A car for grown ups? A car for grown up hooligans more like. The R won’t turn many heads in the high street but it will gain your passenger’s attention pretty quickly.
Just 24 hours into the R test and I could have been hit with a brace of ASBOs.
Here’s a hatchback that your granny could drive to Waitrose for years before realising just what was under the bonnet. It’s not a Jekyll and Hyde car, it’s THE Jekyll and Hyde car.
Sensible on the outside, it has the ability to cut lose if you are up for some flat out fun. Purists might think the R is too sanitised compared to hot Golfs of old. Ignore them. I’ve driven every generation and nothing comes close…
The R8 leaves Car Couture today – just in time for me to start listening to day 2 of the Ashes on our new Golf R’s DAB radio! Because the Audi doesn’t have digital, I’m more than a little delighted to see the VW arrive.
Don’t go thinking I won’t miss the R8 because I will. The S-tronic DSG gearbox is absolutely brilliant, whether you are howling the V8 down the A303, or pootling along the Kings Road. The flappy paddle system works so smooth you will long to use it at every opportunity.
There’s a new R8 out in August and that will no doubt address the rather dated cabin. Somehow, the R8 doesn’t feel like a supercar when it shares so many bits with lesser Audis.
It’s beautifully built, looks suitably expensive and is backed up by a highly regarded Audi dealership network. The R8 then, is a supercar you really can live with everyday – only rivalled by the Porsche 911.
It’s quite easy to shut your eyes (not when you’re driving, of course) inside the R8 and believe you are steering an Audi TT. Petrolheads will note there are many similarities between the two.
The R8’s steering wheel and dashboard are swathed in buttons and dials you will find in many a lesser Audi. No bad thing but just remember this is a £110k supercar. Wouldn’t you expect more?
I’ve already revealed the ‘issues’ with the infotainment system but the lack of cubbyholes and storage is starting to bug the hell out of me. My iPhone 5s disappears sideways when I slot it in the centre cup holder. There’s nowhere to store it safely.
Practicality is the R8’s Achilles heel and comparing in with the popular TT only highlights the issue more. There’s no back seats and the luggage space is somewhat lacking.
The search for the perfect convertible goes on…
So, what do you make of the R8 in profile? Apart from being very ‘Dubai’ in its supercar looks, there’s rather a lot of rear end going on and not enough bonnet for my liking.
Of course, being rear-engined you would expect that but compared to a Porsche 911 (or even a Boxster) the Spyder does have a bottom of epic proportions.
And what’s even stranger still is the fact the R8 has a tiny, tiny amount of luggage space under that steeply raked bonnet. You can just squeeze one weekend bag in, a couple of jackets and not much else.
Inside, there are a two sandwich-sized cubby boxes between the seats in the rear bulkhead, a glovebox – and that’s it! Space is as a premium, yet a 911 seems to cram two rear seats and much larger luggage area into a vehicle of lesser dimensions.
The Audi then, is a big car with limited room for your belongings. Weird.
I’ve just been eyeing up a 1995 Porsche 911 Targa. It’s 20 years old now but somebody has retro fitted a DAB radio. It means I can listen to Radio 6 and Test Match Special on BBC Five Live Extra even in the car.
I mention this because again today I was frustrated by the 2015 Audi R8 I’m driving this week. I just can’t get my head around the fact a £110,000 supercar doesn’t come equipped with digi radio?
You see, I can’t believe the majority of people would rather have three stage heated seats and auto windscreen wipers, rather than digital radio. It doesn’t make any sense.
At least when I have found something worth listening too on the radio, the B&O sound system is pretty awesome. No excuses though Audi, lack of digital radio in the R8 is simply not acceptable…
I was too busy lapping up Saturday’s sunshine in the R8 to write. Whereas today has been less than exciting in the deluge – I keep thinking about all those buggers who carefully planned to take this week off to ‘enjoy’ a camping trip with the family. Painful.
As the A8 skipped down the A303 towards the coast, I could see dads in their people-movers cursing the rasping tailpipes of the Audi. At least they have kids to help them pick their retirement home one day. I’ll probably be found half-eaten by the dog.
The R8 appears to have no less than five different gearboxes – and to think my first car in 1981 only had four forward gears. Yes, you can whack it into ‘auto’ or ‘manual’, then choose ‘sport’ mode for each, or use the + and – option on the gearchanger. In fact, there’s more because the R8 has flappy paddles on the steering column.
