Popped out for breakfast, ended up in Wales.
Recognising an ability to indulge in truly spontaneous activity is genuinely thrilling for me. It reassures me that I’ve got hot blood in my veins and a passion that has yet to be dampened.
I’ll admit though that I did leave my house this Sunday morning with a bit of a plan. By the time I’d met some friends at Aylesbury for a breakfast meet, I had already changed my mind given the weather was scorchingly hot and it was a Bank Holiday weekend – I just knew the roads would be a mess.
Come 11am though and once people started to disperse, I started to convince myself that maybe it wasn’t a bad idea after all. I’ve been desperate for a road trip in the R8 since I bought the car last year and I’d at least come to terms with the fact that organising these things was fast becoming an impossibility. I seem to be the only person amongst a close circle of friends who actually wants to do these road trips.
So, instead of turning left out The Akeman Inn in Aylesbury, I turned right. I know the road from my motorbiking days where I used to go to OnyerBike in Aylesbury for a dirty van burger. The B4011 that runs from the A40 to Thame is one of the local greats. It’s fast, varied, well sighted and often empty. On a motorbike, the road allows for enthusiastic riding with fast sweeping bends mixed with the odd chicane and long, 60MPH roads connecting them all.
The R8 is a big car and most of the UK is fine for a motorbike, borderline accessible to a GT3, but perilously tight for a car as wide as the R8. As a result, the R8 has to repay you back with a level of precision and balance that should provide accurate and confident handling. It’s a daunting car, with big, wide shoulders, massive wheels wrapped around thick rubber and the big, 5.2 lump sat behind you (I had to rebuild my garage doors to get the car in). You can’t help but hold your breath ever so slightly every time you go past traffic.
It’s a daunting car, with big, wide shoulders, massive wheels wrapped around thick rubber and the big, 5.2 lump sat behind you.
But despite this girth the car is surprisingly lithe and nimble. Turn in is measured and accurate, with massive amounts of grip that first lean into slight understeer, provoking the 600BHP engine to make the rear tyres squirm a little, finally catapulting the car out of any apex with the prodigious force of that relentless, screaming, epic V10 engine that is the heart and soul of this car. Such is the extent of the engine that the choice of gear used isn’t one of necessity, but of your mood. There’s enough torque and traction on the car to simply rely on low end grunt. But with revs that sing all the way to 8250rpm, why would you want to? (7mpg is one reason, but let’s not dwell on that).
The 7 speed twin clutch unit is super fast and super slick – it’s a genuine rival to Porsches PDK. And this is one of the key areas of difference between Porsches and this Audi. The 911 has evolved into one of the most efficient, Germanic, purified cars on the market. It has a sense of uncompromising perfection that reverbs from throttle response to door shuts. In stark contrast, the Audi has chosen to forgo some of the efficiency of operation in favour of grandiose drama. That engine is so perfectly mated with that gearbox, they are clearly an awful influence on each other but this poetic instability is the key to the success.
Every downshift and overrun is berated back to you with angry backfires, throttle blips and V10 operatic. You become so compelled to utilise the end to end breadth of dynamic performance available that you find yourself enjoying every gear shift and every throttle adjustment. Conversely, the B4011 doesn’t need attacking at 10/10ths. The Audi gives 90% of the thrills at 60% of the effort.
Every downshift and overrun is berated back to you with angry backfires, throttle blips and V10 operatic
By the time I get to Thame, my ears are buzzing – my window has been down as the weather is beautiful and this car is NOISY! I’m scouting my sat nav for the next target location and it’s these leap frog journeys that keep me occupied in a roughly north west position that finds me driving through Thame, Banbury, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Ross-on-Wye, Monmouth, Newport and finally a ridiculously cute little farm called Heol Senni in Brecon.
It’s a phenomenal car the R8 – probably one of the best I’ve ever owned. The undiluted, adult fun you can extract out of this car is limitless – you simply cannot ever get used to that engine. It’s riotously powerful and positively rude making it not only an immensely fun car to drive as a selfish tool, but also as a dramatic weapon of showmanship.
Everyone loves this car. I’m certain there a number of contributing factors that contribute to the appeal. Firstly, it’s an Audi. Instant loss of any snob factor; it’s an underdog and the people’s hero – they’ll get behind you on that one. Add to that the fabulously flamboyant colour scheme which is attracting attention from all walks of life and you’re receiving a constant stream of complimentary comments, even if you’d kicked sand in their face only 5 minutes ago.
I arrived in Heol Senni, 300 miles later, parked up beside a field with black sheep which seemed fitting for such a brutal car in the most serene of locations. It was a moment of mindfull, abject bliss with the utter silence of the air broken occasionally only by the bleating of sheep. Having endured 5 hours of torturous 8200 rpm, listening to the gentle pinking of my engine behind me as I leaned on the farmers fence with freshly cut grass penetrating an otherwise battered set of fragrances drifting from the car, I was reminded in that brief 20 minutes of calm as to why we do these things.
It was a moment of mindfull, abject bliss
This balance is echoed in the R8. I now had an 8pm cinema date to catch and my sat nav was gently reminding me to get a move on. And with Comfort mode on, full auto gearbox and the incredible in-car hifi playing a carefully cultivated playlist (no seriously, the B&O sound system is the best I’ve ever heard in any car), I enjoyed a peaceful journey back to south England in relative, luxury comfort.
Three tanks of (expensive £90) fuel and 500 miles later, I arrived back exhausted with that faint, slightly unsettling feeling that I’d not yet had enough.