Clarkson on: supercars
The new Audi R8 is very possibly the best car I've ever driven. The way it blends Lamborghini V10 power with everyday buttons, knobs and comfort means that it's a fiery curry that won't break your starfish, a hot day that won't give you skin cancer, a mistress that will kiss but never tell.
Of course, a Bugatti Veyron is a magnificent piece of engineering, which means that on a long straight road you can travel at aircraft speeds in what is no more demanding than a warm bath. But putting it on a track is like putting Stephen Fry in the 110-metre hurdles. All of a sudden, the big brain counts for nothing.
On a track, you would be much better off with a Ferrari Scuderia. But when you drive one of those home afterwards, you quickly tire of the non-stop fidgeting and wriggling. Driving a Scud is like sleeping with someone who has eczema.
The R8 V10 steers a course slap-bang between these two extremes. On a track, it is utterly divine, darting, snouting, aurally visceral. And as crisp as freshly laundered linen. But when you are just going to work it becomes a big TT. Its nose can handle speed bumps. Its radio is good. Its seats are old sofa comfy. And at £100,000, it is cheap compared to the Ferrari and a veritable pound shop compared to the Big Bug.
It is therefore the obvious choice for anyone who can afford such a thing, and whose lifestyle means there's no need for back seats. It is also the obvious choice for those who have no job and two kids. Just raise the money by selling the children to Madonna.
However, I won't be buying an R8 any time soon, and neither should you. Because I've been down the supercar road three times now, with a Ferrari 355, a Lamborghini Gallardo and a Ford GT. And I can assure you it's not lined with girls and jelly. It's mostly a forest of pot holes, expense, frustration, terror and dirty trousers.
This is because, when you are in a supercar, you can resist stabbing the loud pedal for very long periods of time but eventually, you'll think, "Hang on. This bit of road looks appropriate, I'll open the taps." And that's a mistake, because no road is appropriate really for the savagery that results. Quickly, then, you will soil yourself.
You will also have dirty fingernails. Constantly. This is because it is impossible to open the bonnet of any car without getting covered in six litres of used oil and a billion dead flies. And with a supercar, you have to open the bonnet every time you want to put a briefcase, or your shopping, or your hat, in the boot.
Unless of course you have a Lamborghini Jalpa which has a boot in the proper place. But you don't have a Lamborghini Jalpa. No one does.
‘I’ve been down the supercar road three times, and I can assure you it’s not lined with girls and jelly. It’s a forest of pot holes, expense and dirty trousers’
Then there's the business of getting in and out of a supercar. If you are young, this is no problem at all. But if you are young, you will be poor and you will therefore have an X-registered Ford Fiesta. To be wealthy enough to buy, insure and run a low-slung piece of Italian cut-and-thrust, you need to be old. Which means you will not be able to get in without snapping your spine, or out without ending up on your hands and knees.
I can assure you that this is not dignified. Crawling out of a car that's two inches tall, onto a pavement, with dirty fingernails and soiled trousers is a sure-fire way of ensuring that you will go home without the girl.
Not that supercars are what some people might call bird-pullers anyway. The fact is this: when they see a man in a supercar, almost all girls think that he is a) married, b) having a mid-life crisis and c) that he has a penis measurable only with the assistance of a microscope.
Of course, there are some girls who will go for a man with a supercar. They are called gold diggers and, pretty soon, they will sleep with your gardener, take half your money and tell the newspapers what the rest of womanhood knew already: that your penis is not visible to the naked eye and you shit yourself every time you go round a corner.
Supercars, then, are no good for your sex life, unless you are an homosexual, in which case they are excellent. Because every single time you stop in your Zonda or your Murciélago you will be surrounded by a gaggle of swooning men and boys. So if you have one, you will be able to find a mate without making the dreary trip to Brighton. Just remember though, when you have a Ferrari, a threesome is right out. Unless it's a Mondial. In which case a threesome is also right out because you won't have any taste. And therefore no one will like you.
Soon though, you will be killed. This is not because you will drive too quickly and crash into a lorry. Your bowels will let go long before that happens and so you will need to stop at the next services and change. That means you will be in a cubicle wiping your bottom as the lorry you would have hit goes by. And that's fine.
No, you will be killed at the next junction because you will not see the van coming at you from behind your rear pillar until you have the word Transit embedded in your forehead.
The worst offender in this respect is the Ferrari Enzo, with the Ford GT a close second. This is because they are left-hand drive and that means at every roundabout, you can only pull out after rubbing your rosaries and whispering half a dozen Hail Marys. Because, and I'm not making this up, it is impossible to see what's coming. Not difficult. Not awkward. Impossible.
The blind spot in the R8 isn't too bad, it must be said, but it's still big enough to hide the group of girls, pointing at you and wondering, quite loudly, whether you are gay, penistically challenged or whether you've filled your pants yet.
Supercars have a huge allure. Their beauty. Those massive engines. The sense that you will never want for anything else, ever again. That you are stuck in a pantomime and life is just one big bag of sweeties and laughter. You dream of an Alpine road, and of dropping down a cog in the tunnels to amplify the noise still further. It's a lovely dream to have and it's why I'm a sucker for the breed. It's why I bought the Lambo 10 minutes after I sold the Ford and said, "Never again". And it's why, now, 10 minutes after I sold the Lambo and said, "Never again" again, I'm looking at the R8 with a cocked eyebrow and a head full of possibilities.
The fact is, though, that there's never a right time in anyone's life for such a thing. They are like a boned pigeon. Wonderful in your dreams and on your holidays, but fiddly and difficult when it's Thursday lunchtime and you just want something to eat.
And don't forget, in a pantomime, you never see what's behind you.
Have that dream by all means. But when it comes to the car you actually buy, the engine should be at the front, the boot should be at the back and in the middle there should be as many seats as possible. It should be as economical as possible, it should be invisible to vandals, cheap to repair, unattractive to thieves and able to enter a roundabout without killing you in the process. This then is my advice. Cut out a picture of the R8 and put it on your wall. Then buy a Golf.