Just a few days ago I was drinking beer with some car guys and trying to explain exactly how a car like the Porsche Boxster can be so much more fun to drive than more powerful vehicles that aren't as well balanced. We touched on this idea last year with our story about the Joy of Slow and the delight that "slow" cars bring to drivers who appreciate handling, balance, and finesse more than outright speed and power.
The Audi R8 5.2 is the perfect example of this. For most people, the "base" R8 4.2 is a 10 out of 10 in terms of looks, performance, and, to some extent, practicality. Adding the extra pair of cylinders amps the R8 to the proverbial 11. Yes, it's faster, has a more unique sound, and makes the car more exclusive, but I don't think the 5.2 is nearly as much fun (at least on public roads).
Equipped with winter tires, the V-8 R8 is just a bit more predictable and reassuring than the V-10 R8. There's so much power on tap with the V-10 that it's easy to overpower the tires and you end up having to drive very carefully. With the V-8 you don't ever feel the car is underpowered but the better balance of power and grip makes the drive much more enjoyable when the weather turns foul.
Of course the average R8 5.2 buyer is probably living in a gorgeous climate year round and not concerned with the behavior of the car on snow tires. And this person is pretty likely to have traded in a Ferrari or Lamborghini to get the R8 instead of moving up from a 911. To them, the exclusivity of a V-10 is all that matters.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor