Analogies aside, I’m talking about the Audi R8.
I had the esteemed pleasure of driving one recently, and not just any R8 but the V10 Plus version. It wasn’t until I stepped back from the beast of a car that I realized, quite suddenly, that in the near-7 years since its launch it has barely changed an ounce. Park a 2014 Audi R8 V10 next to a 2008 Audi R8 V10 and you’d not spot a difference, besides the headlights … which you’d really have to scrutinize to spot.
What am I getting at here? That the Audi R8 is an ugly car in desperate need of a redesign? Hardly. While I do think it’s going to have to step it up and offer up a new look sooner rather than later, what I’m getting at is the fact that it arrived to the game late and still garnered quite a following, despite a hefty price tag and barely any “supercar” history to speak of.
I know, I know; Audi and Le Mans. However, their Audi R8 race car wasn’t introduced until 2000. That wasn’t terribly long ago.
On the flip side: Porsche has been building the 911 for 50 years. Fifty. Years. The Porsche 911 isn’t just a historical masterpiece it’s a lesson in supercar evolution and development. For those 50 years Porsche has perfected the art of a balanced, fun-to-drive, rear-wheel drive apex-killer.
So, if Porsche want to ask me to pay $206,600 for their Turbo S variant, I’ll happily write the cheque (in my wildest, richest dreams, of course). However, when Audi comes along and asks the same price for a vehicle that’s been on the road less than a decade, I can’t help but feel a little hesitation.
It’s not that the Audi R8 is a bad car, and I can’t stress that enough. What makes it able to “play ball” with the big boys (i.e., Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar); the stalwarts who’ve been in the business for decades and truly know the fine art of a sports car?
There’s the whole subject of quality, of course; Audi charges what it does because of the quality of materials used, craftsmanship, technology, etc. Is that really a good enough justification, though? A bare-bones Porsche Cayman (a quarter of the cost of the R8) might actually offer more thrills on and off the track and is just as well-built. And why? Because that’s what Porsche does; builds track-ready street-cars.
Audi is in the business of all-wheel drive luxury vehicles. Not supercars. Again, the R8 is a fabulous car to drive, and I enjoyed every moment behind the wheel, but as ballsy as it is to throw a V10 in the back of a 1,635kg vehicle it’s just as brash to ask the public to pay over $200k for it.
Like the nouveau riche, the Audi R8 is trying to fit into the social club and often ends up sticking out like a sore thumb for a vulgar word or two or an inappropriately used utensil and elbows on table during high tea.
|Photo: Lesley Wimbush|