Three Supercars, 16 laps one big smile.
Who doesn’t love a Supercar showdown?
A Throwback to our last trip to the states which ended up with a few laps around Los Angeles’ Speedway. We booked in with Exotics Racing for 16 laps of the back to back comparison on 3 very different Supercars which would cost a total of over $1m when new on Aussie shores.
First up we had the Audi Flagship. At the time, the V10 hadn’t quite hit the roads and the V8 Plus was the best on offer.
An exciting eight-cylinder soundtrack backs the 4.2 FSI motor as it races towards the redline. As found in the RS4, it propels the R8 to 100kph in 4.6 seconds – with the more recent renditions shaving this time to just 3.7 seconds. This was the auto – so lacked the beautiful gated 6 speed shifter as found on manual models, but it’s a small loss. The R8 features a 46 – 54 weight distribution in favour of the rear end. It results in nice, easily accessible performance that you don’t have to be Daniel Ricciardo to extract..
The interior is top shelf in usual Audi fashion, with a brilliant seating position and a gorgeous cowling to each of the dash dials. GPS isn’t standard amazingly in the early versions but the interior is a very comfortable yet sporty place to be.
Turn-in is keen and the brakes are very sharp at first until you get used to their modulation. The hydraulic steering provides excellent feedback as you press on. Some complain that this makes the R8 less engaging compared to similarly aged and speced 911’s. It’s perhaps a common observation of Audi that they are so refined that they lack a little excitement – but in essence that is what makes them the perfect everyday Supercar.
The low-slung centre of gravity and wide stance gives it a defaulted level of stability, with the torquey v8 delivering a twitch from the rear end as you really get towards the limit.
The S-Tronic box of this 2015 model is perhaps a tad slow to respond but adds to the all-rounded, easy to drive nature of the R8.
Next we had the JDM Hero, Godzilla. At up to 600 bhp in the latest NISMO variant, and around 500 in the 2015 model we tested, and not all that far off half the price of the Audi, it’s easy to see why it wins hearts far and wide.
100kph comes in under 3.5 seconds. Motorbike acceleration for the price not far off a highly specced Land Cruiser in Australia and abroad. As we roar down the home straight out of the pits, we approach the first test, a sharp right-hander. Swinging the car to the far left then turning in, the car hunkers down and switches direction almost telepathically.
Seated in grippy bucket seats and surrounded by a blend of tech and leather, the car is not only well built but well thought out. You can pull up telemetry such as G’s and lap timers in true playstation fashion.
The hand-built twin-turbo v6 is down on cylinders and capacity, but that’s where it ends. The semi-slick tyres keep you glued to the road and the 1.5 tonne mass of the thing feels like an exaggeration. Only available in auto, the changes are very quick albeit jerky in first and second at low speeds. Unlike the Audi, it really is perhaps too fast to fully enjoy at road pace, scoring some 500-odd Nm of torque at around 3,600rpm. An audacious snarl can be heard as you race to the redline, with overtones of the whistle of the two turbos kicking in.
All wheel drive keeps grip in plentiful supply. The thing that you’ll notice is that at lower speed you can be mistaken for detecting a smidge of under-steer. The truth is that so accomplished is the GTR at what it does, even in a 2015 model, you really need to be pushing the limits for it to truly become exciting. When you really loose your inhibitions, the rear end becomes to come alive as you attack the apexes with greater furore.
The five laps was up very quickly and you emerge from the beast whilst being curious as to just how your face is still attached to your head. The huge brembo brakes make light work of pulling you up before a corner, and the adaptive bias nature of the all wheel drive will have you launching out of the corners with a grin.
Mid day hits, the sun is at it’s highest over the Nevada desert, and I’m looking across the exotic parking area to an orange piece of what I can only describe as Automotive Art.
A Lamborghini doesn’t really pretend to be anything more that ostentatious. It’s not about subtle charm, surprising budget performance, or everyday usability. None of this new fangled smaller engines equipped with sophisticated turbos, in the rear you get a humongous, snarling 12 cylinder powerhouse.
This was the base-spec Aventador – if you can call a $700k car (aus) that. Acceleration as you’d expect with 700bhp is breath-taking. The Aventador, is essentially peerless. It doesn’t compare directly to any Porsche or Ferrari, and is thoroughly in Hypercar territory. The early iteration was criticised for it’s harsh ride, perhaps not being as agile as it could have been and for having a somewhat un-refined gearbox. Others found the difficult manoeuvrability a gripe point, being difficult to park and pilot on the road. But that’s all relative and generally the stuff for people who are being a little critical. S and SV models have since come out to tweak and fettle the beast into a compliant race car, but on to this ‘simple’ version?
You swing open the door, seeing the carbon passenger tub. A car for introverts it is not, as everyone peers over to see the car with a door waving in the air as if about to flap to flight. The F1-esque tech found in the carbon fibre framework, extends to the pushrod suspension – taking weight away from the wheels. It’s all about sense of occasion and you feel like you are cocooned in a fighter jet when you slip into the driver’s seat. Infotainment is shared with Audi so is naturally sophisticated and easy to navigate, whilst the ignition can be found by flipping up a fighter-jet style missile launch cover.
The gearbox is perhaps a little less slick than what you find in the GTR, it is a single-clutch affair after all. The screaming motor propels you to 120mph in under 9 seconds, with the 0-100kph sprint done in under 3 seconds.
As the track-instructor guides you around the track with expert instruction, you become aware of the fact that you are barely scratching the surface of the capabilities of this Lambo. Screaming out of the final corner on lap three, I squeeze the gas and the Aventador effortlessly gains speed as we come behind
the Audi R8 above which has just come out on a sprint. ‘Take him’ comes the instruction, as I wonder if the straight is long enough. Pull right and squeeze the trigger again – and it’s as if the Audi hit reverse. Within seconds I gain the 5 car lengths between us, and put another three on top before some heavy braking, smashing down to second and turning in tightly to the right hand corner. Whilst the gearbox might be a little un-refined at low revs, at high speeds it gives a thrilling level of engagement with fast shifts.
This has to have been one of the finest engines I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in front of. Whereas the ultra-responsive turbo setup in the GTR and most other modern super-cars including the M6 GranCoupe can feel a little hesitant – needing the slightest prod to awaken, the v12 simple punches you in the back whenever you feel like
prodding the accelerator.
Up to 90% of the power surges to the back wheels when pressing on in Corsa mode and despite not having the rear wheel steering setup as found in the SV, the car changes direction with urgency once settled in to a corner.
Around town, you can instantly see why the Aventador will be tiresome – but in a track setting it embodies the phrase
Hypercar/Supercar. They say it’s often a case of not meeting your heroes, but this was a day of saving best til last and loving every moment.
The cars tested here will set you back, in Australia, $87-130k if going for an early model R8 or GTR; and an Aventador, substantially more starting at $500k for an early 2011 model. The R8 and GTR make fiduciary sense. They will be as quick for you in any setting than the Lambo – but there is the crux of it. Whilst I happily jumped into our corvette to go home after a thrilling morning, appreciating that it was enough, there is an X Factor that even a somewhat criticised Lamborghini thrills you in a way that a mere mortal sub $100k simply can’t.
photography by www.exoticsracing.com