ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED and forty-eight pounds. That’ s the difference in price in the UK between the brand new TT RS and an eight-year-old Ice Silver R8 – the new car being the more expensive. It was a figure tempting enough to send the entire evo editorial team into a fit of finance calculations and ill-informed man-maths. One by one, of course, we all realised that the meagre salary of a journalist just doesn’t cut it in the mid-engined supercar world, but the point had been made. Not one of us gave a moment’s thought to TT RS repayments. The R8 in question was an Audi Approved car with a year’s warranty. Crucially, this early V8 model had a manual ’box and just 40,000 kilometres behind it, meaning the only thing missing was ‘new-car smell’, but I’m told you can buy that in a bottle.
The arrow-straight and heavily patrolled roads around Las Vegas were not the perfect setting for Richard Meaden to make his first acquaintance with Audi’s then-new baby supercar back in 2007 but they revealed enough about it for Dickie to conclude that the R8’s ‘dynamic ability and mouthwatering desirability’ would be enough to rattle Porsche. And this was the era when the 911 couldn’t lose a group test if it turned up with two leaky dampers and a missing brake caliper.
A couple of months later, now on the Cote d’Azur, the R8 saw off a perfectly fit 911 Cairera – as well as an Aston Martin V8 Vantage and a BMW M6 – in a comparison test that upended the sports coupe sector after decades of predictable stability. The R8 was that good. It still is, of course, and in Britain is enough to buy an exceptionally tidy and very well looked after example. What made the R8 exceptional back then and keeps it so damn tempting now is its sweet chassis balance, crisp and intuitive steering, Lotus-like fluidity over tricky road surfaces, the dick-dack of the open-gated manual ’box and, not least, the stirring soundtrack and immediate response of that 4.2-litre V8.
The sports car to supercar power-output latency seems to be around ten years, because the new TT RS gets dangerously close to matching an early R8 in the horsepower stakes. With 420hp the older car still outguns the 400hp upstart, but the margin is pretty small and, given the TTs swollen turbocharged torque and rapid-fire twin-clutch gearbox, the difference in straight-line performance will be minimal in the real world.
In every other dynamic sense, though, the R8 is streets ahead of the TT RS, good as the new car is. Yes, the R8’s infotainment system looks hopelessly dated compared with the TT’s sci-fi Virtual Cockpit – it was designed at a time when Trump’s presidency was nothing more than a far-fetched gag on The Simpsons – and servicing costs will be rather less palatable on the supercar, but it’s an easy one to call, isn’t it? Probably worth checking out those finance calculators one last time…