Alright, so the Audi R8 probably should have been in our best sports cars to buy feature this week. In fact, make that a definite: they’re never going to be cheaper, there might not be another R8 and, if there is, it won’t make the seismic impact that the original did.
That impact has been covered innumerable times. This mention is more to celebrate that any R8 of the first generation looks a great purchase in 2020: both V8 and V10 are superb, they handle brilliantly, and still look great all these years later. So if you’ll excuse its omission from the list, here’s an R8 to discuss now instead.
This would be my choice of original: a V10 manual coupe. Yes, the V8 is lighter and therefore meant to be ‘purer’, but the appeal of V10 sound and the extra performance outweighs any dynamic deficiency for me. This particular car has somehow only covered 12,000 miles in a decade, with a condition commensurate with that, and would serve as the perfect reminder, every single day, of when Audi shocked the sports car world with a mid-engined masterpiece. Even with another decade of use, I can’t imagine that appeal would wane one little bit.
I wasn't looking at 911 Turbos this week. I was looking at something else. But that's the way it is with 911 Turbos; unless you're a devotee, you don't really think about them until one is placed in front of you. And then there's a tendency to think: 'yep, I can see why someone might like that'. Then go right back to looking at GT3s.
The problem, of course, is that the Turbo doesn't necessarily standout. Not when the standout feature can be had in a wholly nutty and unutterably splendid two-wheel-drive model. But the Turbo S Exclusive Series bucks that trend by being a) very expensive, b) very rare, c) brightly coloured and d) endowed with an exceptionally large output.
It appeared right at the end of the 991 reign, and was limited to just 500 units globally, so the vendor's claim of supreme exclusivity in the UK is probably true. Certainly the £259,995 list price (the model started at £186,916 when new) suggests that they are not two a penny. Nevertheless it was the headline figure of 607hp which made the runout model briefly famous because Porsche had never previously stuffed so much down the Turbo's jockey shorts.
Now, of course, the 992 version dwarfs that number. But the Exclusive Series still stands out, as it was always meant to. Yes, it's a bauble in Golden Yellow paint, and, no, it isn't ever going to be as good as a GT2. But it still does 0-124mph in 9.6 seconds and I've looked at it more than once. Both are records for a 991 Turbo.
I’ve chosen an Exige S3 for one simple reason: I drove one on track at Goodwood this week and it was fabulous. In three laps the reality of modern, heavy cars dawned on me. Sharp steering, low weight, a responsive engine and very manual gearchange is really all you need.
Of course, Exiges don’t exactly adhere to the low cost adage also established by Chapman; £62,375 is getting on for Cayman GTS 4.0 money, and you get a fair bit more interior with one of those. But the Exige rivals Ariel and Caterham for interactivity and immersion, so even if you’re literally getting less car for your money than the equivalent Porsche, the Lotus never comes up short where it counts.
This S3 is special thanks to its unique paintwork – Lotus loves special editions, after all – which links it to the 1971 Elan Sprint. The Exige pulls off liveries better than most and the legendary colour scheme suits it brilliantly. Not that I’d be faced with it much; you'd need a crowbar to get me out of the driver's seat.
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