Sheer purgatory (dunno how we cope).
Phillip Island racetrack, a fleet of Audi’s finest sporting cars including - at the sharp end of things - two hammer-head R8 5.2 FSI V10s. And, topping that dream team, the Bathurst 12 Hour-winning R8 LMS.
C’mon, it’s “the boys’-own-fantasy” isn’t it? What bucket list would omit that one?
This is Audi’s Drive Experience program. How far up the tree of Audi sporting cars you drive depends on the depth of your pocket (or the quality of your relationship with farty old Uncle Roger).
So what of Audi’s sporting cars – how do they perform on track?
Audi TT RS Track Review
- Vehicle Style: Two-door Sports Coupe
- Engine: 2.5 litre turbo-charged five-cylinder in-line
- Power and torque: 250kW/450Nm
- Performance: 0-100km/h - 4.3 seconds
- Price: $139,900 (plus on-road costs and charges)
On The Track
It’s true, the entry-level TT – the 1.8T – is seen as a bit ‘soft’, perhaps more poseur than performance weapon. More at home in a café carpark than nestling in the pits.
That’s emphatically not the TT RS.
It’s simply in another hemisphere. The moment you settle into the deep body-hugging sports seats; the moment you fire the engine into life and a gruff free-spinning burble fills the cabin, you’ll know.
This thing is a switch-blade. Wide, low and short, a wheel at each corner, and with stupendous all-wheel-drive grip, it simply carves a race-track apart.
Its secret is in its roller-skate dimensions, the superb Quattro system down below, and that monster torque figure: 450Nm (you’ve got to read it twice to register).
It’s nobbled away from the line – it could barely beat a mother pushing a pram over the first three metres - to stop all that torque suddenly unloading through the seven-speed DSG box.
Then it goes like a shower: it's incredibly quick. Under full-throttle, it ‘whumps’ on gear changes F1-style, accompanied by a rising howl from the five-pot jewel under the bonnet. Beyond 3500rpm, racing through third and fourth, it is blindingly quick.
At this point however, you, like me, might notice that the steering is a little over-isolated. In the degrees off centre there’s not a lot of feedback through the wheel.
It's a minor demerit though, and won’t stop you threading a needle with it. The TT RS can, in fact, simply be thrown at corners.
For power-on all-wheel slides you just get the shoe in early - in the dry there are shrieks of complaint from the front tyres.
But once through the apex, understeer transitions to oversteer and, sitting above it to stop things getting really messy, there’s a ‘track-friendly’ traction control.
It sounds spectacular, and you’ll be losing seconds every lap, but try wiping the silly-arse grin off your face.
Around Phillip Island, even through the never-ending turn two, it’s so well balanced and so superbly ‘chuckable’ that you can hug an inside line into corners and let its lateral momentum carry you out.
We also had it on the skid-pan putting it through a boxed slalom.
There, the fastest runs were the neat ones (er, not mine). In the wet, the traction control and turbo lag - there’s a little of the latter - would occasionally show a heavy hand, but the TT RS is like a greased ferret around a tight track.
Aside from the R8, of all the Audis on track, the TT RS is the one that really does it for me.
In white, sitting on those 19-inch alloys, it looks fat.
For its needlepoint responsiveness, and the way it envelopes you – like you wear it – and for that simply superb engine, Audi’s TT RS is irresistible.
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Audi RS 5 Track Review
- Vehicle Style: Two-door Premium Sports Coupe
- Engine: 4.2 litre DOHC V8
- Power and torque: 331kW/430Nm
- Performance: 0-100km/h - 4.6 seconds
- Price: $175,300 (plus on-road costs and charges)
On The Track
In the company of the TT RS and R8 V10, we expected the RS 5 to be eclipsed by its more track-focused bad-boy brothers.
Wrong. The all-wheel-drive RS 5 is a sledgehammer. But a sublime one; and wrapped in velvet understated lines.
The sound of its V8 through the huge twin pipes at the rear – an off-beat menacing growl – is simply intoxicating.
Beautifully trimmed inside, cosseting and comfortable and with that elegant economy of line that distinguishes all Audi interiors, the RS 5 combines saloon finesse with blinding speed.
Throttle response from the gruff muscular V8 is instantaneous: it simply hauls off the line.
Mated to the V8, the seven-speed DSG works beautifully with crisp seamless upshifts to the accompaniment of a glorious V8 bellow at full noise.
Downshifting into corners produces a satisfying bark, a quick rev-matching ‘blip’of the throttle.
