R8D R: The 2017 Audi R8 V10 Driven On Laguna Seca

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For many of us, taking a supercar out on the track is something we’ll experience only in the virtual sense, like in the video game Forza Motorsport. So when you get a notice from Audi that you’ll be able to take the new R8 V10 on the legendary track Laguna Seca, you don’t ask questions you just get to the track as quickly as you can. We where already at the track for Monterey Car Week to checkout some of the Monterey Historic Racing Series events. As the day wound down, we got to checkout Audi’s hospitality paddock on the track and we were given a surprise pep talk from none other than Tom Kristensen himself. In case you don’t know who he is, he’s the driver that’s won LeMans a staggering 9 times out of the 13 total LeMans wins Audi has.

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Getting out onto the pit lane, our fleet of R8’s awaited. We could not help but have flash backs to our very firs track day years ago at Sonoma Raceway, where we took out the first generation R8 V8 on that track. How much has the R8 evolved since then. The R8’s we were driving were the V10 model, with the 540 horsepower V10 engine sourced from the Lamborghini Huracan. Starting at $165,000, the R8 is priced and spec’d to be a solid contender for buyers looking at entry level supercars.

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Igniting the engine of the R8 gives the sensation of a nice purring sound as the engine comes online. Although the engine is Lamborghini, everything about the R8 is Audi, so there’s a sense of engineered refinement about the car. The R8 is not about flash, it’s more about refinement. Getting the R8 out on Laguna Seca for a sighting lap was a great thrill, as we took our time to get a proper feel for the car and for the track. Perhaps the most thrilling moment was diving 6 stories downward for the first time on the infamous corkscrew. That combined with the increased speed through turn 1 on our second lap where the most thrilling and terrifying moments…until lap 3 when we managed to get the R8 a little sideways for a fun little drifting session.

On the track the R8 is fast, fun and very responsive. Oddly though, the R8 actually seems better suited for the road as you get the feeling that the car is engineered to be a little more subdued and refine rather than balls to the wall. The V10 has plenty of power but the delivery is not as neck-snappingly instant as it could be, the steering is precise but you feel that the AWD could be dialed in a smidge more give the car a little more edge. Don’t get us wrong, we think the R8 is a great car, it’s got a cool look and was a very fun car on the track. However, it feels a little too Audi for it’s own good, which if you’re a big Audi fan is a great thing.  But if you’re not fully sipping the Audi kool-aid, then you might find yourself with a slight feeling of needing something a little more. Overall we’d say the R8 V10 is a great road car and good car for those looking to dip their toes into the supercar world, we’d highly recommend it over the new Acura NSX. We do want to thank Audi for taking our track virginity on a new track again, as the chance to really experience Laguna Seca was a gear head dream come true.

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Cheers,

-JB

 

 

Weapons of Choice II: The McLaren 570S Spyder Vs the Lamborghini Huracan RWD Spyder Vs the Acura NSX

If you recall from our test last year, we took out the McLaren 570S Coupe and the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder for a head-to-head line up. The Huracan won that contest, but it got us thinking this year that it would be more fair to make the playing field a bit more even. Spyder vs spyder, rear-wheel drive vs rear wheel drive, that should make the results a bit more interesting. And just to add spice to the mix, why not toss a wild card into the mix as well. This year we did just that with 3 supercars:

The Cars: Lamborghini LP-580 Huracan Spyder VS McLaren 570S VS Acura NSX

The Location: Carmel, California

The Lamboghini LP580-2 Haracan Spyder:

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As Lamborghini fans we were exited to see how the real-wheel drive setup would impact the feel of the Huracan compared to the all wheel drive. Starting at $220,000, it’s $42,000 cheaper than the All-Wheel drive Hurcan Spyder, so it has that going for it.

