The Audi R8 ticks all the boxes, but it just might be a little too polished for its own good (not that we’re complaining)
Here’s what’s new in the 2018 Audi R8: a new design for its fuel filler cap and the quattro badge nestled in the grille replaced by an Audi Sport one. Yes, really. That’s it. The real reason why I’m taking out the Audi R8, in spite of the tiniest running changes to a car first launched here in 2016, is because I didn’t get a chance to take it out the last time around.
And also because the last time I had a go in the second-generation Audi R8, it was on a closed course at the Changi Exhibition Centre, not on public roads.
There, I found it had phenomenal brakes, not so much for its raw stopping power (which it incidentally did have), but for its nuanced modulation. Quite unusual for ceramic composite brakes, which tend to have a wooden pedal feel.
While there, I also discovered the Audi R8 had scads of grip, but it’s not as if you’d expect anything less, given its all-wheel-drive nature and tyres whose width wouldn’t look out of place on a truck.
But outside of closed courses and not driven in anger, where the law of the land applies, was something new to me.
And it’s here on public roads that the Audi R8 will face its cruelest test, under the unblinking gaze of the traffic police and a thousand dashboard cameras whose vigilante owners are ever eager to name and shame someone driving like an idiot in a vermillion sports car.
Interestingly enough, the temptation for hooliganery is never really an issue in the Audi R8. Not that the car couldn’t, or that it would feel bad doing so. A firm prod of the throttle will send the Audi R8 hurtling rapidly in the general direction of the horizon, with an accompanying scream from the high-revving V10 with its 8,500rpm redline.
The thing is, the Audi R8 neither encourages or discourages such behaviour. It’ll go along with whatever you want, whether you choose to drive it gently or violently. It’s the golden retriever of sports cars, if you will.
More evidence of its amenable nature is evident in its suitability for daily use.
The driving position is low-slung, but since the sills are relatively narrow, so getting in and out is easy. All-round visibility is excellent as well, with a wraparound windscreen, and though there’s a giant blind spot where its C-pillars are, a reverse camera helps out there.
It steering is fingertip light, its ride reasonably comfortable (it does tend to jostle a bit, but then again, it is a sports car not a luxury limo) and its refinement top-notch. This makes the Audi R8 no more intimidating to drive than your average saloon, which is perhaps somewhat surprising, given the throttle pedal is wired to a medium-yield thermonuclear device.
All of that makes the Audi R8 a true everyday supercar — the sort of thing you can drive straight from the shops to the race track. Or, if you want to put it another way, the holy grail of sports cars.
What of the Porsche 911, you might ask. Good question, that. It’s true the 911 achieved this feat decades before the Audi R8, but the former doesn’t have a V10 engine, and neither does it have a cab-forward supercar-y profile.
So, just what’s stopping us from telling you to draw up a cheque for S$793,380 to Audi Singapore for one?
It’s how the Audi R8 left me feeling a little cold, like it never truly felt exciting, in spite of all its objectively great qualities.
Sure, it looks like a million bucks, goes like stink and is a doddle to drive daily, but it has a little something missing. If I had to put it in words, it’d probably be how the Audi R8 is too good for its own good.
You don’t have to work all too much to feel like a driving god. And to some, that’ll certainly be a valuable trait.