Why it’s nearly the end of the road for real performance cars in the UK:
I recently spent the day enjoying not one but two astounding and brilliantly engineered cars. Last week was lived in the company of the Audi RS6 Performance (597bhp) with the added pleasure of an extended drive in the McLaren 650S Spider (641bhp). So, you might reasonably ask, why, you ungrateful git, are you grumbling about it?
Let me explain. It was my day to sample the delights of McLaren expertise in the bucolic surroundings of the Cotswolds. As I had the Audi for a week, I used it to drive to ‘work’ (a technical term used by motoring scribes). The morning traffic was typically awful during the thirty minute drive. Only rarely was I able to even begin to sample the phenomenal prowess that is RS.
It was, quite frankly, like piloting a two tonne 4×4 sledgehammer. The awesome planted power of the 4.0L twin-turbo V8 was brutal, the senses assaulted by a blunt instrument. On ‘unlimited’ roads (as far as that statement goes) it was like waving a de-restriction sign at a bull. If it had nostrils the RS6 would snort with pent-up speed desire. Give it its head, plant your foot and instantly, literally instantly, you are on the wrong side of seventy and regrettably lifting off, sweating slightly. Astonishing.
If the Audi RS6 Performance is a bull then the rear-wheel drive McLaren 650S Spider is a gazelle. It is crafted from carbon fibre; light and agile. This time power comes from a mere 3.8L twin-turbo V8 that is a constant howling presence behind your head. Lift the engine canopy and this beating, beastly heart is barely visible – but the low slung driver soon knows it is there.
Again, performance is relentless but, unlike the Audi, the 650S does not feel like a battering ram. Dismissing corners, the McLaren sprints with a lightness of touch that demonstrates just what the engineers have achieved. Remarkable.
Our European leaders (whoever they are) do not want us to use vehicles such as these. As part of the soul-sucking criminalisation of everyday life they want us all in hygienic, wipe clean, sterile, low-cal, inoffensive motors that will keep even the most screaming opponent of everything that is exciting or varied about the human race happy. They like the taxes that the manufacturers pay and they like the revenue from motorists but they just don’t want us to drive real cars.
At every turn these mile-eating machines are thwarted. Accelerate and begin to feel the vibe only to be brought back to earth by a slow-moving traffic queue or yet another speed restriction. To emphasis what I mean, my average speed in the Audi RS6 for the week was 24mph. That tells you all you need to know.
As a further example, here’s a very short hand-held video. The quality is awful because it was shot on the world’s worse smartphone from LG. Life’s Good? Not with this frustrating telephonic piece of junk it isn’t: but I digress. Please note – before someone starts demanding the removal of sensitive parts of my anatomy for filming whilst driving one-handed – the car was being expertly piloted by Melissa Terry, a colleague.
Of course, there are still a few places in Britain where you can experience the joys of driving these very special motors, it’s just that they are nowhere near where most of us live. The good driving roads are out there in remote places where the sound of performance engines echo across hill and vale and where the perpetually affronted folk rarely venture.
Obviously there has to be rules. That’s the other side of the coin. On our super-busy highways road safety is paramount and therein lies the point. On our small islands the demands of society will surely sound the death knell for monster machines like these. There may well be places in the world where the freedom to drive still exists but it isn’t here unless the frustrated owner can afford track fees.
The Bitter End
So there you have it: Two exciting and very different ways to do exactly the same thing. The fact however is that there is no way the average admittedly well-heeled driver can ever exploit the power and the glory of these remarkable cars here in Britain. That’s progress apparently but it is also a crying shame. Geoff Maxted
Full reviews of both these terrific motors will appear in a while.