Just how serious are you?
The best sports car here is the McLaren 570S. The best car here is the Porsche 911 – there it is, out in the open. Phew. The 992-generation Carrera S is a phenomenal machine from a team of engineers with it all on their side: budget, group-wide technical resource, a GT programme from which to borrow ideas (and indeed wholesale solutions), an unbridled enthusiasm for the job at hand and, crucially, the time to drive, drive and drive again each successive prototype that led them here. At the heart of the 911’s appeal is its rubbishing of the notion that compromise, refinement and versatility are all somehow dirty words. The Porsche is almost the sports car the McLaren is, but – tyre roar aside – it’s also supremely comfortable and cosseting, while offering a gorgeous, tech-laden interior you’ll have to be deadly serious about driving to shun in favour of the McLaren’s sombre cockpit. Yes the McLaren’s steering is better, and its entire engineering architecture conducive to a visceral thrill and giddying agility the Porsche cannot live with, but in every other way the 911 is just as compellingly sorted: otherworldly body control, mighty grip and a chassis from which unwanted movement and any sense of confidence-sapping doubt have been mercilessly eradicated. Do you need the optional rear-wheel steering? No. Do you need the 10mm suspension drop? No. Do you need the new Carrera S in your life, whatever the cost? Yes.
Unless you’re selfishly dedicated to the hedonism of driving – then you might want to call McLaren. You’ll have to rule out more than one passenger, long journeys without coffee breaks, being able to hand over to a suite of driver-assistance systems or anything resembling decent fuel economy (you’ll also have to find a lot more money, though the more affordable 540C hits 99 per cent of the S’s highs), but it’ll all be worth it. The contradictory, enigmatic Audi R8 only serves to highlight the deft balance the Porsche strikes: where the 911 is a sports car with GT ability, the Audi feels like it paid for its impressive user-friendliness with its soul. Occasionally a car comes along, be it an Audi or a Lamborghini, that’s as joyously responsive as the 5.2-litre V10 it carries – but this R8, in this guise at least, is not that car.
1st Porsche 911
Wickedly capable, rewarding, versatile and desirable: a masterful reinvention.
2nd McLaren 570s
Loud, demanding and lowtech, you forgive the 570 everything for the highs it hits.
3rd Audi r8
Superb powertrain in a chassis that forgot it’s a sports car. Refined, desirable, frustrating.