Donkervoort uses the very best components, producing a spectacular handling hobby car. Our test vehicle cost ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬85,000, which is eye-wateringly expensive, but then this is a real adrenaline rush of a car.
Colin Chapman, the man behind the Lotus brand broke new ground in going fast from Formula One right down to the weekend hobby driver. The 1957 Lotus Se7en summed up the man: lightweight, pared to the bare bone and in reality a racing car with numberplates.
It's a measure of his genius that there are companies like Donkervoort refining that same basic idea to this day.
England has Caterham, Westfield and more, mostly working to a budget ideal championed by the man himself. Donkervoort in the Netherlands has gone the other way, using the very best components and producing a spectacular handling hobby car. Our test vehicle cost ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬85,000, which is eye-wateringly expensive, but then this is a real adrenaline rush of a car.
Each Donkervoort is hand-built, using a steel tubular spaceframe with copper welds, with its rock-solid lattice structure comfortingly exposed on the interior and an aluminium and carbon-fibre body.
And the interior is best described as snug. The seats are so tight in fact that they come with separate slots for each leg. They're clad in the very best leather, as is the Momo wheel and transmission tunnel, but it's still a spartan environment. This is a bespoke manufacturing company, though, and they'll load up the small, exposed cockpit with as many creature comforts as will fit if you want to spend the money.
As for the performance, with a kerbweight of just 630kg and an Audi 1.8 Turbo engine it was never going to be slow.
In fact the D8 hits 62mph in just four seconds, if you can get it right. With that much power it's all too easy to snake down the road hanging on to the wheel. It's that snappy, it's that pokey, it's that much fun.
A five-speed Borg Warner 'box transmits the power to the road and, kept on boost, the acceleration is predictably electrifying. There's no traction control, just a long throttle travel and a limited slip diff with a 40 per cent locking capability to keep you safe.
That saves accidental burnouts at traffic lights and turns a track-honed weapon into a useable weekend road warrior, but drop the gas hard enough from a standing start or into bends and the 15-inch Toyo rear tyres will pop before they grip.
Audi's 1.8 Turbo engine was great enough when it came inside a much chubbier four-ringed saloon, here it has been freed of all responsibility and dropped into a hooligan's car. And it feels made for it.
Here the wastegates sound like Darth Vader on a microphone, the turbo adds that much to the aural experience and gives the car ridiculous forward thrust. With the canvas roof dropped back and just flimsy doors attached with press studs shaking in the wind, the sense of speed went to go-kart levels. It will hit 7000rpm, too, and keeping the hammer down through a tunnel made it sound like a MotoGP field powering off the line.
It needed keeping above 3000rpm, or the boost kicking in would send the car bunnyhopping down the road. Driven hard, though, in the latter half of the rev range, this pared down road racer goes like a rocket.
The Audi unit is relatively bullet-proof and the performance upgrades, including a new intercooler and oil cooling system, won't worry the internals. There is a 270bhp version, too, one of which took the production car record at the Nordschleife and the Tuner Grand Prix at Hockenheim, so this one should go forever in this relatively unstressed package.
As for the suspension, it's a traditional outboard set-up. Height and rebound are fully adjustable courtesy of handgrips, you don't even need tools to give the tortured undercarriage and your own spine some breathing space on the road. At the track just twist for skateboard rigidity and away you go in a lurid cloud of tyre smoke.
And the handling is incredible. The racing wheel feels bolted to the wheels and turn-in is telepathic. It takes some muscle at low speeds, but the payoff in high-speed feel is more than worth it. If you're tempted and happy to spend this much money on a Se7en clone in the first place, tick the box for the quicker 2.7-turn rack as the opposite lock potential of this car is limitless.
Power oversteer is on-tap, but thanks to the lightweight build, LSD and inherent balance the D8 is easily held at outrageous angles. Like the Seven, it's fun for everyone, and seriously quick in experienced hands.
Hardened, drilled and grooved Tarox brake discs come unmolested by electronics and it's down to you if you want to slow the car sensibly or lock them up and inflict 200 metres worth of tarmac abrasion to one spot of rubber. With a car this light it never feels uncontrolled and when it needs to, it stops in a heartbeat.
That is the heart of Chapman's genius, virtually everything works better with less weight atop the wheels and Donkervoort has used the best of the best at every turn to produce arguably the finest Lotus Se7en derivative on the market.
Still, it's an almighty price tag for a car this basic, especially one based on 60-year-old technology. It's as fast as any car on a tight and twisting road, but it's mighty expensive and the likes of the Ariel Atom and Radical may just have passed the genre by. But if you have every other car in your garage, have a poster of Chapman on the wall and want to add an adrenaline rush on wheels, look no further, the D8 is the one you want.