Popping your supercar cherry on the Audi R8
“You see that button on the steering wheel? Its only purpose is to make the car louder,” says an Audi representative with a mischievous grin. I let out a barely-stifled, nervous laugh.
Why the hell would you want to do that? I think to myself. The regular starting snarl of the R8’s V10 engine is already enough to wake-up half of the curtain twitchers in The Springs. Mind you, any plans I had on escaping the leers of my neighbours are likely to be scuppered behind the wheel of bullet-shaped, road-hugging R8, painted in an aggressively bright “Vegas yellow”. My first supercar lesson is an obvious one: you drive one of these if you want to be noticed.
Everything about the Audi R8 V10 alludes to the fact that, for the brilliant German minds at Audi HQ, the most important person on the road is the person at the helm. The driver’s cockpit is engulfed in a cocoon of buttons, lights and levers that all feed into the LCD screen of the Audi Virtual Cockpit. The result is that you have more options than a Bavarian beer house.
Zoomed in real-time GPS maps? Ja. Adjustable suspension and parking aids with reversing camera? Double ja. A touch sensitive trackpad on the armrest that lets you spell out instructions to the inbuilt system with your finger? Das ist gut! In comparison, the passenger seat has one measly air-vent and an electric window to play with. Riding shotgun in this car isn’t remotely as much fun.
From a driver’s perspective, it is almost impossible not to speed. After a nervous first 15 minutes of getting a feel for the car (read: trying not to dink the body work of this Dhs687,500 beauty) by negotiating side streets and crawling over of speed bumps, the open road beckons. With a slight tap on the accelerator the Audi darts forward, sinking me further into a seat that feels as if someone travelled in time to kidnap me, take a mould of my body shape and then tailor the Nappa leather seat bespoke to me ahead of time. Scuttling through the gears, before I know it speed limit alarms are pinging at me from all directions. I shoot a guilty look around and out loud rehearse the line “It’s not my fault, officer. This car doesn’t do double figure speeds.”
The V10 version of the R8 – I am reliably told by a friend who actually knows a thing or two about cars – falls into the category of ‘supercar’. I asked because I had no idea what exactly makes an expensive, fast car a ‘supercar’. While I focus on cracking the obvious joke about it indeed being a “super” car, he rolls his eyes and explains that for a car qualify for that status the engine needs to be behind the driver and be able to produce more than 500 horse power. The naturally aspired 5.2-litre V10 can do 610hp.
The relentless notification pings from my phone tell me that my not-so-humble WhatsApp brags are currently a hot topic with my friends. “Who pays for the speeding tickets?” one friend asks the group. “His grandchildren,” another replies. I hope that they are joking.
Remembering that I promised to run a couple of domestic errands allows me to test out the day-to-day practicality of the R8. Choosing to go to a Spinney’s on the other side of town to pick up nappies has never been so exhilarating. While there are speed bumps to be negotiated, the position of the wheels and (relatively) light weight of the car means that it handles these obstacles, and also tricky parking spaces, effortlessly.
It isn’t a completely hassle-free journey. My novice status is on show when I spend five minutes trying to work out how the storage hood opens, before giving up and lumping the shopping bags in the passenger seat footwell. Classy. The lesson here is another obvious one: the R8 is not your average, weekday runabout.
Car boots aside, the Audi does help the driver in other ways. The car’s fact sheet informs me that any R8 comes with Audi’s dynamic steering technology, which automatically alters the steering ratio and the torque depending on the vehicle’s speed. Because my knowledge of cars would struggle to fill the boot of a classic Mini Cooper,
I interpret this as: at high speeds it helps with straight-line stability; at low speeds it improves steering precision. Ultimately, regardless of your skill level, this car is built so that you can concentrate on the driving.
As someone who didn’t get a driving license until he was 30, I have never quite understood some people’s desire to “go for a drive”. For me driving has always been more of a convenience and the means of getting me to the place where the fun bit happens. That is until now. I cancel my friend’s barbeque to have another spin in the R8. No music; no conversation; no destination. Maybe I might even give that ‘noise’ button a push.