The all new supercar from Audi doesn’t just replace the orginal R8 – it throttles it. Dara Foley test drives…
Upgrades, mainly thanks to Apple, are things that fill my heart with dismay. Everyone knows that if you are daft enough to choose to install the new OS or such, the chances are half the things you had just got used to will suddenly stop working, all the pictures on your phone will now be upside down, and every person on your contact list will receive an offer for Viagra – kindly sent from your email address. Seemingly most upgrades, whether we want them, need them or not, are usually ill-conceived and seldom fully tested before being unleashed on us.
So when Audi offered me the opportunity to drive their new R8 V10, the joy was a little muted. So brilliant and beautiful was the first R8 – which evokes a fond memory of driving it shortly after it was introduced in 2006 – that I could not imagine how it would be improved.
With responsive, light touch steering the car
is assuredly under control.
Thankfully the styling of new R8 V10 has not changed too much, and if the definition of supercar is to look fast, low, wide, sporty and be jaw-droppingly beautiful, then all boxes can safely be ticked. The second generation model is completely new, however. The lines are slightly sharper and edgier than its predecessor, the honeycomb grille follows the trend for gaping air intakes, and the overall look is stylish and distinctive. The car is also made 15% lighter using carbon fibre and aluminium, while the chassis has been modified to make the most of the all-wheel quattro drive. A glass window over the centrally mounted engine bay is a typical supercar treat, allowing a glimpse of the 5.2 litre V10 power pack. The V10 engine is a true thoroughbred, and is the same unit that powers the Lamborghini Huracan. Audi own Lamborghini, so as well as good looks, there’s a lot of shared engineering and pedigree included as standard… and reassuringly it has been tested, again and again.
As well as sharpened up looks and mechanics, it’s the high tech electronics and gadgetry that defines modern motoring, and while some supercars are slow movers in this market, the Audi R8 is packed. The steering wheel has an array of buttons and paddles, and through it you see a vivid dashboard that Audi call a ‘virtual cockpit’, which is a quite brilliant 12.3 inch wide TFT screen. Replacing all instruments, it displays the various modes, sat nav and metrics – all easily toggled through by the Audi advanced infotainment controls and the Audi drive select system. This has been developed with the new TT and works perfectly.
The Bang & Olufsen sound system, as you would expect, is crystal clear.
The infotainment system is state-of-the-art and also offers a high speed internet connection with wi-fi for passengers. The Bang & Olufsen sound system, as you would expect, is crystal clear, even when thundering past other cars at speed – a testament to the all round cushioning of noise eliminating padding.
Supercars are rarely comfortable, but the V10 bucks this trend too as the two seat cockpit is plush, surrounded by a swathes of stitched leather and contrasting trim, and the quilted, fully adjustable bucket seats envelop you perfectly. It might have the looks of a Lambo, but the comfort is all Bentley – and yes, as you know, Audi also shares the Bentley stable.
Luggage space is limited to under the bonnet and a little space behind the seats. So that’s another tick for the supercar box.
This is a performance car and some, from a maker that is trusted, proficient and technologically ahead of its peers.
The real fun starts when you press a not-so-innocent looking round, red Start button mounted on the steering wheel. Instantly the 5.2 litre V10 engine rages to life, and at 6000 rpm there’s a meaty roar coupled with a firecracker and pop. In full voice it is beautifully tuned, and broadcasts that it’s ready for action.
Driving a 540 horsepower supercar on the roads of Bristol is, for a brief moment, a little daunting. Threading its wide frame through Clifton’s narrow streets takes concentration, however Audi say it’s an ‘everyday supercar’ – and should be used around town. I like the idea and, to be fair, far too many Lambo’s and Ferrari’s are confined to garages under wraps as investments, cherished I’m sure, but really, where’s the joy in that?
So, once the V10 had posed on the Suspension Bridge for a photo, it was time to take it out onto open road.
It’s a shame there are no fast hairpins around Cribbs Causeway to plunge the V10 into (or accelerate out of), or long Monaco-like tunnels to wind down a window and enjoy the roar, but the motorway allows the opportunity to appreciate a few more of its capabilities. The V10 delivers blistering acceleration (0–60mph in around 3 secs). Incredibly, it feels like a turbo, but the engine is normally aspirated and this liveliness is achieved by the super smooth, seven-speed, duel clutch transmission – and lots of clever software and mechanics constantly monitoring and nudging the performance with microsecond precision. Naturally we could only test it to a third of its top speed, but it does not take any imagination to know that it is perfectly capable of reaching 205mph.
With responsive, light touch steering the car is assuredly under control. I remain impressed by the MK1 version but the new experience feels better – the handling is alert, sharp, and the car wants to go fast. It is a thrill to drive.
The Drive Select button mounted on the steering wheel offers a huge range of ride modes; Dynamic is standard (and excellent), but you can switch between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual for any conceivable weather or road condition. The all-wheel drive being able to switch power to and from each axel is perfectly mapped for stability and control, regardless of what it’s like underfoot.
The 2006 model was Audi’s entry into the supercar market, and impressive it was, too. But this second generation takes the R8 V10 to a truly higher level, and, an upgrade that is better on all counts. This is a performance car and some, from a maker that is trusted, proficient and technologically ahead of its peers. Most impressive of all is the pricing, at £120,000 for the standard version. It may not be a supercar status price point, but it does mean you can afford to take it out of the garage, drive it, and enjoy every part of it.
If only all upgrades could achieve this level of customer satisfaction.
The Bristol Magazine’s test car was courtesy of Bristol Audi. Bristol Audi, Lysander Road, Bristol, BS10 7FF Tel: 0117 958 1450, or visit: www.bristolaudi.co.uk