Control. That’s what this R8 is all about – control of your emotional reactions, control of traction, poise, efficacy, efficiency, attention to detail.
On the one hand that’s great. You can roll out the cliché about an ‘everyday supercar’ and it actually means something. In all the miles I did in the V10 I didn’t feel uncomfortable, didn’t feel like I had to plan for ages in advance about what route I should take, or what I should wear. Jump in. Fire it up. Go. Job done.
Suppression of road noise makes the car feel civilised, the V10 engine pulls so effortlessly and cleanly from low revs (although it doesn’t sound quite as edgy as the V8 R8) that even with the manual gearbox journeys are just effortless torque trips.
But sometimes – just sometimes – it means the R8 lacks a bit of energy. It doesn’t really know how to completely let loose on the open road. It can be done: the Porsche still does all the sensible stuff right, like having a sat nav that’s easy to operate, and cupholders, and it still manages to get your blood flowing more over a twisty route.
I mainly blame the R8’s steering. It’s precise, linear and predictable but does that typical Volkswagen Group-thing of ironing out the last levels of feedback that make the GT3 so much more involving. Blame the Audi’s front diff and quattro for that. The R8 will flatter you more but it’s lacking an edge, that finger-tip feel.
But then we get to Dunsfold. And all of a sudden an entirely new side to the R8 is revealed. The steering still borders on the safe side, but the chassis is a revelation. There’s so much grip through the corners, and the whole car is fantastically neutral. Speed is effortless. And it’s great fun. At long last, the R8 really starts to come alive.
Get on the power too early and the back end will slide around, but not in a snatchy, oh-dear-this-could-be-expensive-way. Controlled, predictable. Fun.
I’d argue there isn’t a single car here that’s easier to drive instantly quickly. Others would have got there with time and practice, but for the first lap out, the R8 was it. Instant control.
Read the Aston Martin V12 Vantage blog.
Read the KTM X-Bow blog.
Read the Ferrari 599 HGTE blog.
Read the Porsche 911 GT3 blog.