By Zack Klapman.
Let’s all, for a moment, take a step back from the battles of decimal places and minutia that occurs on the hill where these super cars fight to be king and admit they are all fast. Very fast.
Acceleration? The 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus hits 60MPH in 3.3 seconds, the Porsche Turbo S (with the Sport Chrono pack’s overboost), is just under 3 flat. Both are within a sneeze’s time of a Bugatti Veyron, for 1/5th the price, and are as usable daily as your front door. The Internet and the insecure will harp about the 0.4-second difference, but trust me; both come out of the gates like the sound waves of a tree hit by lightning.
Handling? As different as hair follicles before and after a Vidal Sassoon volumizing wash; the R8 carries .96g around a skid pad and zags the slalom at 70.8MPH, the Turbo: .99g and 72.1MPH, respectively. 2MPH is a good delta in a slalom throwdown, but the feeling and speed with which the R8 turns is basically perfect.
They are also equally pleasant apartments. Both cabins wore black leather; the Porsche’s fitting a bit better, but the Audi’s diamond-pattern looks more opulent. Their interiors share parts with other models, but that’s not an insult. Only the Turbo’s multi-function screen, hiding in one of its classic circular gauge pods, and tighter seats, puts it ahead.
The point is that both of these cars are near the pinnacle of what is possible from an automobile today, and their prices (R8 is $188,895 vs. the Turbo S’s $181,000 MSRP) differ by only a few thousand dollars. But the numbers mean very little. It’s like trying to quantify what good music sounds like; you can’t. You’ll know what you like when you hear it.
When I started the Porsche, I felt the way I did when I traded my iPhone 4 for the 5; I expected it to be incredible, impressive, amazing, a bit better than the last. And it was.
It’s meant to be the best all-purpose 911 available, and it is. The acceleration was so startling, that as the PDK imperceptibly shifted, I marveled at human achievement. MPH went up like bubbles in a shaken soda. Around the Bilster Burg test track, the incredible grip and predictable poise I’d experienced in the 991 Carrera hit another level. The new rear steering makes it more nimble than the 997, while the width and tires pushed my eardrum into the window.
There’s little sound, just a dry whir of air being sucked from the clouds and shot through turbos. Set the suspension to comfort and you feel the itch to drive across a continent. Set all the modes to fast, deploy the front (super trick) and rear spoilers, and 560HP shoots you around a track like a brave yokel sneaking into Space X and putting a saddle on a rocket. It is an astounding machine, as expected.
But the R8 is more involving, and more fun. The body that lands somewhere between a Ferrari’s “Look at me!” and the Turbo’s bolder but un-deniable 911-ness. Its 550HP V10 sounds like a gaggle of demons created in Peter Jackson’s mind; in a shouting contest, the Porsche is just a fan with a megaphone.
The V10’s powerband is broad and smooth, a seamless and controllable rush of speed that I felt quickly comfortable with. The Porsche’s power starts at only 2,000RPM, but there’s still that tiny pause between when your foot sends a message to the turbo before it shoves you in the spine. I felt like I’d owned the R8 for months, quickly carrying frightening speed, and the sound separating atoms.
Ultimately, I’d choose the R8. The engineering of the Porsche feels…perfect. It can be as relaxing as a lounge chair. It is a space ship to the Audi F-22. But even at its fastest, it’s lacking something. It lacks sensation, and occasion. Though the Turbo will arrive first, the R8 is just behind, heard before seen, and will never be mistaken for anything less than what it is.