Guest Commentary – Why Is The R8 Topless?

From the Desk of JZ, friend and fellow Miata racer. 

Why the R8 is the most beautiful car in the world and how they screwed it up by taking the top off!

The vehicle in question

The Audi R8 is visually the most attractive car currently produced.  Forget performance numbers, cost, racing pedigree, fuel economy, practicality, or any other metric for evaluating a car.  On looks and looks alone, the R8 coupe is the car you should have a poster of on your wall.  Sure there are many other attractive cars that come to mind… the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Aventador, and Aston Martin DB9 are just a few that are likely to pop into conversation.  And certainly they deserve some recognition.  The Italia is a very pretty car, there is no denying that.  It is like a date that George Clooney would bring to the Oscars, amazingly beautiful, sexy, and elegant; nothing showy or boisterous, just sophisticated and gorgeous.  The Lamborghini is just the opposite.  It is like showing up with a porn star.  Sure you dream about the experience and love it for its audacity, but in real life you know you should be a little embarrassed.

The list goes on, the SLS has showy gull wing doors, the GTR may be accidentally picked up by a wondering giant looking for a shave, Ashton Martin modeled its grill off the mouth of a whale shark.

So what makes the R8 special?  The thing that makes the R8 sublime is that it was able to strike the perfect cord between elegance and blasphemy.  The curvaceous lines and three part grill add enough refinement that it would be at home delivering a Nobel winner to the awards banquet.  But it is not exactly a Bentley either. The headlights project an angry glare or a sultry stare depended on the angle you view them.  The strip of carbon fiber aft the doors is a message to all onlookers that the R8 is a lady on the streets and a proper racer in the seat.  No need for aircraft size wings on the trunk lid or intake holes that swallow small birds whole to tell the world “I’m a sports car!”

Instead, the intake crevasses feeding the mid engine V8 (or V10 for an extra $35 grand) are muted by a stroke of carbon fiber.  Around back, the R8 teases the eye with a peak of the motor through the rear windscreen, but is careful not to reveal too much as the exhaust piping is all neatly tucked out of view.  All that is seen are two oval exhaust tips poking through the rear bumper.  The taillights are sleek and modern.  The slighted rounded square lights encased in sleepy polygons are a perfect example of style without over engineering.  They highlight the entire mantra of the car: styled just enough to unmistakably be a supercar, but not so much as to use a megaphone to tell you.  And that is what makes it the most beautiful car in the world.

So why does the R8 get worse once it takes its’ top off? The reason is, because it loses so many of the features that made us fall in love with it in the first place.  That strip of carbon fiber along the side, gone.  The cut out in the back offering a glimpse of the motor, covered over.  It’s not as though it is unattractive.  At least the headlights are the same.  But it is the Kourtney Kardashian of cars.  Attractive, yes, but the one you really want is her sister.  And that is a problem, because the convertible versions of coupes should be the fun loving outgoing sister, not the toned downed sensible family member. Yet that is what happened to the R8.  The convertible version looks must less exciting than the hard top.

It was like the engineers that designed the R8 took a day off when the convertible version was built and their uninspired replacements went about making it pedestrian. So the debate at Top Always Down now is, what is the most beautiful convertible in the world?

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