Breathtaking, from that snarly nose to the integrated carbon rear wing. Breathtaking.
Yes, Audi’s reinvented R8 V10 Plus supercar takes your breath away. You’re not surprised to hear that, of course. Who would be?
A $224,285 (as tested) road-eating beast, one right at home pulling a G or more of lateral acceleration through a tight bend, should leave you panting, heart pounding, with palms moist and eyes the size of teacups.
There is even a G-force meter on the performance display to show you the numbers in real time. I’m sure it’s possible to break this baby loose in a corner, to lose grip, but I couldn’t find a safe and legal place even to try.
A nasty piece of pavement-hugging business like this, one boasting a 5.2-litre, normally-aspirated, 610-horsepower V-10 planted amidships under a show-the-world glass cover, should put an ear-to-ear grin on your face – all the way to its 8,700 rpm redline. How fast? 0-100 km/hour in 3.3 seconds. Top speed: 330 km/hour.
Here we have a light and nimble street-legal track car, one with instant but smooth throttle responses. It hits max torque at 6,500 rpm and shares half its parts with Audi’s R8 LMS racecar. It’s enough to give you gooseflesh. Out of excitement, not fear. Because the carbon-ceramic disc brakes are so strong and so sure, you’re never worried about staying in control.
Should we be sad that the second-generation R8 no longer is offered with a manual gearbox? Nah. The seven-speed dual-clutch tranny gives you all the control needed through the paddle shifters, yet frees you of rowing the ratios in stop-and-go city traffic. Sure, an eighth gear would be nice, though not required.
What’s also non-negotiable is a new Quattro all-wheel-drive system. It uses a multi-plate clutch to send up to 100 per cent of the power to either axle and is an improvement over the old and kind of primitive viscous coupling system. So the R8 grabs corners with all of its own rubber corners.
Yet you can live with it quite nicely in the city – an everyday commuter, though admittedly a gaudy one. Of course the R8 has you sitting just a few centimeters off the ground, so climbing in and out is more involved than what you experience in, say, an Audi A8 or Q7. Stay flexible.
To get settled in the cockpit, you must slither over quite a slim doorsill. There, you find yourself tucked cozily into a sport seat that’s comfortable over several hours. One of Audi’s latest innovations is a virtual cockpit display that projects everything – from speedo to tach to map and instructions — onto the screen in front, the one tucked under a glare-limiting binnacle. Over to one side is a place to stow and charge your mobile; two USB slots are standard.
This being 2016, the R8 has software in place that allows you to dial up a few drive modes through what Audi calls Drive Select. In the city, choose Comfort mode; on the track, Dynamic. Or mix and match as required: Comfort for the suspension, Dynamic for the powertrain.
And this being 2016, Audi has done what it can to squeeze out every bit of fuel economy, even if that does seem a little silly in a 610-horsepower two-seat supercar. The automatic start/stop system is, indeed, irritating. But the “coasting” mode of cylinder deactivation is not troubling at all. Disengaging the drivetrain when you back off the throttle is not problematic.
If your budget is tight, Audi has a starter version of this R8 – 540 hp, $184,000, base. But once you get north of $150,000, shouldn’t you just bite the bullet and get the V10 Plus?
2017 AUDI R8 V10 PLUS
THE LOOK: Modern, sleek and very low. No mistaking this for anything other than a very scary supercar.
THE DRIVE: The limits are so far out there, few drivers have the skills required to approach them. Yet you won’t get punished in the cut and thrust of a daily commute.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS: We could go on and on about the aluminum construction, the beautiful normally-aspirated V-10, the fact this baby shares half its parts with Audi’s R8 LMS racecar and so much more. But we’ll just say this is as sophisticated as a car gets.
THE CABIN/STORAGE: Driver and passenger will be comfy and all the tech bits are modern, especially the virtual display.
THE BRAND: Audi is making progress, though BMW and Mercedes are still richer brands.
WHY BUYS? Fanboys who want the very best in a high-performance car, but aren’t willing to suffer.
Price: $224,285 as tested.
Powertrain: 5.2-litre V-10 (610 horsepower, 413 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: seven-speed dual clutch automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 16.5 city/11.2 highway using premium fuel.
Comparables: Porsche 911 Turbo S, McLaren 570S, Aston Martin V12 Vantage S.