We fall in love with the Audi R8 V10
It's not every day that you emerge from the office clutching the keys to a bona fide supercar, so when the opportunity arises you savour every moment.
Few cars look good in every situation, but the Audi R8 doesn't disappoint even under the murky light of Autoblog's underground car park. The car had already passed through several other hands and was mired in London's wintery grime, but the the visual impact of R8 cannot be obscured by dirt, and there's no hiding the V10 badge on its flank.
If there's a perfect time to fire up that 518bhp 5.2-litre ten-cylinder engine, it's when you're cocooned in the concrete bowels of a basement car park. The R8 barks into life with the kind of harsh metallic rhythm that you feel through the base of your spine.
The six-speed manual slides through its aluminium gate with surprising ease, but there's an ominous weight languishing at the base of the stick – fail to work the R8's gearbox with a smooth, muscular stroke and the clutch will howl at your ham fistery.
Otherwise, the car is admirably easy to drive. Piloting £100,000 worth of car through the centre of London does make you concentrate like a pensioner in a snowstorm, but the R8 doesn't overwhelm or intimidate you like a Lamborghini does.
This is partly because despite the car's price tag and the metallic clackety-clack of each gear shift, the car's interior is unmistakably Audi. The sat-nav is a mess of buttons, and the climate control switches will be familiar to anyone acquainted with Ingolstadt's model range. Everything will feel reassuringly familiar to an Audi owner, but perhaps slightly underwhelming to a supercar customer spending this sort of money.
But it only takes a slight prod of the heavyweight accelerator to remind you where all your money went. The accessibility of the V10's power is awe-inspiring, and substantial willpower is required to stay within urban speed limits. The R8 rewards your resolve with a beguiling sense of flexibility – the V10 genuinely will potter around town at 30mph all day without a flicker of impatience. Combine this docility with the superb ride quality, and the car really does begin to seduce you with the notion that it could be used every day.
Nevertheless, by the time you've reached the edge of the city, the sheer anticipation of all that sonorous power will have become almost unbearable. The first open stretch of dual carriageway is met with flat out acceleration through three gears followed by a license-saving blip of the brakes. The V10's thrust is relentless. The car doesn't quite match the Gallardo for sheer theatre, but Audi's engine propels the R8 V10 along with such understated aggression that your palms begin to sweat at the thought of changing up a gear.
Even when you've acclimatised to the V10's thrust, utilising it is a heady mix of fear, embarrassment, excitement and expense. It's practically impossible to transfer the Audi's potential pace onto public roads, but such is the quality of the R8's chassis that huge entertainment can be extracted at comparatively low speeds.
The new engine has added 60kg to the car, and perhaps that extra weight has taken the razor-sharp edge off the V8 car's supreme mid-engine agility, but for the most part the V10's extra power simply offers even greater opportunities to amuse/scare yourself by provoking the R8's handsome rear end. Audi seems to approve of this exuberant driving style; the ESP will allow a significant amount of slip before quietly reining it in.
Grow up for 10 minutes and the V10-powered R8 displays the same massive lateral grip of its eight-cylinder sibling. The heavier steering remains wonderfully direct, and the car feels tremendously poised in an infallible kind of way.
In fact, by the time you eventually tire of the R8's tantalising redline and head home, it's difficult to find genuine fault with the car. Ignoring the price and epic running costs (or the fact that you fret about leaving it parked anywhere) and Audi's performance flagship really does seem like a brilliantly engineered, eminently flexible and thoroughly rewarding solution to the riddle of supercar ownership.