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Driven: Audi R8 V10 plus coupe. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi R8 V10 plus coupe
Mental pace, beautiful chassis, stunning looks - the Audi R8 is a storming supercar.

 



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Audi R8 V10 plus coupe

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: almost everything, although the stratospherically amazing V10 engine takes some overshadowing.

Not so good: is the interior special enough for a supercar?

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi R8 V10 plus coupé
Price: from £119,520; plus from £132,715; car as tested £153,670
Engine: 5.2-litre V10 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic
Body style: two-door, two-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 287g/km (Band M, £1,120 VED first 12 months, £515 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 21.9mpg
Top speed: 205mph
0-62mph: 3.2 seconds
Power: 610hp at 8,250rpm
Torque: 560Nm at 6,500rpm

Our view:

For reasons we can't quite ascertain, there seems to be some confusion over whether the new, second-generation Audi R8 is a supercar or not. So let's take a look at the evidence. It's mid-engined and made of lightweight, exotic materials - even more so as this plus model (an extra £13,195 over the regular R8 V10), which has bits of its exterior clothed in carbon fibre. It has a 610hp engine that makes the car capable of more than 200mph, with 0-62mph stripped off in just 3.2 seconds. While it might be a high-performance Audi - and therefore a 'quattro' - the majority of drive goes to the rear axle most of the time. It looks bloody sensational and has real star presence, which we'll come onto in a moment. And it's suitably expensive, all R8s now comfortably breaching the £100,000 threshold.

Yep, we're convinced: this is a genuine, full-on supercar. And it would seem the general public isn't in any doubt, either. We lost count of how many times people on fuel station forecourts stopped us to tell us what an incredible car we had. Or the number of overtaking vehicles on the motorway that slowed down to have a better look at the Audi, the occupants signalling their delight with thumbs up and big smiles. There's no doubt the more angular appearance of the Mk2 R8 is less 'pretty' and curvaceous than the original, but it lacks nothing compared to its predecessor in terms of head-turning appeal - and you could say it's more striking now than it ever has been before.

Perhaps the confusion over the R8's identity arises because, when the Audi flagship first appeared in 2007, it was a sports car with a 420hp V8, a manual gearbox and a singular focus on taking down the perennial Porsche 911. But the R8 has morphed since then. For the new generation, the V8 is gone. As, sadly, is the delightful 'open-gate' six-speed manual transmission. And, as we've already touched upon, a price tag that comprises just five figures is no longer part of the Audi's make-up. It might once, briefly, have been a sports car, yet now it is unequivocally a supercar.

Thus, it pays to compare it to such vehicles. And the obvious contender is the Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4, which has a 610hp 5.2-litre V10, four-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission... yep, you guessed it, the Lambo is the same car underneath as the Audi. Whether the Italian car's over-the-top showmanship is what you prefer ahead of the R8's urbane sophistication will most likely determine whether your (huge) pile of cash goes north to Ingolstadt or south to Sant'Agata, more so than the £48,005 price difference in favour of the Audi.

However, badge cred goes a long way in the world of the super-rich and while Audi might be a premium, aspirational brand at the level of the A4 and the like, when it comes to this game it's the least desirable marque, sitting behind Lambo, Bentley, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Pagani et al. The German firm therefore seems to have a very hard job on its hands convincing the 'Haves' to splash their cash on an R8 before all else.

Typical of the Teutonic carmakers, though, what Ingolstadt has done to entice you in is engineer the R8 almost to the point of perfection. And while there's much to rave about when it comes to talking about the Audi's splendid character, the glittering main attraction is that glorious, glorious engine. People talk about some V10s, specifically those found in the Lexus LFA and the Porsche Carrera GT, having no inertia in the way they rev; well, the 5.2 TFSI has to be up there. It spins up from low-range docility to its redline fury in the merest blink of an eye, all smoothness and massive power. Get silly with the R8's throttle in either Dynamic or full on 'Race' mode, and even though the S tronic can slam in the next ratio in almost infinitesimal fractions of a second, you'll be struggling to keep up with the way the tachometer needle flings itself round the digital dial in the lower gears. The acceleration is just brutal and despite the torque figure looking both relatively modest and quite peaky in this sector, the R8 is a flexible machine that will ramp up to startling pace in a high gear, low revs scenario.

