There are levels to the high-performance car game. From humbler, hot hatchbacks to fire-breathing exotics, the spectrum delights all observers with an inkling of petrol in the veins. This month we are zoning in on a middle ground. The four offerings here are obviously anything but entry-level. They are supercars, after all.
But since the technological goalposts have shifted, that title no longer denotes absolute superiority in automotive terms. It would not be remiss to say supercars sit between sports cars and the contemporary breed of hypercars. Then of course, this niche has a commonality by its ability to unite drivers with the magic, sights and smells of the outdoors.
Audi R8 V10 Spyder:
Newest of the lot is the Audi R8 Spyder V10 Quattro S-Tronic, yours from R2 905 500. Discard the ideas of inevitable dynamic consequences that beset cars after the top has been chopped. Because Audi seems to have done its homework, purporting a 50% higher torsional rigidity than the previous Spyder.
And if day-to-day enjoyment is the priority, rather than exploitative pursuits on the back roads, then the topless variant could be more flattering than the hardtop. Because it gives full aural access to the 5 204cc, normally-aspirated engine (397kW and 540Nm) behind you. A true screamer all the way to 8 700rpm, it delivers the novel assortment of machine-gun pops when you blip down the seven-speed transmission.
Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible:
The Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible has the interesting distinction of being one of the least expensive cars (R2 314 000) in attendance. Note that we strayed from saying cheap. Launched locally in 2013, the F-Type evoked all manner of praises, largely hinged on nostalgia for the iconic E-Type. But it has proven its mettle as a true sporting machine with its own identity. Lesser guises fall into the realm of the sports car designation, but the potent SVR elevates the stock of the F-Type into loftier branches.
True to the spirit of the growler brand mascot, it stood out on our driving stint as a properly feral machine. That is owed greatly to the might of its supercharged, 5 000cc V8 engine (423kW and 700Nm), which produces a sound that shakes the ground below. Seriously, the soundtrack borders on obnoxious — but boy, is it awesome.
Standard all-wheel drive should not be construed as unconditional forgiveness should you get too carried away. No doubt, the SVR is a violent and aggressive feline, but an immensely charming one, especially in this Convertible format.
Lamborghini Huracán Spyder:
Interesting that some passers-by mistook the Audi R8 Spyder for a Lamborghini. Since the Audi shares much of its technical constitution with the Huracán, also dubbed Spyder in ragtop guise. Although it employs the same 10-cylinder heart, the Italian car claims a greater output (449kW and 560Nm) and manufacturer representatives claim the driving characteristics are stark. But you are only likely to tell after driving the two back-to-back — at full-chat.
Certainly, the Lamborghini is a great deal more flamboyant in execution; you would probably want to forego the unassuming paint choice pictured here. The interior is equally angular with a dollop of cockpit-reminiscent cues, including a start button concealed by a plastic flap. That would make any person feel like a child again, which, as we all know, is an important tenet of this genre.
The cost is commensurate with the exotic status of the raging bull emblem, as expected. And as with cars of this nature, a basic price is only a rough indication — because you will spend a heap more on bespoke materials and other optional bits. Expect to fork out upwards of R5 490 000.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage S Roadster:
Charm is often powerful enough to overshadow shortcomings — and that rings true when discussing the Aston Martin V8 Vantage S Roadster. It is the oldest car here, but you will agree that time has been good to the British two-seater. It still looks undeniably elegant, with spot-on proportions and tasteful aesthetics typical of the brand. The word “analogue” seems to make an appearance in the aspect of the driving experience.
That 4735cc, normally-aspirated V8 (321kW and 490Nm) wields a hairy-chested timbre: not as hoarse as the V10 rivals, nor as primal and unfiltered as the Jaguar. Best to keep the Sportshift II automated-manual gearbox operating in the latter setup to fully extract the vocal and performance ranges of the Vantage.
The downsides? Well, we could level criticism at the dated interface and long-standing ergonomic peculiarities.
They are certainly inexcusable at such a price point. But did anyone on our panel truly care? The junior Aston Martin is still special enough to evoke lust despite its obvious deficiencies. Expect to pay upwards of R2 350 000.
The four vehicles here are certainly an enchanting collection. Sourcing other contenders proved tricky — but we will make mention of the absentees.
The McLaren 570S Spider is yet to be launched locally. Unfortunately, there were no Porsche 911 Cabriolet or Targa derivatives available for our use. And Ferrari tends to shun side-by-side comparisons, which ruled out the 488 GTB Spider.
How anyone manages to confidently choose between any of the seven cars mentioned in this story without second guessing eludes us. – Brenwin Naidu, Bruce Fraser & Francois Oosthuizen (Pics: Waldo Swiegers)