Last year, I drove a Nissan GT-R for a couple of days and came to the conclusion that in the real world, nothing can be faster. It is not even a possibility.
It is not even a possibility. Truth be told, it was the first car that I was afraid to drive. I’ve heard all the stories about how it’s relatively accessible and that you can drive it every day, and yes, that is all true. However, having access to something that can propel you from standstill to the speed limit of the skyway in just 2.8 seconds, begs for a man of discipline and exceptional self-control. Even with a ridiculously planted chassis mated to a brilliant all wheel drive system, the gun is always cocked and loaded. All it needs is your right foot and some massive balls, if you have them. The car is insanely quick, it's almost gross.
The problem with that is, I’m far from the most disciplined man. I always listen to the voice that tells me to do whatever my heart desires, because moderation is a form of slavery. Having so much power on tap that translates into gobsmacking performance on our roads is a dangerous thing in hands like mine. It’s no different from leaving a bag of MDMA capsules to a man washed up on the shores of St. Tropez at 8 in the morning. He’ll have no intention of killing himself because we all know that a man that worships the good life only asks for more years of debauchery, but he’ll be in too deep before he even has the chance to get out.
Let’s not get carried away though, because the GT-R can be driven slowly. The exhaust note isn’t one to push your buttons, unless you get off on Dyson vacuums. The ride is harsh, but it’s not going to send you to the chiropractor. The transmission cooperates just like any other typical dual-clutch, although it must be said that it doesn’t appreciate traffic very much. The real devil here is the knowledge of its performance on tap. The blistering acceleration, the manner at which cars on the expressway seem to get sucked behind and disappear from view is what needs to be seen to be believed. Equally as impressive are the brakes. There is no other way to describe them other than a brick wall. I have no doubt in my mind that it will eat a Ferrari 458 Italia for breakfast and spit it out because it just isn’t worthy. Performance-wise, at least.
The GT-R is too fast to be enjoyed. There is no journey and there is no getting there, because in a split second - you already are. It’s like falling asleep for the entire duration of a First Class Suite flight on Etihad Airways from New York to London. That is what the GT-R is. It is having a supercar experience asleep. And when you are done scaring the daylights out of your passengers, you’ll soon realize that the driving experience in itself doesn’t thrill when you are alone. There is nothing for you. Unlike a Ferrari or a Porsche, the experience is wonderful regardless of whether you are going 1,000,000,000 kilometres per hour or 20.
Godzilla is real.
This brings me squarely to the point I’m trying to make. Are supercars nowadays too fast to be truly enjoyed? For the purposes of clarity, supercars from back in the day were made in conjunction with motorsport. That’s why race legends such as Sir Stirling Moss drove their grand prix cars to the track, raced them on Sunday, and sold them by Monday. The cars that were sold to the ultra rich were the same ones that entered the 24 hours of Le Mans or the Targa Florio. They were literally street legal competition cars.
That is why so many of these vintage road legal racing cars like the Porsche 550 Spyder or the Ferrari 250 GT SWB have so much racing pedigree and unreasonable value. The racing cars now compete at extremely dangerous speeds, most of which carry cutting-edge technology and equipment that don’t make them street legal. This has forced sports car manufacturers to build a new division of limited series production cars that translate as much racing technology that can be applied to a road legal car.
Take the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, for instance. In its current form and with all things considered, it is the best track car in the world. It hurts me to say that because my obsession with Ferrari is an unhealthy one, but that is the truth and Stefano verifies it - and he too sees Ferrari as a religion. Yes, there are some of you that will say that a Lotus Exige S or a Caterham 7 is better, but you won’t be able to drive it on the track because it won’t even make it there. It's far too spartan and uncivilised.
The Porsche on the other hand, has air-conditioning, a navigation system, and a Bose audio system if you wanted one. Make no mistake about it though, it is all about the business of lap times - and it isn’t even subtle about it. To the untrained eye, a 911 Turbo S looks just like a regular Carrera only a little more dressed, like Behati Prinsloo in a Dolce & Gabbana gown. The GT3 RS is Alessandra Ambrosio, completely naked in a cage snorting lines of Peruvian cocaine.
