2013 AUDI R8 TRACK TEST REVIEW
What's Hot: V10 thrust, terrific brakes, communicative steering, all-paw grip.
What's Not: Challenging drive at the limit, I'll never be able to afford one.
X-Factor: It's the fastest production Audi ever. 'Nuff said.
Vehicle Style: Supercar
Price: $408,200 | Fuel Economy claimed: 12.9 l/100km
Ever thought about strapping a cruise missile to your back? No, neither have we, but we have a bit of an idea of what it might be like.
Here’s some of the critical numbers. There’s 404kW and 540Nm; the S tronic we drove weighs 1595kg empty (50kg less than the ‘regular’ R8 V10) and can rocket to 100km/h in just 3.5 seconds.
There’s also seven gears, two clutches, four driven wheels, one driver's seat and one for the passenger.
And there's an on-the-road cost approaching half-a-million bucks. Those are some intimidating numbers, to say the least.
And intimidated is exactly how I felt standing in pit lane at Phillip Island, waiting for my turn in the R8 V10 plus. After hearing it howl down the front straight for several minutes I was champing at the bit to get behind its flat-bottomed wheel.
But also a little apprehensive. After all, Phillip Island can be an unforgiving track.
It’s a fast circuit. Most supercars will handle turn one at speeds in excess of 170km/h, and by the end of the front straight the V10 plus would be nudging 270km/h.
But hey, opportunities like this don’t come along often and we would be failing in our duty (yes, tough gig) not to open up that glorious V10 in the interests of 'accurate reporting'.
So of course we drove the R8 V10 plus as hard as we dared. Here’s what we discovered.
On The Track
Audi has managed to extract an extra 18kW from the R8 V10’s 5.2 litre naturally-aspirated motor, all without any internal modifications to the engine itself.
Clever tuning of the ECU has also yielded 10Nm more torque, but with peak power and peak torque still arriving at 8000 and 6500rpm respectively. Redline is a stratospheric 8700rpm.
It’s dry-sumped as well, so it sits low in the chassis to keep the R8’s centre of gravity low.
Located between the passenger compartment and the gearbox, the V10’s midship position also gives it the best weight transfer characteristics when accelerating, braking and turning.
And let’s talk about acceleration.
After strapping in and gripping the (sumptuously trimmed) D-shaped steering wheel, the accelerator was given what we’d term a ‘moderate’ prod... upon which the R8 leapt forward, streaked up pit lane and spat itself onto the front straight.
The pace only got more frenetic from there on. After a frantic search with the left hand for the ‘Sport’ button (which opens up the exhaust bypass valves, loosens the stability control, changes the transmission mapping and enables launch control) we approached the large-radius left-hander of turn two.
All R8 variants are now available with a twin-clutch seven-speed automatic, dubbed S tronic.
It replaces the single-clutch R tronic auto of previous models; all V10 models now come standard with the twin-clutch ‘box (although a six-speed manual is still available as an option).
Entering turn two, it took just a couple of taps of the left shift paddle (which are larger for 2013, by the way) to call up two perfectly rev-matched downshifts, executed in the blink of an eye.
The S tronic transmission can change gears in just 0.03 seconds, and the interruption to power delivery is virtually imperceptible. For going fast around a racetrack, it’s the ideal transmission.
The V10 plus has incredible grip in corners. Unlike the regular R8 V10, the plus doesn’t get adaptive magnetorheological dampers. Instead, more conventional springs and dampers are used with a tune that is best described as “race ready”.
There is virtually nil body roll in corners, and the hydraulic steering conveys a wealth of information to your fingertips. The manually-adjusted bucket seats also help tie the driver to the chassis, and they’re very comfortable to boot.
Below, the Pirelli P-Zero tyres give fantastic grip. (Oddly enough though, we felt the R8 V10 plus didn’t corner as sweetly or have as neutral a balance as its V8-engined little sister.)
Cornering hard in the V10 plus, you’re constantly dancing on the edge of understeer and oversteer - and it’s a knife edge.
Coupled with the sensitivity of the throttle and the sheer responsiveness of the engine, it can be a challenge at times to avoid the dreaded front-end push of understeer.
With stability control switched off you can counter this by lifting off the throttle mid-corner, unsettling the rear end and turning the nose in. Carry a bit too much speed and you can turn this into a proper slide (but given the dollar value of the V10 plus we’d recommend keeping the electronic aids on).
Traction under power is outstanding, and you can get back on the throttle as soon as you’ve apexed.
With most the engine’s weight over the rear wheels there was rarely a moment where the car felt a need to shuffle drive to the front axle, while a mechanical LSD between the rear wheels kept wheelspin at bay.
Another party piece of the V10 plus is its carbon ceramic brakes. They’re standard on the plus, and save 12kg of unsprung weight compared to the two-piece steel items of the R8 V8 and V10.
The front carbon calipers measure 380mm in diameter and are gripped by six-piston calipers, while the rear rotors are 360mm across and held by four-piston calipers.
The stopping power they generate is formidable. At just under 1.6 tonnes the R8 V10 plus is no lightweight, but the carbon brakes pulled it up cleanly every time with a responsive and firm pedal.
They’re completely fade-free, too. Try as we might, the carbon brakes were never overcome by heat - even after being heat-soaked in pit lane after several hard laps.
TMR TRACK TEST VERDICT
For the R8 V10 plus, Phillip Island Circuit was the perfect launch venue. Tight corners with long stretches between them - plus one hell of a fast straight - is a perfect showcase for the R8 V10 plus’ ability to eat up turns and demolish straightaways.
It brakes hard, corners hard, rides hard and accelerates hard. The R8 may have built itself a reputation as being one of the most accessible supercars on the market, but in V10 plus guise it’s definitely a bit hardcore.
But it's also understated. The V10's note, though loud, is nowhere near as eardrum-exploding as its corporate cousin, the Lamborghini Gallardo.
Nor does it look outlandish. The exterior updates for 2012 are subtle, and even the all-LED lighting package is restrained in its presentation (we love those strobing rear indicators, by the way).
So if you’re well-heeled, enjoy trackdays and find Italian thoroughbreds too lairy for your tastes, look no further. The Audi R8 V10 plus is the car for you.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Audi R8 4.2 V8 manual - $279,500
- Audi R8 4.2 V8 S tronic - $287,000
- Audi R8 5.2 V10 S tronic - $366,900
- Audi R8 5.2 V10 plus S tronic - $408,200
- Audi R8 4.2 V8 manual - $308,400
- Audi R8 4.2 V8 S tronic - $315,900
- Audi R8 5.2 V10 S tronic - $395,800