I’ll tell you what’s sad about driving in the 21st century – the opportunities to actually enjoy a high performance car like the R8 Spyder are few and far between.
It’s Monday and I’ve just hacked 95 miles back from the Peak District in the Audi. I know what the engine can do, I’ve experienced the quattro handling before.
Yet I might as well have been in a Ford Focus. Seriously, there was NOWHERE I could give that V10 a prod. I’m starting to realise that I was lucky to have learnt to drive in the 1980s.
Which then makes me wonder, what is the point of fabulous cars like this? Where can we enjoy a McLaren, a Lamborghini, or even a lowly Mini Cooper S for that matter?
Soon, all our highways will be ‘smart’ roads and the fun will be gone for good. Enjoy it while you can, people…
It’s that time of year when a gentleman’s thoughts turn to a pretty little convertible. You know the kind of thing – leather seats, lashings of power and a jolly loud exhaust.
Well, the R8 Spyder has all of those and more. Hurrah! I hear you say. And indeed you would be right. Except this particular Audi is a thoroughly modern monster that won’t take kindly to any thoughts by you of lifting the engine cover.
This a car absolutely loaded with technology. From the ten-cylinder engine squeezed in behind the driver’s head, to the virtual dashboard that feeds info on everything.
And I mean everything. There’s no centre infotainment screen you see, so getting the steering wheel adjustment just right is crucial, especially if you need to follow the sat nav.
Fortunately, there are no silly indicator switches on the steering wheel, like the Lamborghini – and the exhaust is only mad loud when you slip into sport mode.
I loved the R8 last time I drove it – I’m looking forward to another romance this week…
Infotainment screens – millions of them. Ugly, flat devices that destroy the aesthetics of any car interior. Most are as unattractive as any flat screen TV.
Now it seems to me that some car manufacturers think displaying a large screen is a status symbol. Mercedes being a very good case in point in last week’s AMG GT S.
So what joy to discover the SQ7 system disappears without fuss into the to of the dash when not needed. The operation is kind of cool too – glides down silently at the tap of a button.
Which is why for my money, the Audi dash is so much better than anything else coming out of Germany right now…
So what have I learned over the weekend about the SQ7? Well, it’s one of those cars that is so smooth and quiet, you could easily gain a point or three.
There’s no fuss about the performance, no acoustic exhaust button or fancy spoiler. It’s not pretty but for moving seven people in a hurry, this is some machine.
There are different drive settings. Economy is quick enough but dynamic really ups the revs and gives this big Audi a serious turn of speed.
The steering is light, which means bundling fast into a corner could make lesser cars come unstuck. Not the SQ7 – it grips like a Golf GTI.
And there’s a subdued grumble from the four tailpipes – so refreshing after the rather manufactured roar of many rivals.
I don’t have seven people to move around, or need a car this big. But I could find a reason if it meant keeping the SQ7…
Technology was never my strong point. Once, I almost blew up the science lab at school. I’m still struggling with the three remote controls that make my television work.
So trying to get my head around ‘forced induction’ was never going to be easy.
As far as I can work out, that means the SQ7 has something more than the standard twin turbochargers fitted to most high performance cars these days.
Somewhere down in the depths of that engine is a system called EPC, or electric powered compressor. It completely eliminates turbo lag – that split second in a turbo car when you press the accelerator and nothing happens.
In the youth of my driving career, turbo lag was an absolute pain. It still happens in many modern cars but nowhere near as bad.
Audi has solved the problem in the SQ7 – albeit with technology I will never understand. It’s brilliant but beyond my Grade U maths brain.
What it does mean is that I can pull out during overtaking without fear of being mushed. Which has to be a good thing…
First things first, the SQ7 is fast, mighty fast. That’s extra surprising because it’s so damn quiet, even at motorway speeds. It’s like a cut-price, souped up Range Rover, only not as cute.
Scratch the surface though and there is plenty of technology packed inside. The engine management system borrows from F1 and you even opt for adaptive anti-roll bars on the chassis.
The SQ7 can still lean into a corner but chances are, you will lose your nerve before it does. Anyone in the back row of seats will likely throw up too.
I can report that on a drive back from London this morning, I averaged 38mpg. That’s fairly astounding considering how large and powerful the SQ7 is…
I recently stayed at the Peninsula Hotel in Paris. One of the city’s finest places to book a room, it is famous for a long list of famous guests. George Gershwin composed An American In Paris there – the Vietnam peace accord was signed on the bar.
It also has some of the best loos in the world. I mean, these toilets are seriously high tech. Heated seats, multi-directional ‘wooshing’ jets and piped music to save your blushes.
The RS 7 is a pretty fine place to sit too. Multi-adjustable, heated and with a plethora of lumber supports, the quilted leather is very cool indeed.
They are certainly in Bentley territory – although I can’t find a messaging function. AAnd no heated steering wheel? There are so many functions on the wheel it’s sometimes difficult to find everything in a week (and I refuse to use the manual)…
So why do you need to pay an extra £6,500 for the Performance version of the RS7? Well, it ramps up power by another 44bhp and adds another helping of torque too.
All splendid stuff for racing down a German autobahn but I’m still struggling to understand who would pay this much for a super coupe when there are all kinds of alternatives for around £100,000.
I can’t deny the thrill of driving a car like the Audi but even with 21-inch alloys, a sports exhaust system, privacy glass and blue stitiching on the sport seats, erm, it still looks like a A7 doesn’t it?
And most of all, it’s a difficult car to connect with. There’s very little feel through the steering and countless driving aids remove the sense of thrill.
Except in a straight line with your foot to the floor. And there are only so many times you can impress the missus doing that…
I may not be in love with the jelly mould styling of the RS7 but there’s lots to like about the performance.
The Audi is the original wolf in sheep’s clothing. It does start with a bit of a growl from those two enormous tailpipes but otherwise, there’s very little to suggest how rapid the RS is.
And it is very quick. 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds officially – although it does feel quicker and considerably more refined than the 2.7 second Nissan GT-R.
And whereas the Nissan screams performance, this RS only hints at it. I wonder if that will bother some drivers who might prefer a more overt display of hairy-chestedness?
Me, I like understated – even if the RS 7 styling leaves me totally cold…
Inside the RS7 is a gorgeous place to sit. It’s refined from the quilted leather seats to the plush headlining – even the infotainment screen glides away neatly into the dashboard.
All good then? Perhaps not. The stretched coupe styling of the RS7 may be streamlined and muscular but to me it looks pretty dated these days.
The very nature of a four-door coupe means it has to be long and low but compared to BMW’s beautiful 6, the Audi is woefully average in profile.
I parked it next to a A7 TDI today and there was very little to set the £100k RS apart from its lesser sibling.
And if I was paying that much for a car it would have be a little bit more special…