And that’s the difference, in the end, between having a brain between your ears and an excess of grip and horsepower beneath your backside. On the public road, the brain will usually win, which means the leading driver – unless he or she is either stupid or worryingly fearless – will always be at a disadvantage. And in this case not even an extra 279bhp could compensate for that crucial disadvantage.
Maybe the most interesting thing we discovered, however, was that after a day
at the wheel of both cars, Jamie and I
agreed that we enjoyed driving the Mugen more over those roads. And I’m being entirely straight when I say that. There’s no caveat, in other words: the Honda was simply more fun, more agile, less intimidating and a lot easier to get close to its limits than the oh-no-tell-me-I-haven’t-overcooked-it R8.
No question that on a track the Audi would have destroyed the Mugen, but track driving and fast, responsible road driving are two entirely different things. On a track you can take calculated risks, and if you’re skilled enough you can start to exploit the way an R8 handles to make it go a lot faster.
You can do things like turn in on a trailing throttle to eradicate its natural tendency
to understeer; you can turn the ESP system off and get on the throttle early out of ◊
∆ slow corners, again to dial out the understeer. And you can use every last ounce of its thundering straight-line performance, safe in the knowledge that nothing will be coming the other way.
On a circuit, only the R8’s infuriating open-gate six-speed manual gearbox and its peculiarly jumpy brakes would hamper your progress, and it would obliterate
the Civic as a result. But on the road it’s
not like that at all.
On the road, the Mugen’s smaller dimensions, relative lack of weight, extra agility and far less lively tail end allow you to get much closer to what it can do ultimately, on a track, than you can in the R8. Partly that’s because your conscience screams at you to be sensible in the R8 far louder than it does when driving the Civic. And partly it’s because the Mugen is that much more friendly and predictable in the way it reacts on or near its limit.
Either way, the Mugen is quite clearly the car of choice in which to go howling – at a sensible kind of speed – across a favourite Welsh mountain road, even though it’s
not the quicker of the two if the driver of
the R8 decides to turn up the wick and behave like an idiot.
There are two vital questions here. How much faster do you really want to go than you can go in a Mugen Type R? And is it honestly worth the effort if your heart is in your mouth for so much of the time, as it is in the R8 when you’re going for it?
Answers: not much, and no. In the light of which, give me the hot hatch and a big bag of change every time, thanks. And maybe we should leave the supercars to those who think otherwise.
Honda Civic Type R Mugen
Price £38,599; 0-62mph 6.0sec (claimed); Top speed 146mph (claimed), Economy 28.7mpg (test); CO2 na; Kerb weight 1233kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, petrol; Power 239bhp at 8300rpm; Torque 157lb ft at 6250rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual
Audi R8 5.2 V10 FSI Quattro
Price £103,810; 0-62mph 3.9sec (claimed); Top speed 196mph (claimed); Economy 19.6mpg (test); CO2 351g/km; Kerb weight 1625kg; Engine V10, 5204cc, petrol; Power 518bhp at 8000rpm; Torque 390lb ft at 6500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual