HOW GREAT IS THIS? THE NEW SECOND-GENERATION AUDI R8 V10 PLUS IN FULL FLIGHT ON THE MONARO HIGH PLAINS… are these the best driving roads in Australia (when not snow-bound)? And is this the greatest road-going high-performance Audi ever?
Yes, quite possibly, and yes… simply yes.
Beautiful to behold, superbly engineered, fastidious to a fault, and with a V10 marvel howling in perfect chorus at the left shoulder, this is supercar driving at its essense.
But part of the genius of the R8 is its easy liveability. Even the 449kW V10 Plus we’re driving – capable of slamming to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds – feels like a car you’d happily commute in daily. It can be noodled, or hammered; it is as effortless doing either.
Vehicle style: Premium sports coupe
Price: $389,900 (plus on-road costs) (R8 V10: $354,900)
Engine: 5.2 litre FSI V10; [email protected]/[email protected]
Transmission: Seven-speed S Tronic
Fuel Consumption Claimed: 12.3 l/100km | Tested: 16.1 l/100km
The new generation car looks quite a bit like the former generation car, and shares that car’s essential ingredients: superbly-styled cabin, easy ergonomics, quattro AWD, and monster V10 packed in behind the cabin ahead of the rear wheels.
It comes in two models, the R8 V10, at $354,900 (plus on-road costs) with the 5.2 FSI pumping 397kW to the tarmac, and the R8 V10 Plus with an extra 52kW under the toe, 449kW, and retailing at $389,900.
You’ll pick them apart by the rear wing on the V10 Plus, and the bigger carbon-fibre front splitter. It is harder to pick them from the wheel. Both go very fast indeed.
- Key features: keyless entry and start, Audi virtual cockpit, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, cruise control, ‘parking system plus’ with rear view camera, R8 performance flat-bottom steering wheel, R8 bucket seats, dual-zone air-conditioning, MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch, Audi drive select with performance modem heated seats, high-beam assist.
- Infotainment: Audi Music Interface with 2x USB ports, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity.
The wide opening doors, which are longer and heavier than a conventional coupe door, and the slight contortion required getting in and out, are the only concessions you will need to make.
And the fact it’s low; you will find yourself ‘dropping in’ to those front buckets. Once in, you will find them impeccably trimmed and superbly ‘grippy’ (for when things get hectic), and surprisingly comfortable for a long day at the wheel.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel, with starter button, dynamic mode settings and function buttons adds to the race-car look and feel. The grip and feel and weighting is exactly right: lighter at lower speeds (despite the immense 19- or 20-inch alloys down below), becoming ‘heavier’ as speeds rise.
We love Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’ and the wide display that sits before the eyes. The easy menu and configuration of the screen adds to its appeal.
For track work you can keep an eye on all of the key functions, or keep ‘half an eye’ on things and sit the sat nav right where you'd like it.
It is brilliant, and simple.
The centre console, beautifully finished, and wide but not intrusive, adds to the ‘monoposto’ cockpit feel – with everything focussed to the driver.
But, were it not for the howl at the shoulders and the low-to-the-road seating position, you might otherwise feel you were seated in a conventional premium luxury car, such is the quality of the surfaces and attention to detail.
Not much room for luggage; 112 litres in the nose, and 226 litres behind the seats – good for a golf bag (apparently).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 5.2 litre FSI V10; [email protected]/[email protected]
- Transmission: Seven-speed S Tronic, electrohydraulic quattro AWD
- Performance: 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds
- Wheels: 20-inch forged aluminium (19-inch a no-cost option)
- Brakes: Carbon ceramic discs, 380mm front (six-piston caliper), 356mm rear (four-piston)
- Suspension: double wishbone front and rear, specially tuned R8 V10 plus sport setting
It’s a point we’ve mentioned more than once after driving a ‘supercar’. There is something supernatural in the way these machines hammer their immense power to the tarmac, and in the way they turn and grip the road at speed.
When any other car would be spearing into the shrubbery, too fast into a tightening off-camber turn, the R8 simply grips and turns and fires to the next.
And this R8 is different to the one before it. This one has no pre-determined settings on the bias to its electrohydraulic quattro AWD system.
