As fascinating as it all sounds, I’m left with a number of questions. For one thing, I can’t help but wonder why you’d take an R8 – one of the last remaining normally aspirated supercars – and turbocharge it. But mostly, I just want to know what on earth a 900bhp R8 V10 feels like. Happily, Elder’s first-generation demo car is warmed up and ready for a test drive.
“It’s got a stock engine, stock clutch, stock fuel system and so on,” Elder says. “It’s only running 0.4 bar of boost. I wanted to show what we can achieve with just a twin-turbo conversion and without having to spend another £50,000 on rebuilding the engine and transmission. Even so, the car is bloody intimidating!”
Driving through the outskirts of Swindon, it’s only the completely distorted soundtrack that gives away this car’s big power upgrade – the bassy, noisy idle and the whooshes and hisses as boost is built up and dumped. Otherwise, though, the car is every bit as civilised as a factory-specification R8.
That all changes when we
find some clear country roads. I tentatively prod the throttle pedal
in one of the higher gears first, just
to ease myself in. Eventually, I find the courage to shift down to second gear and press the accelerator all the way to the floor. Almost immediately, I lift right off again. The surge of acceleration through the mid-range is so intense that my unthinking instinct is to make it stop.
In third gear, the car accelerates with a crazed, unrelenting force, firing itself towards the horizon like a stone flung from a slingshot. Only once in a solid half day of driving did I manage to keep my foot flat in second gear all the way to the redline. It actually felt uncomfortably accelerative. I’m not sure I’d have had any spare brain capacity to deal with anything unforeseen happening. In fact, it was all I could do to grip the steering wheel and tell my right ankle to stay at full extension. I’m certain this car feels more accelerative than
a McLaren P1, otherwise the fastest car I’ve driven.
It isn’t just a laggy, awkward drag-strip refugee, though. The turbos start boosting at around 3000rpm and, with the rev limiter well beyond 8000rpm, there’s a very wide operating window. You’re never off boost. And throttle response is very good for an aftermarket turbo conversion, with only a fractional delay between the throttle being opened and boost arriving. It helps, of course, that even before the turbos spool up you have 5.2 litres and 10 cylinders behind you. Being four-wheel drive, the R8 also gets the huge power down without too much fuss.
Perhaps the most impressive thing, though, is that Elder has managed
to retain the basic character of the V10 engine. Rather than being flat and lifeless like lots of modern turbo engines, it still feels linear throughout the rev range and you still want to chase the 8500rpm redline. The soundtrack remains, too, a wailing, high-pitched exhaust note underscored by the manic wind rush of the turbos and blow-off valves.