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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Like the current V10 monster, the original R8 was hardly a four-wheeled Justin Bieber, all bratty and disobedient. The visibility is sensational for a mid-engined car. The driving position’s pretty sorted – it’d be nice to sit a bit lower, but you could say the same of the new car.

It starts with a quaint twist of a key, and having let the fine needles sweep around the dial, settles into a whispering idle once the oil’s warm. Watch the temperature gauges settle on the handsome dials – remember when Audis had actual clockfaces, not a giant virtual cockpit screen?

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Pop the clutch down. It’s no heavier than a hatchback’s. Pootle away. This car’s hardly an elderly classic, but it feels noticeably smaller on the road than its grandkid, and the more modest wheels and tyres mean it rides more quietly. For all of the new R8’s trick magnetic-adaptive dampers, just fitting sensible rims and doing a good job with the set-up never went out of fashion.

Twenty minutes later, I’m going quicker in the V8, but I’m struggling with it. Takes me a while to work out what I’m doing wrong, but it dawns on my that I’m driving it like the current R8, hyper-actively.

In the V10, like in most modern supercars, the gearchanges are instant, the steering is superfast, the engine spits out power faster than your brain can quantify it, and you end up with the body language of an MMA fighter, jaggedly stabbing the car down the road, hoovering up corners before chasing down the next one, battering a hole in the horizon and bullying time out of the way.

That’s not the approach for the ‘old’ R8. Take your time. Luxuriate in the mechanical perfection of the narrow-gate gearshift, and let the just-so springing and weight of the solid metal components pull the lever around the gate. Don’t prod the throttle to help send the gear home, just tickle it with your little toenail, or you’ll thwack the V8 into its 8,500rpm redline. Relax. Don’t rush it. Everything in moderation.

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Because – deep breath, internet flameproof suit on – it’s not really a supercar, the R8 V8. Sure, it’s got the ingredients, of an engine in the middle and a window to view it through, but it’s on the fringes of what makes a supercar silly and special.

Just like the original Honda NSX was, really. This thing’s a rival for base Porsche 911s, or the old V10 BMW M6. It’s a sports car. A very Audi one, complete with its lovely knurled metal switchgear and serious, clinical character.

And in fairness, it’s not exactly slow off the mark. If you can shift cleanly enough, it’ll romp from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds – slower than the outgoing Audi RS3 hot hatch sure, but this is twenty times more entertaining on the way. Off to Germany for your holidays? Take the R8 and it’ll saunter up to 187mph. Seriously, you won’t miss any performance here. Fast in moderation is the new fast. Trust us.

Variants We Have Tested

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