Stamping my foot hard on the brake pedal, I flick the left hand paddle a few times - the V10 behind me exploding into several sharp, revvy spikes. My palms are starting to sweat, and I can feel my heart pounding away in my chest.
Yep, this ‘regular’ Audi R8 V10 may be around 70bhp down on the range-topping ‘Plus’ model, but it’s still brilliantly, deliriously exciting to drive. Like the Plus it’s gloriously unnecessary and excessive on the road too: it’s still the car equivalent of using a thermonuclear bomb to open a can of beans - just a marginally less explosive one.
0-62mph happens in 3.5 seconds - just three tenths off the Plus - and it’s all out of ideas at ‘just’ 198mph as opposed to 205mph. So yeah, it’s almost as quick, and it still has that Millennium-Falcon-world-outside-gone-blurry shove. It seems to be missing the final top end surge of the Plus, but I really think you’d have to drive both back-to-back to notice much of a difference.
But what’s arguably more important here is the options that have been fitted to the test car, or rather the options that haven’t. It’s wearing about £5600-worth of extra gear (including a sports exhaust, a fancier sound system and cruise control), which sounds like a lot, but for a £117,735 supercar, that makes this example about as ‘poverty spec’ as an R8 can be.
It’s a far cry from the Plus we had in earlier this year, which had a colossal £20k in options dumped on it. And on that extras list were lots of things it didn’t need like £2950 carbonfibre bits in the engine bay and - crucially - ‘Dynamic Steering’ and adaptive dampers.
Dynamic Steering varies the steering ratio depending on how you’re driving, which means it’s ruthlessly fast when you’re pressing on, but you never know quite how much lock you’re going to get from your input.
It generally feels detached, and while those adaptive dampers might give you a little more flexibility - you can make it a hell of a lot more comfortable when you’re not driving like a psycho, for instance - they rob you of precious chassis feedback.
Remove those options, and the R8 is a completely different animal. I’m getting genuine, decent steering feel from this non-Plus R8, and actual kickback from imperfections in the road. I’m not going to pretend it’s suddenly serving up Porsche 911 GT3 RS levels of tactility - that’d be ridiculous. But it’s a massive improvement from the last R8 I drove.
The passive dampers meanwhile give a much more natural feel to the way the R8 drives - there isn’t that floaty, alienating attitude you get on magnetic ride cars. Yes, you do lose a little ride comfort as a consequence, but not nearly enough to be an issue. Not unless your spine’s made of glass.
Elsewhere, everything is as good as it is on an optioned-up Plus. The 5.2-litre V10 still feels like its turning my internal organs to paste, all while belting its demonic mechanical music out the tailpipes. Each time the needle hits 8700rpm, the seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch gearbox is sliding home another cog with ruthlessly meticulous efficiency. Oh, even though the rain’s starting to come in thick and fast, I can still hurl it into corners at silly speeds with that four-wheel drive system stubbornly clinging on to the tarmac.
Of course, because it’s really not that different from the Plus, that means it has the same main drawback - it has an annoying habit of understeering in tight corners. Oh sure, it feels rear-led in the high speed stuff, but on each trickier section I’m arriving at, a healthy dollop of throttle sees the front end washing wide rather than the rear kicking out. Seems a shame given how nimble it feels on the turn in, especially considering its relatively bulky 1560kg mass.
Overall though, it’s a triumph, and it shows that whatever R8 you’re going to get - Plus or non-Plus - you’re going to have a hell of a good time. And if you go easy on the options, you’ll have a simpler, more satisfying supercar.
It’s also important to remember cars with big, shouty naturally-aspirated engines aren’t going to be around for that much longer - they’re a rare breed that deserve to be celebrated. So, with my usual local road loop complete, I think nothing of heading back out for another lap.