It can be rowed through the paddles or shift lever, but, on track, we found it best to keep our hands off the stick (always good advice I've found) and leave the 'box to its own devices.
The RS 5 can carry enormous speed through a corner - even getting light over Lukey heights and hard on the brakes down into 'MG' it has a balance that belies its 1725kg heft (it's a big car).
Get in too hot and it will fleetingly understeer wide, but then the AWD Quattro system and traction control simply gathers things up and carries you through.
If there's a downside, it's that the RS 5 does things a little too well. It has such levels of grip that you wonder what you would have to do to muck things up.
And in removing a degree of driver involvement it can feel a little wooden as a result.
Whatever, this is one very fast and satisfying car.
And it looks the part. Sitting on wide 275/30 rubber and 20-inch rims, with a discrete spoiler and twin rear pipes, and with a beautiful sweeping side profile, there is a brooding track-ready menace to its lines.
For style, the only thing that jars with me is the front view. To these eyes the 'Audi face' sits a little less comfortably on the larger cars in the range.
The big snout, wide deep grille and the flat relief of the bonnet is a bit overwhelming: it dominates the front and leaves the headlights looking a little piggy-eyed (although the update is on the way).
But you wouldn't throw it out of bed - never. For that glorious V8, its sledgehammer speed and cosseting interior, you'd have the RS 5 in your garage in a heartbeat.
Audi R8 V10 Track Review
- Vehicle Style: Two-door performance ‘supercar’
- Engine: 5.2 litre DOHC V10
- Power and torque: 386kW/530Nm
- Performance: 0-100km/h - 3.9 seconds
- Price: $367,400 (plus on-road costs and charges)
On The Track
Crank the gorgeous V10 to life, blip the throttle once, and it will raise your neck hairs and send a shiver racing down your spine.
Audi’s R8 V10 is a fabulous racecar, but, of course, its reputation precedes it.
Born of the sublime R8 V8 - and with all its hunkered down aesthetics, balance and rapier handling - the 5.2 FSI has the V10 from the Gallardo nestled between its flanks.
Look down through the clear cover over the engine bay, and you will want to lick it. It's a masterpiece in modern design.
But nothing about the R8 V10 is ordinary.
The interior is a seduction in leather and polished alloy. It’s as black as a mortician’s eyebrow but flawless in fit and quality-feel.
It is so easy to get set ‘right’ behind the wheel, to feel a part of the car: the sequential lever nestled at the elbow, the superb sports wheel square-on, sitting low, clear chromatic dials ahead of a wide low bonnet - here, it feels all race car.
Push the lever across into drive, punch the ‘sport’ button nestling just below it, and the R8 strains at the leash with a smug high-tech growl.
But open the taps and it launches with the most astonishing rush. Producing 386kW and 530Nm, it pulls effortlessly from low in the rev range. It rises from a growl to a howl then to an outraged shriek all the way to its 8700rpm redline.
Punching it through the superb R Tronic six-speed box - effortlessly despatching each gear with a shrieking electrifying change - its 5.2 straining litres has the scenery blurring in seconds.
And putting that monstrous power to the tarmac is Audi's superb quattro AWD.
Comparatively lightweight at 1625kg, there is a bristling alertness and nimbleness to the way the R8 V10 points and steers.
It is astonishingly settled on the road, and can be placed with absolute and total precision into a corner.
Even at high speeds on a damp Phillip Island surface, this was a car that was never going to bite the hand at the wheel.
And, on the track, every part of the circuit becomes its own story.
Punching it out of the top turn, letting it drift wide under full power then slapping it down the main straight will again have your neck hairs jangling.
The sonorous howl from the V10 is intoxication itself, and there are brief moments of being transported to the angels on the crest of the rise leading down deep into turn one.
Hard on the superb ceramic brakes, pull back, one, then two gears, let the torque haul you through the apex, a brief punch on the accelerator, then settle, brake, back through the box, drag the nose around and squeeze it through turn two. "Patience here, patience..." you mutter to yourself... and so it goes.
This is a supercar - the R8 V10. It provides the heightened senses and super-real experience that only a supercar can provide.
It does things so well, is so fast, so engaging, and makes such wonderful noises while it sets the tarmac alight, that you can lose yourself completely in every moment.
It's not the fastest nor most brutal we've driven, but, automotive art and engineering in one, this R8 is complete on every level.
If you can beg, borrow, or buy your way onto a racetrack with Audi's R8 5.2 FSI V10 - then do it. I guess that's what the Audi Drive Experience program is all about.
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