I’m not a big fan of the flappers but hey, in a high performance car like the R8 they are great full. Using them to change down in sport mode emits a bubbling, angry sound from the twin pipes. More than enough to annoy everybody within earshot.
And the Audi is exceptionally good fun. It’s extremely forgiving, allowing even amateurs like me to feel like they have been hurtling around racetracks for years. Again, it reminds me of the Golf GTI, or a Porsche Boxster.
Jump in, turn the key and you’re a driving superstar. Nobody will know it’s the car rather than your skills that are providing the thrills.
I’ve just returned from interviewing the legend that is Jonny Wilkinson. It meant a 510-mile return trip to Newcastle, which gave me more than enough time to sample the delights of the R8.
I must say, I’ve never been a fan of the looks – if you want a supercar and can afford a six figure fee, then why not buy a ‘proper’ one? Of course, it turned out I was wrong. The Audi is all that and some.
The full story on the R8 will unravel over the next seven days but let’s start with a negative. This out-going model has drawn criticism of late for its outdated cabin. And what really let this car down was the lack of a 7-digit input sat nav system.
I’ve only been to Newcastle once before and trying to find a nameless street with the Audi system was a complete nightmare. You don’t want to keep Jonny waiting, do you.
The R8 also uses the Audi rotating dial system for selecting letters and numbers to input. It’s way too sensitive and easy to click on to the wrong digit.
I found the whole infotainment system in the R8 a complete pig’s ear. I’m visiting an organic pig farm near Swindon this afternoon to talk bacon with the owner. Perhaps I’ll ask what she thinks.
Anyway, DON’T buy an R8 if you rely on sat nav a lot. I’ve checked with Audi Swindon and they tell me it’s not possible to pay for an upgrade either. Porsche offer such a service for older cars for about £320.
Let’s hope the new R8 fixes the problem.
Black Tuesday – they’re coming shortly to take the Plus 8 away. Hmm not sure I’m going to be in – not even the prospect of an Audi R8 landing tomorrow is raising my spirits.
See the Plus 8 is a one of a kind. You can go faster in a Golf R, have more comfort in a Mercedes SL and stay dry in a Porsche, even when it’s raining. But the Morgan? Well, it’s kind of unique in the car market right now.
Caterham and Ariel make equally bonkers cars but the Plus 8 could, feasibly, be used all year round. Okay, so the windscreen is an extra but let’s not split hairs here.
I’m truly, truly going to miss this wonderful like motor car. If you have a heart and can be slightly irrational sometimes, nothing comes close…
Whether or not you ‘get’ the Plus 8 may well depend on whether you are a heart or head person.
The Morgan has a fuel gauge that flicks between 3/4 full and empty at will; the heater throws out waves of warm air whenever it feels like it; the suspension is rock hard, while noise from those quad exhaust pipes is so loud that the music system is pointless.
Despite these facts, ‘heart’ people will swoon over the pure driving experience. It brings out the lunatic in you for a while – then you just settle down to enjoy the rumble of the V8, the majestic overtaking power and, of course, peering down that long, low bonnet.
Not everybody likes the Morgan. It’s too retro, too old-fashioned for some. But there’s something about this car that gets under your skin. You won’t find it in a tick box review in a motoring magazine test but believe me, the experience is overwhelming…
A couple of months back I flew in a Spitfire – the aircraft, not the car. It was a sensory overload with noise, smell and vibration turning my knees to jelly and moistening the eyes.
The road-going version is the Morgan Plus 8. You can even wear goggles and a flying jacket and not look too much of a twat. The perfect antidote for over-branded Harley-Davidson riders who often do.
You don’t drive a Morgan you become part of the machine. It’s a hands on, demanding assault on the senses that few cars can deliver. The Porsche Boxster is probably the best convertible on the market right now but it’s totally sanatised and ‘safe’ in comparison.
You can drink coffee in a Boxster and make phone calls. They’ve even put a music system in for when you get bored of pressing the acoustic exhaust button. The Morgan has a music system too but I guarantee you will never use it (which is possibly why it’s hidden away under the dashboard!).
There’s no boot in the Aero 8, no glovebox and a bonkers heating system that pours hot air onto your lap every time that mighty V8 clicks about 4000rpm. I swear you can smell oil burning sometimes too.
But just like an English summer, which isn’t as hot as the Med and often leaves you caught in a shower of unexpected rain, there’s not other car I’d want to be driving on a windy day in July…