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James Hinchcliffe
James Hinchcliffe

Hot Wheels

The car that's a breathtaking work of art Add to ...

When it comes to choosing a career, they say "do you something you love and you'll never work a day in your life." I'm very fortunate that I fit into the category of people who, quite literally, were able to make their dreams come true.

When I was young I dreamed of being a racecar driver. I think that every five year-old boy, when they grow up, wants to be a fire fighter, an astronaut or a racecar driver. I guess I just never grew up because several years on, I am incredibly fortunate to be a driver in the Indy Lights series. I'm sure you've all heard of IndyCars, and to put things in perspective, Indy Lights is to IndyCars what OHL is to NHL, or what college football is to the NFL.

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Now that you understand a little bit about who I am and what I do, I hope you can appreciate that cars and driving are passions of mine and my goal through this column is to share some of my experiences and thoughts of road cars and the goings-on of the automotive world.

Being someone who races cars for a living, I get the opportunity to drive a lot of road cars. I have had the chance to drive everything from family transporters to exotic super cars. One of the perks of the job. A common question I get asked is this: What do I think is the best car on the road?

This is a tough question to answer because the auto industry does this pesky little thing called designing new cars. That means that what you think is your favourite car today could be easily usurped by the latest creation from Ferrari or Lamborghini tomorrow. New cars come out so often, with the expectation that they will be better than their predecessor, that it is rare that one car will hold the top spot for too long.

I was a victim of this phenomenon for a while. The Ferrari F355 was followed by the Aston Martin Vanquish was followed by the Porsche Carrera GT, all in quick succession. There was always a new car to shock the senses and win over the masses.

Then I started driving them.

I'll never forget the first Ferrari I got to drive, or the first Porsche, or the first Lambo. Actually getting to drive these cars, rather than forming opinions based on looks and 0-60 times, changed my perspective dramatically. Yes, they are beautiful. Yes, they are fast enough to scare you. However, they were pigs to drive at low speed, the electronics often got in the way, the seats were great for the track but not comfortable for a drive to work. Unless you only owned one for track days, they simply weren't practical. Beautiful, but not practical.

I started to think that maybe that's just what super cars are all about. You had to be willing to sacrifice a smooth ride, a reasonable clutch and some creature comforts to drive something that sounded like an eight-cylinder orchestra and looked like Angelina Jolie on wheels. They didn't have to be practical.

That was until Audi packed on some pounds and entered the 'heavy weight' class of the automotive world; this class is known as the super car. It is not hard to find a car that looks beautiful. To find a car that is beautiful, drives well, sounds great and will not cost you an arm, leg and first-born child is tougher than getting your money back from Madoff.

Audi did the impossible with the work-of-art-on-wheels they call the R8. In a class of car that includes the Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carrera GT and Bugatti Veyron, they created a car that ticks every single box you could possibly imagine. And some you hadn't thought of yet.

When you think "super car," you think "fast." The R8 certainly doesn't slack off in this category. With 414 hp and a 0-100km/h time of 4.4 seconds, this German goddess keeps up with its greatest rivals from Italy, America and Japan. Going fast is something all super cars do well. What makes the R8 the valedictorian of the super-car class is how comfortable it is when driving slow.

This car can cruise around town effortlessly and is even a dream in bumper-to-bumper traffic! If you didn't know that you were sitting in a super car, it would be easy to think you were driving a luxury sedan. The ride is a dream, the finish is top class and it has all the bells and whistles you could want in a ride. And then, just when you think you are getting comfortable, you step on it, and instantly this car turns into more racecar than should be legal.

I have never driven a car that is so easy and forgiving to drive around town, but can still hold its own when being put through its paces. On top of that, the look of this car is breathtaking. It bucks the trend of wedge shaped, rear-engine cars and went the way of curvy lines and soft edges without losing that sexy, aggressive look. It's such a unique look that it won't be mistaken on the road.

Top all that off with a price tag of around $160,000, a fraction of most of its immediate competition, and the bang-for-buck ratio is unmatched on the road today. The industry will keep on making new cars, but I feel like the R8 will sit atop my list for quite some time.

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