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This is a car to cherish. A dinosaur whose days are numbered.
Even before electrification becomes the norm for performance machinery, the large-capacity, multi-cylinder, naturally aspirated mid-engined supercar is already an endangered species, rapidly being overtaken by a turbocharged and hybridised near future.
This feels like a last hurrah. Perhaps that’s why its engine – a quad-cam, 40-valve, direct-injected 5.2-litre V10 – is so celebrated, sitting in state beneath a glass panel, its sculpted plenum chambers illuminated by LEDs with the R8’s taut shape seemingly stretched tightly around it.
Yet its artistry is far more than visual: flick that left-hand paddle a couple of times, let it rip out to 8500rpm and it sounds fantastic, a symphonic mechanical thrash that melds the guttural nature of a V8 with the shriek of early 2000s F1.
It’s utterly addictive. So it’s a bit of a shame you have to work so hard to hear it.
This is, after all, a car designed to be the final rung on the Audi latter, teetering a perilous height above the A4 2.0 TDi that got its owners started in the distant past.
As a result, it has to reflect Audi’s brand values: the cabin finish is beautiful, the motorway refinement remarkable, the damping superb apart from the occasional pogo around town.
For all its supercar ability, this is a comfortable, relaxed mile-eater that will return mpg in the early 20s if you’re not being too silly (or single figures if you are).
Memories of that posh Passat relation are soon dispatched on a decent road.
The electromechanical steering is lovely yet inert, the grip and balance peerless in the dry, when there’s just a hint of understeer on a trailing throttle, but push harder and it simply bites and goes.
In the wet, however, you need to remember the laws of physics, and that little ‘RWD’ badge on the dash serves as a constant reminder that this particular R8 does without Audi’s most famed technical advancement in the name of excitement.
It’s pleasingly small – multi-storeys are still a bit scary, but a supermarket car park holds no fears – and feels the perfect blend of silly and sensible, even if it does attract an awful lot of unwanted attention in yellow.
It’s shatteringly quick and toweringly capable, yet also docile, biddable and refined.
It’s hard to find a chink in that crisply tailored armour, but some would argue that for a supercar it’s a little sterile: not unruly or recalcitrant enough to cement its case as a bona fide future classic.
A bit too… well… Audi.
But what employer ever fired a member of his or her team for being too good at their job?
Those are the people you cherish, you nurture, and you reap the rewards.
Images: Will Williams
- Engine qohc 5204cc V10; 533bhp; 398lb ft
- Transmission seven-speed automatic, RWD
- 0-62mph 3.7 secs
- Top speed 201.3mph
- Mpg 22.2
- Price £115,185