Grip Fiend » Audi R8 V10 Plus


Renowned for its RS-badged sedans and wagons (or Avant in Audi-speak), Ingolstadt never truly ventured into supercar territory. The TT was as far as they went, fighting it out with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz SLK and the far more impressive Porsche Boxster. It was not until 2006, when they debuted the V8-engined R8, and then in late 2008 with the V10-engined R8 V10, that Audi finally launched itself into the big league of high-performance two-doors. While newcomers typically fumble about with the recipe, taking at least a generation to sort out deficiencies, Audi had it spot on with the first-gen R8. Attractive styling and punchy mid-engine performance complemented sublime handling, extreme accessibility and typical Audi quality, making for an everyday supercar that could moonlight as a grocery getter. Praised alike by enthusiasts and motoring hacks, the R8, in its various guises and specifications, soldiered on for a solid nine years. But the game has moved on, and so it’s time for part deux.

We flew down to Munich, and from there to Faro, the southernmost city in the Algarve region of Portugal, on an invite from Audi to sample the brand new, second-generation supercar. Changes on the outside are not radical, evolutionary rather, with a sharper grille and vertical fins that replace the horizontally slatted front intakes of the former model. It’s the case at the rear as well, which also gets a more prominent diffuser flanked by a trapezoidal exhaust tip on either side. The side profile of the mid-engined Audi features the biggest change, where the previous, single side blade has been broken in two by the taut shoulder line. You can tell the R8 V10 Plus from its fixed carbon-fibre rear spoiler, carbon side blades and carbon RVMs."

Both models come with 19” wheels as standard, while 20” units are optional, and come fitted with 245/30 tyres in front and 305/30 at the rear. Peeking from beneath are carbon-ceramic brake discs that come standard on the R8 V10 Plus."

The biggest change to the new R8 is the deletion of the V8 engine option. Yes, Audi’s new supercar is only available with the 5.2-litre V10, albeit in two states of tune. The ‘regular’ model comes with 540hp, while the R8 V10 Plus pumps out 610hp, putting the latter on par with its Lamborghini Huracán stablemate. Both cars even make the same torque, 560Nm, at 5600rpm."

The beautifully built cabin is graced with leather, Alcantara and carbon-fibre materials, sport seats, milled metal components and a flat-bottom steering wheel with buttons for the infotainment system as well as performance configurations. Like we saw in the latest Q7, the traditional instrument cluster has been done away with in favour of the techy Audi virtual cockpit, a massive 12.3” inch screen that affords intricately rendered, high-resolution graphics. You can individually configure the dials around the speedometer and rev counter; our vote goes to the performance view, where the rev counter is centrally located, with other indicators and gauges arranged around it."

I thumb the red starter button on the wheel, the dry-sumped V10 crackling into life with an angry snarl before settling down. The opening stint around the municipality of Faro took us around inner city roads and fast sweeping highways, perfect to soak in the Audi’s brilliantly damped ride, refined cabin and the dual-clutch transmission’s imperceptible shifts. Once out of urban confines, we headed to some beautiful winding roads around the town of Portimão, en route to the Algarve race track, both the journey and the destination providing ample opportunity to exploit the dynamic capabilities of the new R8."

The ‘drive select’ button lets you choose between comfort, auto, dynamic and individual driving preferences, with the V10 Plus model getting an extra ‘performance mode’ button (indicated by a chequered flag) that lets you specify three additional modes - dry, wet and snow - that adapt key handling parameters based on friction coefficient of the road surface. Along the sparsely populated town roads, full of short straights and off-camber corners, the svelte Audi encourages you to push harder and harder, which you do, as performance is easy to exploit. The V10 sounds fantastic too, wailing as you race towards the 8500rpm redline, and popping on the overrun, the aural theatrics further accentuated when you open the exhaust flaps (via another button on the steering wheel). All around visibility is excellent for a low-slung mid-engine supercar, which lets you place it with confidence around tight corners."

On the track, the first thing you notice - apart from the instantaneous, naturally aspirated response and outright punch - is the incredible grip afforded by the quattro AWD system, which can distribute up to 100 percent of the torque fore and aft. Audi claims 0-100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, 0-200 in 9.9, and a top speed of 330 km/h for the top V10 Plus model; while we couldn’t verify it with instrumented tests, seat of the pants nods in agreement. Bang through the 7-speed DSG ‘box and you reel in the straights relentlessly, braking late for corners (thanks to the massively confidence-inspiring anchors), and then back on the throttle again, with the sublime chassis and electronic wizardry doing a lot of the hard work for you. Mind you, as easy as the new R8 is to drive fast, it is also extremely engaging and can be a willing accomplice to lurid powerslides if you so desire."

The new R8 could very well be the ultimate everyday supercar for many. It looks gorgeous, possesses genuine mid-engine V10 supercar performance and dynamics, rides brilliantly, and is easy to drive at low speeds. The only niggle we have with the car is one we have with many Audis, the lack of genuine feedback from the steering, which is otherwise accurate and weighty. A spot of added storage space wouldn’t have gone amiss too, as the R8 has most attributes it takes to be a good touring partner. The lack of a V8 engine could be a deterrent for some, but Audi might come up with one in the future, or even a twin-turbo V6. Who knows?"

Engine: 5.2-litre NA V10
Layout: Mid-engine / AWD
Power: 610hp @ 8250rpm
Torque: 560Nm @ 6500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch "