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.

News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine