Audi has let loose the first handful of images of its mighty V10-powered R8 just a couple of days before its official unveiling at the Detroit Auto Show, and boy, is it a sight for sore eyes.
Wider air scoops on the side (Audi calls 'em 'Side Blades'), a less-fussy grille, a new rear end, unique 19-inch wheels, LED headlights and lashings of chrome and carbonfibre give the alloy-framed supercar a bold new look. But beauty, as they say, is much more than skin deep: it's what beats beneath that rear glass that really sets the new R8 apart from the rest of the pack.
Audi has shoehorned a heavily-tweaked version of the S8's 5.2-litre V10 into the R8's midsection, with their engineering boffins managing to massage an extra 55kW from it in the process. That brings peak power to 386kW which happens at a stratospheric 8000rpm, while peak torque of 530Nm occurs at a relatively high 6500rpm.
Mounted low in the engine bay thanks to its dry-sump lubrication system, the 5.2 litre bent-ten boasts an impressive arsenal of engine technology. Variable cam timing on both the intake and exhaust cams makes the V10 smooth at low speeds and manic at high velocity, while direct-injection allows the use of a high compression ratio of 12.5:1 - which in turn means more power and better response. With its alloy block and heads, the new V10 weighs just 31kg more than the standard R8's V8, and Audi says that it's virtually identical to the one used in the recently-announced R8 GT3-spec race car.
The race-bred V10 will come hooked up to either a six-speed manual transmission or Audi's Lamborghini-derived R Tronic clutchless sequential manual. Just like the regular R8, power is taken to all four wheels via Audi's quattro system - the whole mechanical ensemble is capable of launching the R8 V10 to 100kph in just 3.9 seconds. With the R Tronic gearbox the 0-200kph dash takes 12 seconds and top speed is a heady 316kph.
Washing off all that speed won't be a problem either, as the V10 model gets the same set of huge brakes that bless the V8-powered R8. That means eight-piston calipers gripping 380mm discs on the front and four-piston calipers with 356mm discs on the rear as standard fitment, although those wanting some extra stopping power can fork out for an even more capable carbon-ceramic system.
Audi's magnetic ride damper technology ensures the R8 V10 rides flat and steady, while aluminium double wishbones on the front and rear and a weight distribution of 44/56 endows the V10 with a razor-sharp cornering ability. Audi says it'll pull up to 1.2g laterally, which means it can support 1.2 times its own weight (1620kg, for all you trainspotters out there) sideways. Not bad.
While the engine bay may be drastically different, the interior of the R8 5.2 FSI quattro has a lot more in common with its cooking-model cousin. The only major differences are some V10 badging in the instrument panel and a few red accents on the gearshift knob, which join the heated leather seats, sat-nav and a Bang & Olufsen sound system as standard kit. Parking sensors and racing bucket seats are optional, however Audi does say that for those with more "unconventional requirements", they'll be glad to accomodate them - for a fee, of course.
The Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro is slated to go on sale in Germany in the second quarter of 2009 with a list price of ?142,400 ($278,900 AUD). International allocations, sale dates and pricing will most likely be revealed at the Detroit Auto Show, so stay tuned.