There are few things better than the visceral enjoyment of driving a supercar.
Ask any car enthusiast which driver’s seat they would like to be in and the answer, almost invariably, will be one that sits low, with a big, thunderous engine out back, and a six-figure price tag.
As true as that might be, it’s almost cliché to say that supercars are the stuff of dreams. Certainly they are for most people. For others — including journalists like myself who get to drive these things from time to time — they are less of a dream and more of a study in harsh realities.
Outside of a racetrack or some flawless stretch of pavement underneath impeccable weather, supercars are otherwise useless. Some of them are works of art to be sure, but once removed from their natural habitats and employed as daily drivers, it is basically a loud, over-engineered land missile that costs more than four times the average annual US household income.
Own one of these cars in a city like San Francisco and you’re in for a stressful experience. And if you’re like me and most other city dwellers who don’t have a personal garage, you can add paranoia and lack of sleep to the mix.
Audi tossed me the keys to a 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus a few weeks ago. All things considered, this is one of the few supercars that tries to make itself livable as a daily driver.
There are more than a few areas where the R8 shines. So, my experience driving this car in and around San Francisco, though challenging, had less to do with the car itself, and more to do with the general headache caused by city living with this much power beneath my feet.
Allow me to explain.
Day 1 with the R8: Excitement, joy, visions of how cool I'll look behind the wheel. I eyeballed that parking sign more than once and double-checked the curb before I could comfortably walk away.
And when your wheels are 20-inch rolling sculptures like these, you try your best not to let a hostile curb destroy them.
Nothing about the R8 is ordinary. These racing seats are firm and supportive. Off the racetrack, they're better for short city jaunts rather than long drives. Avoid potholes at all costs. These buckets will not forgive you. Neither will the wheels. Nor the suspension.
The interior features Audi's industry leading virtual cockpit -- a robust digital display in the instrument cluster. That explains the general lack of buttons on the center stack and abundance of buttons on the steering wheel.
OK, enough about parking and seats and steering wheels. Time to drive. You can tell how wary I am of curbs in this car by how wide this left turn is.
Now take a look at this engine! A 5.2-litre V10 that makes 610 horsepower. Driving the R8 in San Francisco means you'll get to unleash all of that power precisely never.
That V10 has no trouble announcing itself, but here's some helpful badging in case this beast -- painted in dynamite red -- distracted you.
San Francisco is famous for its tight, circuitous roads. Not easy to navigate in the long, wide R8. Proceed cautiously.
The R8's minimal distance between its front bumper and the ground is a good reason to keep your eyes open for speed bumps and other road obstacles.
Fortunately for San Francisco, this R8, and my nerves, good roads are never too far away. This blacktop near Stinson Beach is one example.
There were many other vehicles on the road this particular day, but it's clear who the overachiever was here.
Sweeney Ridge, a local hiking trail a few miles south of San Francisco, where the sun is warm and the wind whips fiercely through the hills.
Despite MPG numbers that don't look very good on paper (14 city/22 highway), the R8 is surprisingly fuel-efficient. Its 22-gallon fuel tank will get you roughly 300 miles of range on a full tank of premium.
After navigating the San Francisco Bay Area's many enclaves, I'm back to the realities of city living -- like stocking up for the week ahead. I could only get two bags in the front trunk.
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