Somewhere online I read that you can fix a broken record with a toothpick. Obviously if you’re looking at a record that is so broken that it has the ability to be in several different rooms at the same time then it’s probably beyond help.
However, if it’s just skipping and repeating the same same same same section, then the toothpick technique might work on the afflicted groove. I would explain it in more detail here, but this is meant to be a car review, so you’ll have to look it up.
Why was I investigating methods of fixing broken records? Well, because I’m getting bored of hearing myself think ‘I wish this came with a manual gearbox. Of course, in the case of the R8 it’s not just any old manual ‘box that I’m missing, but that delicious open-gated, knurled-knobbed, clack-clacking six-speeder that graced the previous generation of Audi’s super sports car. It really was a particularly special gearbox.
I’m sure the same Luddite thought crossed my mind when I drove the Plus version of this car for the first time, but it seems more nagging here. Perhaps it’s the fact that with 69bhp and 151b ft less, the standard R8 V10 doesn’t have quite the rabid edge to its acceleration that the Plus does.
Some cars are simply so fast now that a paddleshift seems like the only sensible option, but in this 533bhp R8 I feel as though a manual might not seem like such a hindrance to progress. Or it could be that with simple passive dampers rather than the adjustable MagneRide setup, steel brakes rather than carbon ceramics, and standard rather than Dynamic steering, this feels like a beautifully back-to-basics car that deserves to go the whole hog and have three pedals in the driver’s footwell.
Pushing all such thoughts to the side for a moment, the non-Plus R8 V10 is a very lovely car. The standard seats are comfortable yet supportive and the low, wide view out is both thrilling and liberating in the way it seems to put you right in the nose of the car as you skim down the road. The fixed-rate dampers strike a perfect balance between making the R8 useable every day and keeping everything under control when the pace increases.
There is actually a surprising length to the travel, which gives the car real grace and composure when you’re pushing hard down a bumpy road. Combined with phenomenal grip, it allows you to attack B-roads with something approaching the abandon you would in a hot hatch, although the R8’s demeanour errs towards secure rather than playfully adjustable.
With the standard steering rack in place the ratio is locked at 15.7:1. This is somewhat slower than the optional Dynamic rack (which varies the ratio and assistance dependant on speed) and it feels it on the road, with the nose not snapping into corners in quite such a darty fashion. However, it feels easier to place and calmer to drive, more like the previous generation of R8, which is no bad thing.
For all my open-gated desires, the dual-clutch paddleshift ‘box is also superb. I don’t like the little plastic paddles but the shifts they summon arrive as fast as you can move your finger and so smoothly that they never unsettle the car. It’s hard to imagine them being bettered in any road or race car.
Some basic interiors (notably the McLaren 540C’s) can feel rather bland and cold, but wreathed in black leather the Audi’s architecture looks crisply cool. Add in the Virtual Cockpit display that slickly combines dials and infotainment on one TFT screen and it’s a great place to spend time.
The £1800 sports exhaust would seem like a very good box to tick. It’s not antisocially loud, it merely sounds how you would expect an R8 to, making the best of that V10, which starts pulling hard around 3500rpm then kicks again at 6500rpm and sounds gloriously angry until it hits the limiter 2000rpm later.
I’m sure most R8 buyers will spend the extra £15k on the Plus, but there’s a strong case for this being more than enough. There are rumours that there might yet be an R8 below this. An R8 Minus, if you will. The current thinking seems to be that it would get the turbocharged V6 found in the current S4 (and likely to be in the new RS4 when it arrives).
This of course would give me a chance to bemoan a lack of natural aspiration. Incidentally, I tried using a toothpick on myself, but it didn’t work. I just ended up putting a blob of Blu-Tack on the end of it so that it looked like a gearstick.
Audi R8 V10