"Dude, it’s like I’m driving an A4. It’s so easy! But when you get out and look back at the car, that’s when you realize...wow!”
Yet once I was alone with the car later that day, with Drive Select in the most aggressive Dynamic setting, I found myself charging up to the V10’s 8,500rpm redline, gaining speed with a ferocity that can make you feel more like a passenger than a driver. That the Audi R8 can change its persona so dramatically—genteel Dr. Jekyll one moment, feral Mr. Hyde the next—is truly its party piece.
That’s what makes modern supercars like this so compelling. Gone are the days when owning one meant having to live with compromises, trading usability for excitement.
Any bona fide gearhead knows the V10 from the old model was borrowed from the Lamborghini Gallardo. This new R8’s relationship to the Huracan—the Gallardo’s successor—is even closer: The cars not only share the same engine, but are also based on the same hybrid aluminum-carbon-fiber chassis. But the headline is that the mighty V10 is finally fully uncorked. The R8 gets the same 610 galloping horses as its pricier Italian cousin.
Acceleration is savage, that normally aspirated V10 popping and crackling on the overrun and delivering one of the most exhilarating hits of octane-laced adrenaline money can buy. It is an experience owners aren’t likely to tire of, long after the ‘new-car smell’ has worn off.
It retains all the user-friendliness of the original R8, too. Visibility is great for a mid-engined car, and when your rearward view is limited while parking, you can lean on Audi’s excellent reversing camera and proximity sensors. User-configurable drive modes became vogue about a decade ago, when Sport buttons began to appear on many performance cars, but Audi has taken this to the extreme in the R8.
Steering, exhaust, suspension and transmission can be individually set in Comfort, Dynamic or Auto (which adjusts on the fly, depending on what the car thinks you’re doing).
This isn’t a gimmick, either. Putting those MagneRide dampers in Comfort, for instance, produces a noticeably softer ride. The same setting for steering allows for easy one-hand operation of the wheel. And in its relaxed mode, the dual-clutch tranny delivers butter-smooth gear changes while short-shifting to keep engine revs—and therefore NVH—to an absolute minimum. Pressing the checkered-flag button on the steering wheel turns everything up to maximum-attack mode, unleashing the terrifying beast.
It may have less room in the front luggage compartment (a penalty of the Quattro drivetrain) than the McLaren, but the Audi is easier and more pleasant to drive on a daily basis than any of its competitors. In fact, it only loses points for absolute practicality to the 911 Turbo. This car makes a compelling case for being the all-around, everyday supercar.
SPECS: AUDI R8 V10 PLUS
Price: P17,800,000 (est.)
Engine: 5.2-liter DOHC V10
Power: 610hp @ 8,250rpm
Torque: 560Nm @ 6,500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
UP NEXT: McLaren 570S
The average person with only a passing interest in cars has probably never heard of McLaren. This isn’t surprising, because even if the iconic McLaren F1 released 25 years ago is largely regarded as the greatest supercar ever made, the British carmaker has only really been in the business of selling cars since 2011.
The 570S is part of its entry-level Sports Series. It is not just the ‘affordable’ McLaren—it is also meant to be usable on a daily basis, and therefore has the R8 clearly in its crosshairs.
If McLaren had a Philippine presence, the 570S should be at least 10% more expensive than the R8, depending on options. But don’t think ‘entry-level’ equals ‘poverty-spec,’ because the car gets a very similar carbon-fiber monocoque and 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 found in the limited—and ultra-expensive—675LT and P1.
Conservatively rated at 570hp, the 570S gives away 40 ponies to the R8 in the power stakes. Being turbocharged, though, it enjoys a meatier torque curve: 600Nm is available earlier at 5,000rpm, versus the R8’s 560Nm at 6,500rpm. Throw in a weight advantage of over 200kg thanks largely to that all-carbon tub and a simpler rear-wheel drivetrain, and it is the British car that ends up ahead not just in the power-to-weight arithmetic, but also in a straight line.
Then there are those ‘dihedral doors.’ While the Audi is no generic-looking machine, next to the McLaren’s taught, muscular bodywork and otherworldly styling, it begins to struggle for attention. And once those dihedral doors gracefully swing up and out, like some giant alien robotic beetle spreading its wings, it’s game over for the German.
They do come at a price. Getting in and out of the 570S is awkward at best, and downright clumsy at worst. It emphasizes a theme that becomes obvious once you’ve spent a little time with the car: The 570S is nowhere near as user-friendly as the R8.
It’s sometimes in the littlest things that you realize this. The Audi is as easy to jump into and maneuver as a garden-variety Japanese sedan. Which doesn’t mean that the McLaren is hard to drive. The steering, though, is just that bit heavier, the transmission isn’t as immediately intuitive (it’s operated via buttons on the center console), and the graphics on the reversing camera are low-res and less informative.
But it is the Brit that is the more athletic of the two. Power is never a panacea for weight, and driving the 570S back to back with the R8 proves this. The McLaren feels lighter on its toes, more eager to change direction; it shrinks around you and makes you feel at one with it. Sure, there’s noticeable turbo lag at lower revs, and its transmission isn’t as scalpel-sharp as the Audi’s. But keep the motor in its sweet spot and the entire package comes together with a cohesion the Audi simply cannot touch.
The McLaren is nimbler, but its rear-wheel drivetrain demands more of the driver.
SPECS: MCLAREN 570S
Price: sub-P20,000,000 (est.)
Engine: 3.8-liter DOHC V8
Power: 562hp @ 7,400rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 5,000-6,500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch
UP NEXT: The verdict
The Audi R8 and the McLaren 570S are both fantastic cars, and anyone having to choose between the two is in an utterly enviable position.
Both fulfill their briefs as performance cars and daily drivers (that guarantee the best parking spot outside the club) incredibly well. The difference, however, is in their emphases. The 570S is made by racing engineers that have thought long and hard about how to make a racing car usable every day, while the R8 is made by people who make everyday cars as their bread and butter, but still know a thing or two about injecting some motorsports DNA into their range topper.
The rational, more sensible choice, of course, is the Audi. It is Betty to the McLaren’s Veronica—the pretty, well-rounded girl whom you take home to meet the family, yet who still knows how to let her hair down and party. But one doesn’t really buy a ridiculously expensive supercar to be sensible and practical. And the reality in the Philippines is, you’re not going to take your 600hp toy on the daily commute to work, even if you could. You buy such a car to feel alive: on track, or on a favorite stretch of empty road early on a weekend morning.
For that hot night out on the town, it’s Veronica you want. She may throw the occasional tantrum and that miniskirt is sure to raise your mother’s eyebrow, but boy, those Saturday nights are going to be memorable. It’s a tough choice to make, no doubt.