Cult Cars 1: Audi R8

QUITE why the sheer brilliance of the Audi R8 took the world by such surprise is a mystery. We should have saw it coming. For years the four-ringed marque had been steadily clawing its way up the corporate car park, stealing sales from German rivals Mercedes and BMW.

Then, last year, they hit us with the ultimate: a supercar to take the fight to its other major competitior – Porsche. A few years ago the thought of an Audi seriously challenging the dominance of the 911 would have had dealers chuckling into the coffee. But not any more.

A succession of road test victories in all the major motoring magazines, an order book that stretches years, not months, into the future and a car hailed as one of the all time greats has catapulted the R8 into the stratosphere of success.

So what’s its secret? Usability. This is a car you can get in and drive every day, yet if you really want to leave you brain at home it can play with the big boys. Many describe the Audi as a grown-up TT, and they’re right. It is just as simple to drive as its sporty little brother yet this one’s got a mid-mounted 4.2-litre V8 tucked behind the rear seats.

And boy what an engine it is. The FSI unit pumps out a fearsome 420bhp and 430Nm of torque propelling the silver bullet to 60mph in under five seconds. And the noise that accompanies the blistering pace is worth every one of those £82,000 pounds (and that’s before you add extras).

Inside it’s as comfortable as any one of Audi’s superb saloons. Granted, the driving position might be a bit more extreme, but it’s in no way uncomfortable and the controls for all the kit are sensibly placed. The open gate manual gearbox is a pleasure to use – making that satisfying click as you swap cogs – or you could go for the paddle-shift auto. We prefer the manual and chances are so will those future classic car hunters.

Talking of future classic status, the R8 has such a cult following already it’s hard to believe the car could become anything less. Add in the fact the sportscar is inspired by Audi’s dominating Le Mans 24 Heures racers and you’ve got the all-important motorsport connection too.

What really makes the R8 special is the sense of occasion it creates. Ok, so those LED lights that wrap around the front headlamps might not be that uncommon in the future, but for now they’re the most eye-catching thing on the road, and that bold side slab of grey on the flanks is truly a bold design statement.

Demand is understandably high and shows no signs of diminishing. Chances are, if you do get hold of an R8 you’ll be paying a premium for it. And that’s undoubtedly a premium worth paying if you’re in the market for a future classic.

by James Baggott

Audi R8

Price: £82,025

Engine: 4.2-litre, V8 FSI

Power: 420bhp, 430Nm

0-60mph: 4.6s

Max: 187mph

Now get one with Bridford:

Option one: £15,000 deposit, 24 x £449 per month, final payment

Option two: £7,500 deposit, 48 x £999 per month, final payment

And we’ll leave you with this – the best car ad ever. Fact…

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