The everyday supercar returns to the fray with a new transmission, the same engine and derivative styling. It's the same formula as before, so why do we still want one?
If we start at the heart of the new Audi R8, you’ll find the very best reason to still want one. The powerplant in the R8 has managed to defy modern turbocharging trends and retains its natural aspiration. The 5.2-litre V10 unit howls all the way through 8 700 rpm and in the V10 Plus model, whips up 449 kW at a heady 8250 rpm with peak torque of 560 Nm at 6 500 rpm. The sound isn’t the only thing that benefits from natural aspiration, the R8 handles better because of it too but, more on that later...
V10 engine remains naturally aspirated and in the Plus model develops 449 kW
There are two types of R8 on the market, a standard R8 V10 and then the R8 V10 Plus. Power in the standard model is pegged at 397 kW and the torque is 20 Nm less at 540 Nm. The Plus gets a few neat additions such as carbon ceramic brakes, the fixed rear wing, carbon inlays, specially tuned RS suspension and more standard kit inside. The Plus seems like the model most buyers will go for as it’s not that much more expensive and comes with considerably more power and kit.
Listen to the evocative roar of the R8's motor:
Out on track
Our first sample of the R8 V10 Plus was on the all-new Kyalami circuit with fresh tar and a couple new corners to learn. Getting to grips with the R8 is not a difficult task, the ease with which its performance can be extracted is carried over from the previous generation and you can instantly go quickly. The handling remains neutral and any slide or breakaway of car's rear end is predictable and controllable. Down the front straight, where we were clipping 240 kph, the R8 feels stable and at ease.
Climb on the carbon brakes hard and it arrests the car's speed blindingly quickly. The track shows up the R8's front-end where it doesn’t bite as soon as you want and feels like it should turn in quicker, but then consider this is a mid-engined car (its weight bias is towards the rear). There’s absolute trust in the rear-end, where you can plant your foot and rocket out of corners. The natural aspiration plays beautifully to this strength, it doesn’t deliver a kick of power like a turbocharger, but delivers it gracefully and rapidly without the abruptness.
The R8 remains a great everyday supercar with easily accessible thrills
The new transmission
The old R tronic transmission has been replaced with a fast-shifting S tronic shift-by-wire system meaning there’s no physical linkage between the lever and the gearbox. The shifts are ballistic when you go up the 'box and just as impressive going down. The shift paddles have a feature where you can just hold one down and it will either shift down to the lowest gear possible for your speed or shift into top gear depending on the lever you pull. Audi’s quattro system is also capable of sending 100% of the power to the front or rear wheels as required.
Only the V10 Plus models were around to drive so we were greeted with Audi’s new sports steering wheel. It’s a deep-dish wheel (with loads of buttons to accidently press when hurtling through a bend!). New for the R8 V10 are four satellite buttons that include an engine start and stop button – it’s big and red, a Drive Select button, which will be familiar to many Audi drivers and allows for Comfort, Dynamic and Individual modes to be configured, a button to make the exhaust loud and a chequered flag button that puts the R8 into performance mode.
Satellite buttons on the steering wheel allow for easy and quick performance adjustments
Audi’s virtual cockpit sits in the instrument cluster and can be easily adjusted to your choice of what needs to be displayed. It’s a familiar interior with the odd smattering of Alcantara or carbon fibre to remind you that you are sitting in a supercar. The seating position feels better than that of its Huracan cousin and its array of sensible switchgear is more appealing.
The R8 V10 continues to deliver easily accessible thrills in a package that looks and sounds sensational. The handling remains neutral and safe at the expense of outright agility, but the R8 will engender a big enough sense of occasion to anyone who's lucky enough to get behind the wheel. The R8’s pricing has moved out of the bargain performance category and into the rarified atmosphere with the likes of Porsche, but, again, the Audi seems a veritable bargain compared to its similarly-configured (if more exotic) Lamborghini Hurucan cousin.
|Audi R8 V10 quattro||R2 630 500|
|Audi R8 V10 Plus quattro||R2 970 000|
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