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Compared to the All-wheel drive version, the Rear-Wheel drive Huracan is virtually identical in appearance except for the front and rear bumpers, which looks slightly more aggressive on the All- Wheel drive car. The Rear-Wheel drive car also has 30 less horsepower, so instead of the 610 of the All-Wheel drive version you have “only” 580 horsepower.

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Turning on the Huracan is an event, as the V10 roars to life. The naturally aspirated engine provides instant power and terror and it’s nice to see that despite having less power than the All-Wheel drive, the same amount of punch is delivered. The handling is the huggest difference between the All-Wheel drive and the Rear-Wheel drive variants, as the LP580 feels more nimble and agile than the AWD version. The LP580 actually feels a lot like the McLaren 570S in how accessible the car feels, which inspires confidenceas you throw it around the turns at speed. The RWD drive also feels more responsive to direction input from the steering wheel, making the car feel that much more impressive rather than terrifying.

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The McLaren 570S Spyder:

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When we drove the 570S coupe, we felt it was a solid car but not an exciting car. Over the last year we must admit the styling has grown on us a lot more (maybe because we don’t care for the front end of the big brother 720S), but if the Spyder was like the coupe, then we’d be in for a purely technical drive with subdued engine sounds and less-responsive-than-we’d-like-it-to-be braking.

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Having our pick of Spyders to thrash, we opted for the smurf blue (Curacao Blue) which we thought was a stunning color on the car. Turning it on we heard the twin turbo-charged V8 growl to life, which was unexpected because the coupe we drove last year sounded subdued. The Spyder starts at $211,000, which is $16,000 more than the coupe, and we must say it’s more than worth it.

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What we didn’t like about the coupe, the lack of emotion and sound, seems to be what McLaren directly addressed with the Spyder. The Spyder had all of the things we loved, which was the solid feel and confidence inspiring handling, but somehow the Spyder felt more analogue and connected to the driver. It was a bit weird because the McLaren is very anti-analogue: It’s got electric steering, a turbo charged engine and more computing power than silicon valley. And yet it somehow felt old school, playful and a little more raw. If we had been blind folded while in the coupe and the Spyder we would have sworn that they where to 2 completely different cars.

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Did the 570S Spyder also address the other things we disliked about the coupe? Well, when it came to the brakes, not at all. The brakes still take too long feel like they’re working which forces you to radically adjust your braking zones because you know in your mind that they will work but you instinctively don’t rust them as the brake pedal has to travel a little too far for comfort. The exhaust note issue has been thoroughly and gloriously addressed, as the Spyder growls aggressively, especially when in track mode. The only other annoyance is that even while in track mode the transmission automatically kept shifting up, instead of letting us cruise in a lower gear. We know better than the machines and it annoys us when they take our power of choice away. If those two items get fixed in future updates of this car then the 570S Spyder is going to be tough for anything to beat.

The 2017 Acura NSX:

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As fans of the original NSX, we must admit that we had mixed feelings about the new NSX before we drove it. We where excited to see the moniker return sporting some fun new technology, but we also were not exactly thrilled with how far away from the original NSX concept the new version deviated. The original NSX was about simplicity and superior handling. The concept for the new one seems to be more about the latest technology and driving aids over the pure driving experience, but we didn’t want to rush to judgement.

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The NSX starts at $157,000 with only a few minor options, so what you see is pretty much what you get. At that price, it’s about $50,000 cheaper than the Lamborghini and the McLaren, so it seems to be the bargain car to buy. On the exterior the NSX was draped in a gorgeous red. Though we liked the color we felt the design of the NSX to be a little underwhelming…The original had a very unique look but the present generation one looks a little too much like the Audi R8. The interior of the NSX is small but fairly cozy. The ergonomics take a few minutes to get used to which is a stark contrast to the original, which was just a seat and manual transmission. But, we were not here to compare the new NSX to the old one, so compared to the McLaren and the Lamborghini, the interior did feel rather nice, though the Lamborghini’s was the easiest to navigate.

