Entering a new class can often end in tears, but when Audi unveiled its first-ever supercar in 2006, it more than came up with the goods. Pitched against some established and capable rivals, the Audi R8 didn’t just equal most of them – it was better.
The R8 debuted in 2003 as the Le Mans concept, but the final production version didn’t arrive until autumn 2006. The first UK cars appeared in spring 2007.
At first you could only buy a V8 Coupe, but a V10 Coupe was added in spring 2009, followed by the V10 Spyder a year later. The lighter, more powerful and more focused R8 GT Coupe came along in summer 2010; one year later there was a GT Spyder, too.
Meanwhile, summer 2010 also saw the arrival of a V8 Spyder. A revised R8 will appear early next year, with a new dual-clutch box and more powerful V10 engine.
The rear-engined Porsche 911 is the R8’s greatest rival, as it’s well built, sublime to drive and extremely quick, even in standard form. Top-of-the-range versions are incredibly fast.
If you’d prefer a mid-engined car, the Lamborghini Gallardo comes with a V10 engine only. It’s fast and readily available used, but running costs are high. Also worth a look is the Ferrari F430. It’s amazing to drive, beautifully built and sensationally styled, but it’s very costly to buy and run.