The R8 has pulled the same trick the NSX did in 1991. It’s easy to drive every day and it makes you question the necessity of a mega-demanding mega-supercar like the mega-Murcielago SV. You just get in, turn the key, and go. There’s no unwieldy scissor door, no 14″ sill that needs to be hopped over, no clutch nor brake pedal that demand Usain Bolt’s legs, no periscope-like visibility, no steering that strains your latissimus dorsi, no ergonomic-less dash, and no breakdowns every 1500km.
While the Porsche 911 has slowly been refined over the last three decades, it’s nothing new so we take it for granted how easy it is to use on a daily basis, at least in its most modern iterations. It’s only when newcomers to the supercar arena arrive do we notice their impact. Honda had never made a supercar before and neither had Audi. Yet both managed to achieve superlative-defying results on their first try. Sure, they both had racing experience and bottomless wells of Research and Development funding, so they had a leg up on the likes of Lamborghini, Ferrari or Porsche, but, but, wait a minute. No, I think I’m on to something. Audi makes some 20+ models today and in 1991 Honda made at least a dozen itself, so both companies knew how to make good cars. Throw in a billion dollar splash of funding and what else would you expect? When Enzo Ferrari, Ferdinand Porsche, and Ferruccio Lamborghini started their respective companies, they started from nothing. No budget, no resources, no platform sharing.
But that didn’t stop them from producing the best cars they knew how to, the best cars in the world. All of which are highly sought-after collectors items today, because despite their flaws, they had character and were utterly brilliant. Today, those automakers continue to make passionate, and exquisite cars, despite the significantly better financial position they are in, relative to the position of their founding fathers. Conversely, the NSX and the R8, produced by companies of mass-produced appliances, are clinical; sterile even. They do everything so well that it’s easy to argue their lack of character.
Normally, this is the part of the essay where I would say that charcter is better than sterility. As per usual, enthusiasts like us will take a rusted out Alfa Romeo Spider over a Toyota Corolla because the Alfa is, well, an Alfa. That’s a fallacious argument because anything is more exciting than a Toyota Corolla, but that doesn’t make Alfa Romeos the holy grail of enthusiast motoring. Car enthusiasts, in my view, appreciate cars that reward them. If you want to get up an hour early and crank a wrench before you to go to work, maybe that’s what you find rewarding. That’s ok. If you prefer to wake up an hour early and take the twisty back roads to work, that’s ok too. Character doesn’t have to mean unreliable, and I’m confused as to how this myth has perpetuated for so long.
So I’m afraid that the argument for character doesn’t hold up. Because isn’t “character” just making a connection with a car? Isn’t that what’s rewarding? To this enthusiast, peace of mind comes from a car that’s more reliable than a terrier yet with more performance than 99% of everything else, like the R8 of today or the NSX of yesteryear. When I hit speed dial #1 on my phone, I’d rather my girlfriend be on the other end so that I can tell her I’ll be there in 5, rather than the AMA towtruck driver so I can give him the coordinates of my steaming pile of Countach. Maybe I’m not old-fashioned enough, not nostalgic enough, not enough of a wrench-turner. I’ve grown up in an age where going to the library for a book doesn’t make sense because I can read it online and where all the information in the world is at mine for a keystroke. And I just expect these things to work. And they do. I’m comfortable with that. I’ve been raised to expect everything to work. Now, not later. Thankfully, mainstream manufacturers continue to provide car enthusiasts like me with supercars that work every single day, even the overcast ones. So even if it’s only once or twice a generation and even if I can’t afford an R8 yet, depreciation is a great equalizer.
I guess that means I won’t be ordering a Miura anytime soon. Too bad, because it is achingly beautiful.