It’s a completely new design that allows a fully variable front-to-rear torque transfer. What that means is that it can have 100 percent of the drive to the rear, or 100 percent to the front.
How aggressively it does this depends on the chosen dynamic setting, and the driving conditions. While the technical wizardry is invisible (and continually re-adjusting in mere milliseconds), it simply works.
The R8 V10 plus we drove could be powered deep into a corner, and slammed on full-power out of it. It’s like a go kart, but one that ate the steroid factory.
And the noise it makes is really special. Aussie R8s get Audi’s trapezoidal sports exhaust as standard fit. It makes a straining intoxicating burble, that will rise to a bellow in an instant.
It is not as visceral, and does not have the wild shriek of the Lamborghini Huracan, but is perhaps more a ‘noise’ you can live with… and your neighbours likewise.
We drove the V10 Plus only, a red one and a white one – with the wing, the extra carbon fibre and the extra neddies.
The difference between the two, beside the paint, was the wheel sizes; the red car had the 20-inch alloys, the other, 19-inch.
While both look fat, there was no mistaking the slightly better compliance of the white car.
Each, it has to be said, are surprisingly comfortable on road. While those alpine roads are generally in good condition, there can be lots of hollows and ripples and broken edges to contend with mid-corner.
But we found nothing to unsettle the R8, even at the most dynamic sport setting.
The new R8 is also reasonably quiet and refined (up to a point). That big rubber generates some expected roar on coarse surfaces, and the sweet chorus of the V10 is always present, but there is no problem having a quiet conversation when driving normally. (Fire things up, though, and the chorus becomes a wall of sound.)
It feels incredibly rigid on-road, and changes direction as quickly as you can think it.
There is an all-new aluminium and carbon-fibre reinforced polymer chassis and occupant cell, new electromechanical steering and Audi’s double-wishbone suspension architecture with magnetic adjustable dampers.
To cope with expected high track speeds there is a near fully-sealed underbody, and rear diffuser and fixed spoiler to let everyone know you’re driving the V10 Plus.
Both models, R8 V10 and R8 V10 Plus also feature ‘stop/start’ and a new Cylinder-on-Demand system that can shut down an entire bank of five cylinders under light throttle load.
It’s smooth, we could not feel its operation when coasting, but if you give the car the whip, as we did, you won’t get the claimed 12.3 l/100km (V10 Plus), but that’s not the fault of the car. It’s simple physics.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Of course, the Lamborghini Huracan is clearly a rival. It shares the chassis, drivetrain and V10 engine, but is much, much more than just a ‘top hat’.
It feels more the race-car; it’s louder, makes all sorts of ‘bad-boy’ noises, and howls fit to burst when shown the whip. Its interior is also more Italian, there is more flair and theatre in here, and it has one of the best centre consoles in the business.
We love the Huracan, but we’d perhaps enjoy the R8 more as a daily drive. It is also quite a bit cheaper.
There is, of course, the standard by which any super-coupe should be judged: the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Coupe. At $274,950, it leaves nearly 100 ‘big ones’ in the pocket, and is nearly as quick (if 0.7 of a second can be considered “nearly”). It might be hard to look past the Porsche.
Closer to the R8 V10 Plus is the Porsche 911 Turbo PDK 3.8 TT. At $384,900 it’s a close match on price, and a closer match on the 0-100km/h gallop.
There is also the brutal Mercedes AMG GT S, a car we also love, and also nearly $100k cheaper at $295,000. But the R8 feels more ‘the blade’, and is arguably the sharper tool straight out of the box.
VERDICT | OVERALL
No question, the new Audi R8 V10 Plus is something special. It still looks great (though I quite liked the ‘blade’ sweeping through the rear panels of the previous model), it is monumentally quick and handles to perfection.
Its price tells you it’s a supercar, but it has a rapier ability to change direction, and the thunderclap performance and smouldering carpark presence to back it up.
It is also typical Audi inside. A very expensive Audi with the premium materials and fastidious finish we’ve come expect from the company with the four rings.
It is Audi’s fastest-ever production car, drive it, and you’ll be hooked.
POSTSCRIPT: Incidentally, that engine and driveline – so track reports tell us – is pretty near unburstable. Teams are running 25,000 track kilometres between rebuilds… that’s track kilometres.
So it’s not a supercar you need to leave in the shed.