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Dan Trent: The Audi R8 V10 manual is a future investment supercar

10th July 2017
dan_trent_headshot.jpg Dan Trent

On a list of automotive endangered species cars with big engines and manual gearboxes would have to be very near the top. Five years ago you’d have all but written such cars out of the history books, the Italian brands long-since having stopped offering anything but paddle-operated transmissions and the likes of McLaren never having had the option in their ranges.

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Inevitably the focus shifts to those rare examples of Ferraris or Lamborghinis specced by stubborn customers with gated manuals, in all likelihood against all the advice of their dealers, fearing the return of said car to their forecourt. Now they’d be hungry for the same, keen to mark it up. 

What if you don’t want to pay a ‘fashion tax’ of this type? What if you just want a supercar with a manual transmission because you like changing gear yourself, not just due to it being rarer than your mates’ cars with their automatic gearboxes? There are some bargains to be had out there still. And for all the Vorsprung Durch Technik brand values it’s perhaps surprising to find the last of the attainable big-engined supercars with a manual gearbox is actually the Audi R8.

This is a rather nice surprise. The first-generation R8 is, to my mind, a much nicer car than the current one. When it launched everyone was rather surprised, and pleasantly so. It had all the things we liked about Audis. But the chassis and powertrain seemed to have been signed off by a very different team from those setting up even the regular RS models. The suspension was supple, the steering feel was fabulous and the distinct rear-bias to the Quattro four-wheel drive gave it a handling balance a world away from the nose-heavy saloons and Avants. 

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The new one is faster, more advanced and all the rest. But it’s a slicker product. More Audi. I think the first-gen R8’s design is cleaner and purer too. And you can get it with a manual. A really nice manual, with a stumpy little aluminium lever and an exposed shift gate that goes click-clack-click as you make your way around it. There’s so little drama in the way the new one delivers its incredible performance it’s dangerous, at least in terms of your licence. Being more involved, having to make deliberate choices about gear selection, revs and footwork make going (a little bit) slower a lot more fun. Especially when connected to a gloriously charismatic engine like the 5.2-litre V10.

I was tempted to write about the V8s, which at just over £40K are now temptingly close to affordable. And, I reckon, a solid place to put your money. But for little over £60K you can have a V10, with another 100hp and one of THE great engine notes. This one, in subtle black with carbon ‘blades’, has just over 20,000 miles on the clock and is up for £62K.  

A manual Porsche 911 GTS of the same vintage and mileage is knocking on £80K. It’s one of the nicer modern 911s and a safe investment. But the R8 is a proper mid-engined supercar, with a truly magnificent engine at its core and a manual gearbox with which to control it. If you don’t need the 911’s 2+2 seating it looks like an absolute steal in comparison, never mind the fact it’s got 519bhp to the Porsche’s 402bhp. Given that endangered species status, I reckon it’d be a financially safe place to rack up a few miles too. Never mind a glorious one.  

Photography courtesy of Pescara Cars

  • Dan Trent

  • Audi

  • R8

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