By Joseph Moss, International Banker
Is there a high-end supercar and a low-end supercar? Maybe there is. Think this: the new McLaren 720S is the latest, most powerful and presumably one of the fastest supercars of today. On the other hand, we have a much cheaper, but also, supercar…ish Audi R8. One from the top end, and the other from the low-end of the spectrum of this majestic world. So, yes, both are supercars, dramatically different, but similarly fast and capable.
The latest from both of them could be seen at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year in March. McLaren unveiled their amazing 720S, while Audi showcased a special R8 called the Audi R8 Audi Sport Special Edition. This Audi, limited to just 200 units, inaugurates the all-new Audi Sport performance division. Something you previously knew as the Quattro GmbH.
Here we have two amazing supercars, but with two fundamentally different approaches. Starting with the McLaren 720S, McLaren Automotive endeavored onto a new plane of existence. They evolved, if you will. This is the first proper second-generation car produced by the company. Based on an all-new Monocage II carbon tub, the 720S became stiffer, sharper, more aerodynamic and lighter. At least, it has a lighter carbon tub that, for the first time ever, includes a roof in its construction. See, the carbon tub in previous McLaren cars did not have a roof. It was…just a tub. Nevertheless, utilizing new carbon-fiber construction techniques, McLaren successfully updated its hallmark technology. Add-ons to this fantastic monocoque tech are not short of exceptional and extraordinary. McLaren engineers did all they could to lighten the car further. Thus, the suspension setup in the 720S does not have anti-roll bars. Instead, McLaren uses hydraulically interlinked dampers. This equals to 35 pounds less than the suspension setup with an anti-roll bar. Smart and effective.
As expected, McLaren revised all the other parts of the suspension, dramatically improving the capabilities of the 720S compared to its older brother. However, don’t think for a second that the new University of Cambridge algorithm used for the control system made the car less fun or numb. Ough, no. Apart from three standard driving modes, the new 720S features a special Variable Drift Control system. You probably know where this is going. Here’s the deal. The driver can actually select the level of assistance of the traction assist, thus loosening the rear-end of the supercar. This dramatically eases up the drifting of the 720S—because, why not, we all want to be able to drift the car. It is in our nature.
While the suspension and other features certainly talk utmost sophistication and modernity, it seems that McLaren forgot to continue with it on the inside. Honestly, top spec Audi R8, like the Audi Sport Special Edition from this story, feels equally special (if not more so). That, of course, can change a bit with the McLaren Special Operations (MSO) division, which can do whatever you want with the inside. Regardless of the MSO artists, the 720S has something really special—a folding driver display; the first one in a production car. The folding display has two modes—the one giving only basic info on the thin strip when the driver wants to focus on the road; and the other—full-fledged setup with all the standard features when that extra forward visibility is not necessary. In short, the display folds 90 degrees depending on the needs of the driver. Fantastic trick.
Other elements inside include a fine eight-inch display, a few buttons and a lot of leather and Alcantara. However, one would definitely forget about all of that thanks to the new, updated engine. It’s based on a 3.8-liter, eight-cylinder from the previous McLaren cars. However, the new engine has updated connecting rods, lightened crank, new pistons, new turbochargers, all-new ECU (engine control unit) setup and what not. Developing 710 horsepower and 537 pound-foot of torque, the engine can catapult the 720S to 62 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds and onto a top speed of 217 miles per hour. Honestly, expect even better on a good day. While these numbers definitely sound exciting, the aerodynamic efficiency of this car is actually the best selling point. It does not look like this by chance. Every crease and every intake channels the air in order to produce better downforce and/or cool the engine. In that regard, the engine-cooling efficiency has been increased by 15 percent. More importantly, the massive active rear wing can provide exceptional downforce, sticking the car to the ground for better cornering and better driving characteristics.
Obviously, the Audi does not seem as dramatic as the 720S; however, its supercar pedigree spans in another direction. As a four-wheel-drive machine, with a 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10, it disposes 610 horsepower and 413 pound-foot of torque. And it is seriously fast—officially, it needs only 3.2 seconds to hit 62 miles per hour. In reality, even less. However, in this case, the Audi badge does not play it all well. After all, despite its premium status among peasants, the Audi badge cannot compete with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini. No wonder, then, that it’s half the price of what one may pay for the McLaren 720S.
This Audi R8 Audi Sport Special Edition has some special features that set it apart. First of all, Audi will release only 200 units to the market—all of which are probably already spoken for. Three paint options are available: mythos black, ibis white or a matte or gloss floret silver finish. However, brilliant red accents are a must for this car regardless of the paint. As expected, Audi released this edition in Geneva based on the most expensive version. However, buyers can also choose the lesser R8 V10 with 540 horsepower and with all the Audi Sport Special Edition additions. Apart from fine finish, this includes rather cool black trapezoidal exhausts, black-trim features and classy 20-inch Y-spoke wheels.
The inside continues in this special-edition spirit with the Audi Sport logo “1/200” on the door sills, black with express red Nappa leather on the doors and the dash, and a whole lot of fine carbon-fiber options garnishing the dash and the vents.
All in all, we have here two totally different supercars with rather similar performances. What would you choose—a technological and aerodynamic masterpiece that is the 720S, or the Audi’s proud glory!? Sure, Audi isn’t as exclusive, but with advanced quattro all-wheel-drive, fine suspension, active aerodynamics and multiple driving modes, it does not fall back a lot behind the crème de la crème of the supercar world.
Or, would you just go and buy a red Ferrari 488 GTB? Choices, choices….
Photo Attribution: McLaren 720S - © Copyright McLaren Automotive Limited | Audi R8 Audi Sport - © Copyright AUDI AG