IAIN ROBERTSON

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Despite prices ranging from around £90,000 to over £1,000,000, the sales success of the ‘supercar’ (and ‘hypercar’) cannot be overstated, suggests Iain Robertson, which makes his final proposition one that is sure to shock.

 

Several residents of the more prestigious streets of London reach boiling point at this time of the year. With a flourish that is undiminished by semi-active police presence, the supercars are rolled out like the automotive equivalent of an overblown gypsy wedding. While very few of the beautifully coiffed, super-stylishly attired and fairly youthful models that carry names as exotic as Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, McLaren, Bugatti, Cizeta, Koenig, Aston Martin, Ascari and Bentley, are ever driven too far, they are driven ‘illegally’ fast. The support acts from Jaguar, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz tend to look positively pedestrian.

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Not all of the drivers possess Frankie Dettori physiques, yet they still manage to squeeze their real estates into the tightly accommodating racing seats. They, too, are dressed in the finest and most fashionable boutique gear that Bond and Jermyn Streets can supply, whether it flatters them, or not. Adorning their feet, almost to a fault, regardless of a cessation of blood-flow, are a combination of Italian racing boots, or Californian pimp loafers, an essential fitment for a toe-tapping orchestration in an ever-so-narrow footwell.

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Then, the cacophony commences. Countless iPhones click and flash in random accompaniment, mostly by school kids, often by similarly bronze-tanned, or sepia-skinned, friends, partners and relations. Listen carefully and you will hear concentrated Baltic accents, alongside Bahrainian and even Bombaian, the only raised non-ethnic voices being from testy locals. Multi-cylinders roar into life, some with popping turbochargers, several with exhaust flame-outs, as the supercars stage start in 100-metre bursts…enough to top 70mph in 30mph zones. Bemused officers of the law look on in semi-stunned silence, as they could not be heard above the roar of thousands of unleashed horses anyway, while others post parking tickets aimlessly on the windscreens of cars not yet taking their full-throttle blasts in this urban environment.

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That, dear friends, is what the supercar (and its even faster hypercar alternative) has become. Just as uber-wealthy, equally youthful footballers feel incomplete without an attachment to a bleached blonde, or a 200mph sportscar, the super-rich and their offspring take to the mega-price-tags with an insouciance that flies in the face of rarity, elegance and class and London is not alone in the capital cities of the world as a place where ‘showing off’ is second nature to most of the nouveau-riche and their paean to automotive exuberance.

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Yet, despite the close-quarters combat, the public highway is no retreat for high performance and certainly not in this country, a factor that, when contemplated, does overshadow posted top speeds on any motorcar in excess of 150mph. While it is clearly ‘nice’ to have a car that can attain and even exceed the magical ‘double-ton’, it remains a largely worthless boast in a country governed by a 70mph national speed restriction, however devilishly tempting it might be to stretch its luscious legs. As wanton as is the meaningless squandering of resources, judging by the vast amounts of accidental damage caused by their owners, learning how to master these rather special sportscars is equally as tenuous a desire, which means that the performance sector of the market is open to others that do not crave the attention factor.

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One year ago, I drove the latest R version of the ever-so-mundane Volkswagen Golf. The driving experience proved to be almost the complete antithesis of the average Golf drive (the standard item is immensely satisfying…the R is just that bit extra-special). Massively engaging (just like a supercar can be), exceptionally rapid (just like a supercar can be), delightfully sound handling (just like a supercar can be) and amazingly ‘rorty’ (just like a supercar can be) were my lasting impressions of the car. Twelve months later, my fascination and admiration for this amazing family hatchback remains as fresh as it did then.

 

My advice to the spoilt boys and their automotive ’toys’ is to use the money they save, from investing in a Golf R, on that carbon and titanium Panerai wristwatch that possesses far greater kudos for the rest of the times that the car is not demanding their presence. Rent a super yacht for that exclusive berth in Monaco Harbour during the Formula One Grand Prix weekend. Acquire some intensely beautiful works of art that appreciate in value, while giving immense pleasure nailed to the wall, or placed on a sideboard, within the penthouse apartment, where the rich boys take up residence for just one month every year. Take that exclusive holiday on Branson’s Necker Island. Spend the money on something else, because the Golf R is ALL that they would ever need.

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Thanks to the stability and traction of its all-wheel-drive system, the Golf can run rings around almost any of the aforementioned supercars. Thanks to a 296bhp turbo-petrol engine, a 0-60mph blast is possible in a supercar-baiting 4.6 seconds (en-route to a restricted maximum speed of 155mph), all without the annoyance factors of spinning wheels and tyre smoke of the typical supercar. While a 2.0-litre engine does not exactly have the ring of high-performance about it, VW has engineered a remarkable sound effect into its exhaust system, which means it burbles and pops just like a supercar.

 

However, the most remarkable aspect of the R, apart from providing enough space and easy five-door access to accommodate the blonde, plus two chums and even the pet Chihuahua, lies in its effortless operation. Long and relatively inexpensive service intervals, carried out at a local dealership, are a key benefit. The spare parts and maintenance costs are no more than cocktail-money prices to the very wealthiest of owners. Factor in a readily achievable 30mpg, which makes the 12-18mpg of the typical supercar look exceedingly wasteful, a six-speed sequential-manual gearbox (only two pedals and two paddles to worry about) and a level of refinement to make regular cruising, when not racing in the urban sprawl, a less tiring and irksome process, and the Volkswagen Golf R becomes the ‘go-to’ and, at £32,890 (without options), eminently well priced and accessible supercar. You would have to be barking mad not to consider it at very least.

 

Conclusion:   Volkswagen’s immense automotive talents were not exactly over-stretched in creating the Golf R, working as it did from a well-resourced quantity of parts bins, although, with a 400bhp variant currently mooted, that expression might soon become redundant. Regardless, the current Golf R is a stunning machine that is built impeccably well and offers fabulous performance per Pound value. Well equipped, comfortable and outstanding to drive, the VW Golf R remains on top of my personal dream vehicle chart.

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About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).