Audi R8

Price: £84,220
Top speed: 187 mph 0-60mph 4.5 seconds
Consumption: 20mpg
CO2 emissions: 326g/km
Best for: life in the fast lane
Also worth considering? Porsche 911; BMW M6; Jaguar XK RS

Years ago Car magazine (still the best read) used to run a section at the back called "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly", or GBU to the cognoscenti, a witty, idiosyncratic way of reviewing every new car on the market. It came to mind as I was trying to get used to our test Audi R8's "R-tronic" gears (pictured).

Hmmnnnn. "R-tronic". Sounds futuristic and efficient, the sort of image suggested by the Audi's sobered-up-supercar styling, like someone had removed the punch-bowl from the Lamborghini designer before they'd quite finished their party. (Lamborghini is actually a sister brand of Audi, so you never know...) But the two-seater's gorgeous looks, luscious V8 tones and grippy handling are badly let down by this frankly awful way of moving from one gear ratio to the next. If you've ever driven a Smart car, the Maserati Quattroporte, Aston Martin Vanquish, the BMW M5, or perhaps a Citroë*now similarly encumbered, you will be familiar with the feeling. It's jerky. And it's a shame. As a "semi automatic" it's a pretty tedious experience and detracts so much from the Audi's purposeful charm that it's hard to believe they let this version into the showrooms. Using it as a clutchless manual, so you move up and down the gears using the paddles behind the steering wheel (but without a clutch), is a bit better, but that's even harder work.

No. This version of the Audi R8 is a bit Emperor's New Clothes: everyone who saw it admired it, came up to me at the refuelling stops (quite a frequent occurrence given its thirst) and generally made a fuss. But where was the little boy saying, "Look, it's got a rubbish gear change. A Golf GTI's loads better..."?

Semi-automatic gearboxes are cheaper than full automatics; they're lighter, take up less space and help fuel economy and performance. So you can see why the R8 and the Smart both have them. But just as I can't quite bring myself to forgive Smart for doing it, so I certainly can't absolve Audi. In "GBU" terms, the "R-tronic" gearbox has turned an interesting supercar into a boring one. And, as Car magazine used to put things, so shall I.

For: Almost everything, and especially the dramatic LED lights.

Against: (mercifully optional) R-tronic gear change.

Sum up: Did we mention that gear change? Go for a manual.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own