What started as a very normal work week for me soon turned into a performance shoot-out of note at Gerotek, with one or two rather rare and fast cars finding their way into my hands for real-world data testing for the first time in South Africa.
Okay, maybe I should define normal. Normal means the odd road test at Gerotek, a launch trip for a new model and then some writing time in the office. But when you get to test just over R18 million worth of cars, offering a combined power output of around 3 000kW and 4 500Nm in one week, you know it was a special one.
It was the Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe that started this little bun fight. All-new, but still one of the few supercars out there running large capacity naturally aspirated engines. In current form the 5.2 litre V10 produces 449kW and 560Nm and is coupled to a lightning fast seven-speed S tronic gearbox onto a Quattro all-wheel drive system.
On first drive it did not feel exceptionally fast, so linear was the power delivery, and very quickly a debate ensued with one of my good mates who just happens to own a Gen 1 Porsche 991 911 GT3, as to whether the Audi could unseat the Porsche once and for all as king of the naturally aspirated supercars I have tested. So a duel at Gerotek was set.
And as you can see from the data, the Audi R8 simply blew the less powerful and substantially better priced Porsche away from the word go and never looked back, and claimed the outright crown in the process. Some might argue that we should have used a GT3 RS, but I will counter this with, well then perhaps we should wait for the Audi R8 GT.
Were we surprised? You bet we were. The Porsche put up a good fight, but the R8 is seriously fast, I mean for a naturally aspirated car, it was quicker than a911 Turbo S and a Nissan GT-R at 1km and at top. This of course got a few tongues wagging, and before I knew it, one of my dodgy old college buddies was on the phone saying that I haven’t tested anything until I have tested a Ferrari 488 GTB.
I tried to explain to him that Ferrari SA do offer us the rare test drive of their vehicles, but they forbid us from actually taking the car to a safe and controlled test facility like Gerotek. Instead we are given the keys to a multi-million rand high performance car and told to use it responsibly on the chaotic roads in and around Johannesburg for one day. I have never seen the logic in this, and I have told them that, and as said, I now seldom get offered or accept a Ferrari to test drive.
My speed-mad buddy told me not to be silly and offered his new stock standard 488 GTB for testing, on one condition, I test his stock standard Gen 1 Porsche 911 Turbo S because he felt this car, although in the process of being replaced by the Gen 2 versionright now, could still surprise a few of us. So a new booking for Gerotek was made and a new duel put into place.
But while I was waiting for this to take place, a Ford Focus RS and Mercedes-AMG SL 63 arrived at the office for road testing. When my GT3 mate heard I had the Focus RS, he then offered his VW Golf VII R for testing because he couldn’t understand how anybody would pay nearly R700 000 for a Ford. So I enlisted some helping hands and we decided to descend on Gerotek en masse and settle a few bar arguments the right way. And by right way I don’t mean throwing strong left hooks followed by straight rights, I mean by using Racelogic VBox test equipment at a recognised test facility.
As you can see the Focus RS and Golf R ran very close, and as such the Golf remains the performance bargain as it is coming in at more than R100 000 better than the Focus. Although the Ford is pitched closer to the likes of the faster premium Audi’s RS 3 and Mercedes-AMG’s A45, it is only Golf fast but with a hefty price tag. Ford enthusiasts only need apply here to be blunt.
The Mercedes-AMG SL 63 was an absolute treat to drive fast. Yes, it is not a track weapon, but tell me how many full top down convertibles can hit 100km/h in 3.9 seconds, cross the 1km line at 257km/h while going on to be electronically limited to 300km/h? It rates as the ultimate and fastest convertible I have ever tested.
Then it was time for the Porsches to run, a GT4 had tagged along, and this limited edition car is a purist’s dream. It is manual only and hard as nails on the road. It posted respectable times for a 284kW naturally aspirated car on the Reef.
Attention quickly turned to the 911 Turbo S. Running AWD and 412kW under the hood, the previous king of 0-100km/h and the quarter mile was ready to back its reputation up. And it did. It became the first standard production car I have ever tested that has broken the three second barrier when it posted a time of 2.93 seconds to 100km/h while going on to a 10.96 second quarter mile.
But it could not lift the 1km crown time from the MercedesAMG GT S I tested last year nor could it get past the Audi R8 V10 on top. Perhaps the Gen 2 911 Turbo S will solve this little problem. I will let you know when I test one.
Then it was time for the ultimate run of the day, the Ferrari 488 GTB. The Ferrari had already dispatched all the competition with a 333km/h true top speed run and felt stupid fast in gear and on the roll.
Launch control activated, max power dialled in, run after run the Ferrari could not do its claimed time of 2.9 seconds to 100km/h to unseat the Porsche, and ran a best of 3.39 seconds. In fact the Porsche stayed ahead till the quarter mile mark, but by this time the Ferrari was charging hard and simply blew past the Porsche and went on to take the 1km crown at 273km/h to go with the top speed one from earlier. It was also faster in gear than anything else by a huge margin.
What were my picks? The Ferrari is the most expensive car here, but I feel that there is a justifiable reason for this. Not only does it have the looks, it was also the most stable easy car to drive at high speed. It is also the fastest offering of the lot.
I really liked the Audi R8, that sound, that feel of the engine, and it is a looker too. Sadly this should be the last of the large capacity naturally aspirated supercars. Get one while you can.
The Mercedes-AMG SL 63 was also a very competent machine, considering that it is a drop-top that you should only be cruising around in, and not destroying the likes of Porsches on the road.
The Porsches were all exactly as you would expect, they are driver’s cars, they take no prisoners and are not ashamed to admit to this. And the competition better pay attention, they are all being replaced with faster and better models as we speak.
The hot hatches were a mixed bag, the new Focus RS is not the car it should be for the money, and the Golf R is rather long in the tooth now, but it remains popular and sought-after. If you want an all-round hot hatch, just buy a GTI and be done with it.
So was this a win at all cost shootout? No, it was just a bunch of cars that happened to come together at the same time at the same place. What it did prove is, that no one car does everything better than any other car. And that is why one person will buy a Golf before a Focus, or a Porsche before a Ferrari.