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Firing up the NSX is not much of an event, as it starts up in silent mode. That’s perfectly fine if you want to start your car so your wife won’t hear you leave as you head to your girlfriend’s house, but if you compare it to the McLaren and the Lamborghini, both of those cars give you the feeling of the car coming alive, where as the NSX just lets you know that car is on with a change in the dashboard display.

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Stealthily cruising our way out into the road in eco mode, we put the car in sport mode and suddenly we heard a little life coming from the 573 horsepower V6, which is turbo charged. We took the NSX up a winding canyon road and we had to admit that it felt very solid when going around turns. While not the fastest feeling car the NSX does feel planted at speed as the AWD system works to ensure maximum grip at all times. So what is there not to like about the NSX? Not too much, which is a problem, because that’s the exact same answer when you ask the question of what is there to love about the new NSX? Not too much. The NSX is a good car, but in this day and age good isn’t good enough to be special. Especially compared to the McLaren and the Lamborghini. Sure they both cost a lot more, but those cars also feel uniquely special and magical in their own ways. The NSX is a great machine, but it doesn’t really standout in anyway, it looks too similar to another car, it sounds nice but not exceptionally special, and the driving feel is good, but nothing to brag about. It’s a grade A trying to compete in a field of A+ candidates, and that is where the NSX falls short.

The Verdict:

It was an interesting group, with all the cars having similar power but drastically different price points. Overall we still love the Lamborghini but were surprisingly impressed by how much more we love the McLaren 570S Spyder over the 570S coupe. The NSX is a bargain in comparison to the other two, but it seems to be a case of you get what you pay for as we where disappointed with how minimum level the car feels.

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Ranking in 3rd place is the NSX. Despite having similar numbers and being a huge bargain over the other 2 cars, the NSX feels very minimum level for a supercar. It has the minimum level of speed, of handling, styling and sound to be a supercar. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a good car. But as we mentioned before, in this day and age, being a good car isn’t enough to make it stand out. Frankly we feel that the Lexus LC500 has more personality and feel and at $100,000 it’s more of a bargain than the NSX, so if you want a special car from Japan that may be the way to go.

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In 2nd place, only by a few points is the McLaren 750S Spyder. We seriously love this car. Compared to the 570S Coupe we thought the 570S Spyder was 10 times more superior and it was a blast to drive. McLaren pulled off a very brilliant and difficult trick: They engineered the analogue feel into a car that isn’t analogue at all. In the smurf blue it looked really good, the exhaust note was amazing and car’s handling was sublime. Our only issues with the car are the auto-up-shifting from the transmission and again, the brakes where our biggest gripe. But no lie, we did spec one out for ourselves on McLaren’s website after our drive, we loved it that much.

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In first place and still champion is the Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2 Rear-Wheel Drive Spyder (that’s a mouth full). The 570S Spyder gave it a great run for it’s money, but the Lamborghini was able to edge it out because it has the looks, sound and classic Lamborghini insanity in the feel of the car that makes it the definitive supercar. Paired with very responsive brakes and a transmission that will let you red-line the engine as much as you want all day long, the Huracan beats the other two on that front as well. The V10 is hard to beat, and with the feel of the rear-wheel drive matching the feel of the McLaren, that is what solidified the decision for us. If we could take all of these cars home we would take the McLaren and the Lamborghini, but if we could only choose one, we’d have to go with the Huracan.

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Cheers,

-JB

Monterey Car Week 2017: Pebble Beach Concourse D’elegance

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Wrapping up Monterey Car Week would not be complete without a trip to the Pebble Beach Concourse D’elegance. We could write all day about the amazing cars we saw, the awesome concept car lawn, how we got up close and personal with Horacio Pagani’s personal Zonda HP Barchetta or Ferrari’s 70th Anniversary gathering…Or we could just show you.

Since the latter sounds like a much more enjoyable option, sit back, relax, and enjoy our pictures from the event and festivities.

 

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Cheers,

-JB