Two esoteric 4x4s and a handy-handling hot hatch

THESE are three very different vehicles that can be described as delivering traditional types of car to a very high level.

Audi R8: £119,500 (V10); £134,500 (V10 plus)

AUDI R8.

AUDI R8.

Sister-car to Lamborghini’s Gallardo, the first R8 in 2006 was powered by Audi’s 4.2 litre V8 petrol engine. The 5.2 V10 (525ps) came in 2008. The new R8 launches with the 5.2 V10 once more but power is up to 540ps or 610ps (V10 plus). Midengined so strictly a two-seater, 4WD secures traction (a kind of “quattro in reverse”) as before. Aluminium ”space frame” construction now includes significant carbon fibre elements. Despite a stiffer chassis and more comprehensive equipment, it is 50kg lighter apparently. A seven-speed dual clutch “S tronic” auto-box is standard and a “Cylinder on Demand” system idles one bank of five when driven with a light touch on the throttle. Together with both direct and indirect fuel injection fuel thirst is down a claimed 13 per cent. An open top version will be offered again and “another engine” – V8 perhaps but a manual gearbox will not since, it is said, there’s no demand. The press preview was memorable – a remarkably refined and relaxed car which was easy to drive fast despite the huge power and torque from behind your seat: 198/205mph; 0-62mph 3.5/3.2 secs; 24.8mpg (official combined figure). A real supercar, pity no manual version.

Bentley Flying Spur: £142,800 (4.0 V8); £153,300 (6.0 W12)

BENTLEY FLYING SPUR.

BENTLEY FLYING SPUR.

Volkswagen Group has invested heavily in Bentley and the Crewe works since 1998. VW’s large Phaeton with 4WD served as a basis for a new Continantal series to sit alongside the stately 6.75 litre V8 Arnage (1998) and Mulsanne successor (2009). The Continental inherited VW’s 6.0L W12: 575ps or 625 (“Speed” model). In 2012 an adapted Audi 4.0 V8 (507ps, twin-turbos, etc.) came along too for the GT (coupe), GTC (convertible) and latest Flying Spur which got the 507ps V8 last year. Saloon demand comes from the US and Asia where owners tend to be driven but it’s also a driver’s car should the boss decide to take the wheel – at the weekend maybe!

Peugeot 308 GTi: £26,555 (250); £28,155 (270)

PEUGEOT 308 GTi.

PEUGEOT 308 GTi.

Peugeot Sport’s 308 GTi is a further step (after 2013’s 208 GTi) towards a renewed expertise in chassis dynamics. Based on the GT’s 1.6 THP 205, power climbs to 250 or 270ps. Front wheel drive and a sixspeed manual gearbox again but 270 has a Torsen anti-slip differential (as RCZ R Coupe and 2014’s 30th Anniversary 208 GTi). Lower than the GT, steering, brakes, suspension and dampers are all reworked and track is wider (270 has 19” alloys): 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 6secs (270), 6.2secs (250). Cabin is kitted out very smartly (front sport seats, etc.) and the dashboard interacts to reflect Drive Mode. Pretty handy handling notwithstanding, competition is tough: VW Golf GTi which is the mature and smooth-driving exponent and a more “eager” crowd such as SEAT’s Leon Cupra, Ford Focus ST and Megane Renaultsport.

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