R8 / Elan Valley / Wales
We borrowed an R8 and went for a spin
"Yeah, but would you want one?"
I'm stood in a car park about 2 miles from Devil's Bridge in mid-Wales, ears on stalks as a bright yellow 2016 v10 Audi R8 disturbs the local wildlife in the valley below my feet. Two cyclists look on in disgust (and some amount of jealousy I fear), tutting loudly as the R8 winds its way along the road when one of the pair asks the other if he would actually like to own one. Well, yes, my lycra-loving lovelies, you're bloody right you would want one.
V10 singing in the Valley
The Bottom End has borrowed an R8 and is taking it out for the day, visiting one of the many, many great areas of Wales which hosts some of the best driving roads in the U.K. Along for the ride is a 986 Boxster and club sport Renault Clio, but there is undoubtedly only one star of the show here today. I don't think I've ever been out with a car that turns so many heads. Maybe it's the colour, maybe it's the sight of 3 cars you wouldn't normally find together, maybe it's all of those things, but the R8 is literally stopping traffic.
Firstly, the R8 is a beautiful car, visually and aurally. To my eye it's not an in-your-face supercar, but it doesn't melt into the background either (not unless the background was the actual Sun in this instance). It's a refined, modern looking auto, and dare I say it perhaps a bit a safe looking? Maybe that's just me.
Anyway, stylings aside, we're here to have fun. I'm lucky enough to live only 40 or so miles from the Elan Valley, a decent trade off when you live in a part of the world with no mobile phone signal and death-wish sheep lurking around every bend. Here's the route we'll be taking today:
We turn onto the B4574 at Devil's Bridge and attack the road. It is wide with good visibility, something that can't necessarily be said about the second half of the route. Road condition is good / excellent, and offers good grip. We stop at the stone arch about 2 miles out of Devil's Bridge where we encounter the envious cyclists, and shoot some footage. Here we switch the R8 to 'dynamic' mode and let her rip. You hear that noticeable change in exhaust note as soon as that mode is activated, but it really comes into its own when the power gets down. It sounds resplendent; popping, burbling and crackling away, like a mad drunk fool.
The road curves and meanders along the landscape, feeling its way along the valley, mimicking the undulations. This particular stretch is (and I hate this expression) a real pump & squirt track, with short bursts to get that exhaust singing, followed swiftly by sweeping bends and cambers. Heavy on the brakes, downshift a couple, back on the gas. We drive our hearts out for 9 miles and then turn right, heading towards the Craig Goch Dam. Our progress is slowed by having to watch out for the aforementioned sheep, and at one point an obstinate herd of cattle. The roads narrow, and require much more care to navigate. The compensation for this are the views, particularly the stunning dams.
On the day of our R8 drive the weather wasn't great, but it didn't matter when you have these roads to tear up. The beauty of this particular route is that it holds something for everyone; it presents a challenge for the petrolhead if you want to attack it, or evolves into a relaxing drive with picturesque scenery if you ease off the loud pedal.
We finished our day filming and I asked the owner of the R8 (who has only had the car 6 weeks at the time of writing) if he had enjoyed it; the massive grin from ear to ear meant no answer was needed. The Bottom End seeks to find the greatest driving experiences in Wales and beyond: is this one of them? Bloody right it is. Which leaves only one question: what of the R8?
It surprised me. It's aggressive when it wants to be, yet also quite refined. Put it in Dynamic and give it some welly and it sounds thunderous, but it will behave itself if you need it to. It definitely surprised me, in a good way, and I think we'll be back for more adventures with it soon.
[Video will be posted soon]