There isn’t a company in this planet that is more efficient with horsepower than the carmaker from Stuttgart. A 458 Speciale has 100 horses more, yet the GT3 RS will destroy it on the track. The engine is still in the wrong place, yet after decades of forcing the recipe, they’ve finally perfected it. It is an absolute dream on the track and it sounds like the pinnacle of motorsport at 9,000 rpm. How does that all translate to the road? Well, it isn’t the best.
The PDK transmission programmed for the GT3 RS is sensational when you’re going fast, but in traffic, it’s like having a 13 year old girl messing about with daddy’s car while trying to figure out how a clutch pedal works. The biggest problem of all is that the GT3 RS doesn’t seem to understand that in the real world there are potholes and bumps. It is completely alien to the idea of it and therefore becomes pretty useless.
I may have found the solution though. I was tossed the keys to what some say is the best and most balanced supercar that money can buy - the Audi R8 V10 Plus. It is by far more exotic than the Nissan GT-R and a lot more refined than the speedy 911 GT3 RS. It’s mid-engined and it shares the same bombastic heart as its Italian cousin, the Lamborghini Huracan. It is so loud that it only took one start up in the village before the security came to the house to tell me that the neighbour was complaining - at 8pm.
I’m not even making this up. One start up! Inside, it’s all futuristic with bits that we've become familiar with. It has fixed carbon bucket seats, which I don’t particularly like. They’re not the easiest to get in and out of, but they’re comfortable once you're in them - more importantly, they are ultra supportive. In all honesty, it felt a lot like a larger and more upscale Audi TT. The virtual cockpit had excellent graphics, the buttons were nice to touch, and so on and so forth. You know how modern Audis are, they just work.
Bask in the limelight.
It must be said that the engine is a masterpiece. No other configuration other than that of a V10 gets the high pitched shriek reminiscent of the golden age of Formula 1 . The pops, crackles, and bangs are all part of the theatre that encapsulate the essence of the supercar experience. I’ve heard that it is much faster on a straight line than a Nissan GT-R, but I couldn’t tell on our roads. The power delivery is certainly more linear, thanks to an atmospheric V10 that sounds like Ariana Grande getting poked from behind.
Like the GT-R, it also is all wheel drive, and it’s as efficient as Sebastian Vettel in putting down all that power down. It builds speed in an unbelievable manner that your senses disconnect from the rate at which things in front approach you. It's a stark contrast to the way a GT-R delivers its power, which is pretty much like getting kicked in the face. There’s no turbo boost to manage in long sweeping corners that may pull the rug off of your feet, and that allows you to take corners at speeds you should never be doing. Ever.
Vorsprong Durch Technik.
The steering is a bit too light. I mean, Ferraris have very light steering but they’re very communicative. This one seems to lack a few bars of signal. That said, it has to be the fastest car I’ve ever driven while also managing to be the least intimidating. When all is said and done, its German qualities creep up on you and once you deselect all the race modes on the car, it just becomes like any other Audi. Docile and plush. Yet at the switch of a button, you can push it as hard as you want and it will still cradle you like a mother. It’ll take a hefty amount of skill or a racetrack to even scratch the surface of this car’s limits. What a car this R8 is. I am often asked which car I enjoyed driving the most for Opus Macchina.
My answer is always the Porsche 718 Boxster, and that's no supercar. For Manila and my driving skill, it has the right amount of power, the sky as my roof, a raspy exhaust note, and a specialness that I didn't feel in the more exotic Audi R8. There’s so much more to this category of car than sheer speed and lap times. It’s about spine-tingling sensations, the wind in your hair, the crackles on the overrun, and the car dancing on the limit. Unfortunately, we tend to lose sight of these things when the cars are too fast. I understand that a supercar is built to have mind bending performance, but it is also one of the most emotional buys one will ever make - and with that, shouldn't the experience define it?
Man and machine.