Price match promise: Volkswagen Golf R vs. first-gen Audi R8

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I’m not alone in considering the Golf the best of its kind, either. Powell has one as his daily driver (“you could have used mine if I’d known”) and bows to no one in his admiration for it. 

But an R8 is something different. Perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this, because the world has moved on and what appeared to be such a capable and entertaining car (miraculously so, given that it was Audi’s first mid-engined machine) 10 years ago may now seem, well, just a little lame. And it’s true that on paper it doesn’t appear to be all that special: 414bhp is no longer a remarkable figure, while its 4.6sec 0-62mph time is no quicker than the Golf’s.

You can see how Audi has driven the R8 upmarket over the past decade: limited-number RWS cars aside, the cheapest new R8 costs £126,200, almost exactly £50,000 more than the £76,825 that Audi charged for this car in 2007. Inflation? Hardly. Then it was priced to rival a Porsche 911 C4S; now it’s 911 Turbo money. And power: even the low-spec version is a 533bhp car today. 

But I’m not sure I care too much about that right now. I’m just enjoying the simplicity of what I can see: a proper handbrake, a key that fits into an ignition slot, three pedals, analogue dials and the merest smattering of steering wheel buttons. 

The driving position is superb and all round visibility almost Golf-good, which for a mid-engined car is extraordinary. The 4.2-litre V8 spins smoothly into life and with no preamble at all – because the way this car operates is far easier to understand than any modern Audi – we are under way. 

Which is when, without my foot going anywhere near the floor, the R8 near enough bowled me over. In that moment there was not a damn thing about it I didn’t like, and very little that didn’t make me question the direction supercars have taken of late. We’ll start with the engine: it’s normally aspirated as, to its eternal credit, is that of the current R8. But they are a rare and dying breed, and the crossplane V8 is one of the very sweetest.

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