Rated R8: Audi supercar has power to overtake Italians
At 525hp, the 5.2-litre V10 engine produces almost 100 additional horsepower over the V8, though in reality the characteristics of this engine results in a more intense driving experience. It seems the gap between these two models has been amplified. My test car was equipped with the new seven-speed S Tronic transmission; it heightens the scorching pace of the car, and provides near-instant gear changes. Select sport mode and not only does this sharpen the R8’s steering and throttle responses, it opens bypass valves in the car’s exhaust system, providing a glorious soundtrack from the V10 engine midmounted behind the driver and passenger. In the Spider (convertible) model, with the hydraulically operated cloth roof retracted, this aural sensation is further enhanced; the S Tronic comes into its own, providing autoblips of the throttle on the down changes.
The V10 R8’s range of standard equipment has been increased over the first-generation model, with Audi magnetic ride and a Bang Olufsen sound system fitted as standard – although I’d question the need for the latter once you’ve experienced the sound on offer from the V10 masterpiece. The magnetic ride is down to an adaptive damping system that adjusts the responses of the shock absorbers with the simple press of a button on the centre console. This system proved its merit across rough, uneven roads, keeping everything comfortable inside the cabin; it also improved the car’s handling in the wet, offering a softer suspension setup. It’s this key feature, combined with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive, that helps the R8 to fill the role of a supercar while still managing to transform itself into a comfortable tourer, something few Italian supercars can achieve.
Outstanding R8 Plus
An addition to the R8 family is the R8 Plus, a lighter, tuned, track-focused version of the V10 coupé. The standard 5.2-litre engine has been remapped to increase power to 550hp, while torque also increases to 540Nm, resulting in a 0-100km/h acceleration of just 3.5 seconds. The Plus has been put on a diet: it’s 50kg lighter than the regular V10 coupé, mainly through the use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic parts, including sideblades, diffuser and engine cover, and also lightweight 19in forged alloy wheels and bucket sports seats.
I drove the R8 Plus around the Missano race circuit, in Rimini. The benefit of the additional horsepower and weight reduction is noticeable when driven back to back with the regular V10. With a rear-biased power delivery, the R8 drives like a rear-wheel-drive car and will deliver oversteer in abundance if provoked. The carbon-ceramic brakes offer tear-jerking, late-braking capability. They are beneficial for track driving; however, on the road I prefer the new wave steel brakes, which offer more feel through the brake pedal. The R8 plus has its own bespoke suspension setup, tuned in favour of track driving. On the road this stiff suspension results in the car becoming twitchy at speed on anything less than billiard-table-smooth surfaces, while the comfort is compromised on longer journeys.