’s immensely clever, faster than The Flash on ecstasy and possibly the most impressive model of the past ten years. But it was built purely as a ‘technical exercise’, and many will agree that it lacks character as a result (Bassam will no doubt disagree, and I’m expecting a phone call any minute). Such is the case with the R8: it’s a brilliant piece of equipment, but so too is your macbook, and chances are you don’t feel an emotional bond with that either.
The situation is further stymied when we take a look at the R8’s competition. The Lamborghini Gallardo – the R8s VW Group little sister – is ten years old, but has that all-important raging bull snapping its tendons on the bonnet. It screams Italian flair and panache, and while it may not corner as well as the Quattro R8, 550hp being channelled through the rear wheels alone instils a keen sense of trepidation in the driver. Cold sweats tend to get the adrenaline rushing nicely, and its little wonder the Gallardo is still on Lambo’s books.
Then there’s the granddaddy, the Porsche 911. Few manufacturers boast a fanbase as strong as Porsche’s, thanks largely to the sports coupe that has steered the Stuttgart ship for 50 years now. Gone are the days of stockbrokers mounting lampposts and pillar boxes in their Turbo Porsches ‘with the engine in the wrong place’. It’s difficult not to get caught up in the heritage when slotting the PDK into first. And let’s not forget the Vantage, a gorgeous sports coupe stemming from the DB9 DNA that debuted in 2004 and which got the whole world talking about Aston Martin once again. V8 exhaust notes that can be heard in another valley help too.
Comparatively then the R8 loses character points to its rivals, even if both on the road and on the track the Audi could give each of them a run for their euros. That has left us wondering at crankandpiston about the new R8. It’s still not due until 2015, so we’ve still got a fair while to twiddle our fingers. But we’re hopeful. Our time with both the RS4 and RS6 Avants, and even the A1 Sportline introduced us to a new, more lairy type of Audi: models we grabbed by the scruff of the bumper and threw at the landscape with aplomb. We’re crossing our fingers that the new RS7 – which we’ll be putting through its paces in July – will do just the same.
Supposing the Audi R8 was given that little injection of soul we now know Audi is capable of providing. Like the team’s Le Mans’ efforts, it would be unstoppable.
– Video courtesy of eGarage