The noise is sublime, too. In an age of widespread forced induction, to hear a maniacal normally aspirated lump screaming its heart out without any need for sonic augmentation is a rare treasure. Audi ensures there's no shortage of theatrics with a thunderous sports exhaust, but this is not a case of the induction being overshadowed by extraordinarily loud pops and bangs from the tailpipes. Off-beat, sonorous, truly spine-tingling, the R8's V10 plays a multi-faceted tune of exquisite beauty. It's almost worth the meaty entry fee alone.

Brilliantly, this is not a case of the Audi's supremely competent drivetrain being let down by a so-so chassis. Dynamic steering is another £1,200 option and we'd normally not recommend it. Yet here is a system executed near-flawlessly. There's none of that irritatingly vague slop about the dead ahead, the Audi's nose instead just pointing instantly where you want it to go. Slight lifts of the throttle mid-bend result in a feeling of torque being shuffled neatly and quickly to the rear axle, the R8 tightening its line with scalpel precision. And the body control in the firmer driving modes is rock solid; there's no lean, no pitch, no dive. Without taking all semblance of command away from a committed driver, the R8 manages to both flatter and reward in equal measure. And it covers ground at simply phenomenal pace, whatever the weather and conditions.

Naturally, what the Audi has that the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and the rest - much as they would try to convince you otherwise - lack is a veneer of everyday usability. Unflattering a comparison it may be, but when its magnetic ride adjustable dampers (£1,600) are in their softest settings, the S tronic is just slurring between cogs and clambering up into seventh at the earliest opportunity and you've got the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System (£1,750) playing your favourite tunes on the MP3 player, the R8 really is like a big TT. It's so easy and comfortable to drive, long motorway journeys becoming an effortless breeze. Shame cruise control (and not even radar cruise, at that) is a petty £275 extra, when even the entire A3 range gets this system as standard. Also a shame that while schlepping along the M1, you'll be looking at 22- to 24mpg at best; we in fact got 17mpg from it in total and while we don't expect 610hp supercars to do 40 to the gallon, there are forced induction rivals that will have slightly better range on a full tank than the Audi, which can only pack 73 litres of super unleaded into its midriff (tellingly, there's an option to increase that to 83 litres).

Is there anything else to complain about with the R8? Hmm, there is one thing. And, given this is an Audi, you might not believe what we're about to write... but the interior is lacking finesse. Oh, don't get us wrong, like any Ingolstadt cabin, it's supremely well built, made of fine materials and laid out in an intelligent, thoughtful manner. The magnificent Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch TFT display is standard equipment, too. However, there's no visual sparkle. The climate dials, for instance, are a very mild evolution of those found on the TT. The passenger side dashboard is plain and reserved, contrast stitching running across it or not. The switchgear is essentially lifted wholesale from the most prosaic models the company makes. In short, the R8's interior feels exactly like what it is - a proficient, sturdy Audi cabin, with no real glitz. The Lambo and Ferrari are definitely ahead on this score.

Nevertheless, no one who actually drives an R8 is going to be put off by the cabin. And what we have here is a car that conveys a clear message, which is this: no longer is Audi just making sports cars. It has shown that it can produce a modern supercar with all the requisite driving thrills of products from long-established, halo marques, while also blending in some genuinely benign characteristics that haven't been seen in any mid-engined exotic since the first-gen Honda NSX went west in 2005. It might be a bit more edgy to look at. It might be expensive for an Audi. It might be a little bit too understated for some potential customers. But for us? It's an utterly, utterly marvellous car, and one you can't help but fall completely in love with. We have serious levels of want.

Alternatives:

Ferrari 488 GTB: massively more expensive, even quicker than the Audi and possessing badge cred the R8 can only dream of. Turbocharging has not robbed Maranello of its magical powers.

Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4: this is the same car underneath as the R8. The Lambo looks even better, has a flashier interior and more supercar heritage - but it's quite a bit more money.

McLaren 570S: the British firm calls this a Sports Series model, but really, every car in its line-up is capable of at least 204mph, so the pricier yet less powerful 570S is the R8 plus's main rival.


Matt Robinson - 18 Jul 2016









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2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.

2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.2016 Audi R8 V10 plus. Image by Audi.








 

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