Things you don’t often hear in the office: “How big a bonus would you like and, while we’re at it, do you need a pay rise?” Or, how about: “Take Friday afternoon off; we need you to test drive the new 187 mph, 4.2 litre V8 Audi R8.” Oddly enough, it didn’t take me long to re-arrange Friday’s meetings.
That said, I knew very little about this car before driving it and in fact, my initial reaction was, “it’s no big deal, an Audi isn’t a Porsche or an Aston right?” Wrong! This was the best car I have ever driven by some margin, and it will be a long time before I forget turning off the A1 for Warkworth Castle, dropping a couple of gears and enjoying some of Northumberland’s finest country roads in a car that I was too scared to drive to its full potential.
I knew I was driving something special when half the office followed me to where it was parked by the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, already surrounded by a bevy of passers-by expecting a Shearer, an Owen or a McPartlin, but ending up with me! At the risk of upsetting the German architects of this wonderful machine, its visual impact is akin to the Sarkozy pairing of statesmanship and model looks; a potent cocktail of power and elegance.
You can see the V8 through the back window, the wheels look like they have been lifted from Lewis Hamilton’s garage, and the sweeping sideblades as if they have been borrowed from an RAF Typhoon.
At 100 head turns per block, and hidden behind tinted glass for the first, and probably the last time in my life, I felt like Brad Pitt; albeit a bit cuddlier round the midriff.
This car was getting some serious attention everywhere we went.
Surprisingly, it’s a quiet and airy cabin (no room for the kids though...) and while it drives like a jet fighter, the dashboard lacks the intimidation of the cockpit.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a subtle reminder of its Le Mans victory and the Bang & Olufsen sound system is a quality touch.
Having said that, the radio was the least of my worries; I was too busy focusing on the aluminium-toothed snarling gear box and its satisfying thump as I moved between gears.
This driving experience had me as excited, and as scared, as the time I drove my dad’s new Ford Escort, on my own, the day I passed my driving test.
I consider myself a decent driver, but when you get in a car like this there are no excuses; you can’t blame a lack of power, a need for new brake pads, or sloppy suspension - in the R8 the only limiting factor is you.
So, having suitably psyched myself up and familiarised myself with the car’s capabilities, at least as far as you can in only 20 minutes, I found myself looking down a half-mile stretch of clear straight road, Warkworth Castle in my rear view mirror, the gentle throb of the engine behind me and 20 years of driving second-hand Ford Fiestas under my belt, I felt ready to take on the drive of my life; my Carpe Diem.
So I did what all self-respecting middle aged wannabes do; I stalled it! Having broken the ice with this roadworthy ‘Millennium Falcon,’ for the next 10 miles I had a smile so wide that Kermit would have been hard pushed to beat it.
There was no corner too severe, no gear could in any way be deemed pedestrian, and the brakes were clearly capable of stopping an angry rhino; it was nothing short of a driver’s dream.
That said, the seat was a little uncomfortable and I found the rear visibility more limited than it should be, but let’s face it, this driver needs a diet and at 420 bhp you rarely have the time to look behind you.
An afternoon in the Northumberland countryside wasn’t going to allow me to take full advantage of its capabilities and I’m slightly disappointed that I wasn’t braver, but there’s always next time… right? So it’s a diet and a re-mortgage for me and I’ll see you in the rear view mirror...
The Audi R8 starts at £78,195.
The car Chris tested was provided by Teesside Audi, www.northeastaudi.co.uk If you’re a petrolhead and would like to test drive a car for BQ magazine, please email us at editor@BQ-magazine.co.uk