5.2 V10 FSI quattro
lets get the
big numbers out of
the way: £103,215;
And some of the
ones, too: 3.9
zero to 62mph];
from standstill to
AND THE CLINCHER: Audi's 197mph mid-engined, two-door, two-seater,
all-aluminium-bodied V10 sports coupe is not only one of the world's
best sports cars but it's also the most user-friendly. There are faster
cars (but only a handful); there are more powerful cars; and there are other
supercars that cost ten times as much. But whatever the price, only one or two
of them can, in real life, come close to the R8 V10 as the perfect everyday,
all-round driving machine.
Two core features help maximise the R8's undemanding yet at the same time immensely
satisfying real-world driveability: Audi's renowned quattro all-wheel drive
system; and, another major advantage over others of the supercar breed, the
lightweight all-aluminium space-frame construction that is the backbone of the
R8's superb balance in itself one of the R8's most admirable characteristics.
Presence, street-cred, call it what you will but it's indispensable for any
supercar. And the R8 V10 has it with a capital P. The V10 costs a justifiable
£20K more than the 'ordinary' 4.2 V8 version but the only external clues are
the edgy 10-spoke 'Y' design 19-inch alloys, wider side cooling vents within
the trademark not-just-for-show 'side blades' and the dramatic all-LED headlights
that shoo slower traffic out of the R8's path.
Defined by a symmetry of menacing slats, blades and deep grille the R8, even
standing still, is formidably handsome. Our test car proved a camera magnet
that equalled even the latest Ferraris or Aston Martins. And like Ferraris and
Astons, most people will never own a R8 V10 but that didn't stop lots
of them pointing their camera-phones at it, clustering around it in car parks
and peering through the windows (particularly the glassed-in engine bay that
at night is illuminated to show off the magnificent V10!), or just nudging their
friends and giving us an easy thumbs-up as we drove by.
While the outside is dramatic with a D, the R8's cabin is typically A-list Audi:
tasteful and thoughtfully laid-out. Swing open one of the wide doors and drop
into the leather seats and, driver's or passenger's side, the first thing that
catches your eye will be the gorgeous-looking polished aluminium open gate of
the six-speed manual 'box. In a sense this single detail epitomises what the
R8 is all about: sheer driving pleasure.
can, should you prefer, opt for the R tronic semi-automatic sequential transmission
with super-fast shift-by-wire paddles on the steering wheel but do so
and you'll miss out on the unbelievably satisfying manual gear change. As mentioned,
it operates through a great-looking open gate and every shift is accompanied
by a terrific clack-clack sound that links you in to the machine in a
way that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Just believe me when
I tell you it is wholly addictive. On a purely mechanical level, the six-speed
manual's change action is smooth and fluid and matched to a perfectly weighted
and cleanly progressive clutch.
Highly strung? No way.
the record, the 'lesser' R8 the 4.2 V8 musters 414bhp and 317lb
ft. While it's undeniably a quick car, the V8 needs 4.6 seconds to get off the
line and hit 62mph before going on to its 187mph maximum. The V10 almost
identical in construction to the unit powering the R8 LMS racing at customer
level in the GT3 class is quicker still: its 517bhp and 391lb ft of torque
at 6,500rpm rocket the R8 to 62mph from standstill in an electrifying 3.9 seconds
and from 0-124mph in 12.3.
Fire up the V10 from cold and it idles with an unmistakably race-bred growl.
Pull away and you immediately know you're piloting something very, very rapid.
The tell-tale 'urge' of relentless power is palpable and undiminished even in
sixth gear. In fact, the sheer depth and usability of the V10's 391lb ft of
torque comes close to making the sequential shift auto option redundant
in town the manual 'box+V10 combination makes the R8 as sweet and good-natured
as an ordinary Golf.
But let it rip and the bark of the exhaust and the growl from the V10 is a soundtrack
you'll want to listen to again and again. At the tail, a slim ramp of the rear
deck rises to increase down-force. Keep your foot planted and the R8 feels as
though it's never going to stop accelerating. And as the revs climb so too does
the hard-edged, spine-tingling wail from the V10. Sadly, although probably for
the best, the one option not available for this wickedly quick car is a 'Get
Out Of Jail Free' card.
Despite its genuine near-200mph top speed capability and scorching 0-62mph time,
the R8 will happily potter along in city traffic, lope leisurely on open roads
or play to win on track day outings whatever level of performance you
ask of it, the R8 will nonchalantly deliver. Temperamental? Never. Highly strung?
No way. Tractable? Always. Explosively quick? Anywhere and everywhere. The real
ace up its sleeve though is that unlike most other supercars, the R8 really
can be used every day of the year and, more significantly, in all weathers.
with the dry-sumped V10 mounted longitudinally behind your back, the R8 is a
truly civilised supercar. But that doesn't stop the cockpit, like that of a
well-considered race-car, being first and foremost functional. It's a single-minded
functionality that starts with the key a straightforward Audi jack-knife
design, so no separate starter button. Just insert the blade, twist and go.
is a supercar
you can drive for the very
first time to Tescos or
easily into a real-life
parking space when you get there...
airy cabin is a model of sensible ergonomics and stylish fitments and contains
an undisputed 'ample sufficiency' of kit including a first class 465-watt Bang
& Olufsen audio system with 6-CD autochanger, top-level SatNav, power windows,
power-fold door mirrors and electrically-adjustable seats (heated, naturally,
as are the mirrors), auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto lights and wipers,
stainless steel pedal set, aluminium gear knob and lever gate, electronic climate
control and driver's information system.
and passenger both travel in real comfort thanks to generous and supportive
sports seats upholstered in fine Nappa leather. The driver has a grippy, three-spoke,
flat-bottomed, leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, a great dash and
instrument cluster with crystal clear dials and a first class driving position.
Smart polished aluminium and satin chrome detailing and cross-cut aluminium
switchgear add to the cabin ambiance, as do low levels of road, wind and tyre
noise amazingly good given the 235/35 19-inch Pirellis at the front and
the massive 295/30 19-inchers at the rear.
Long trips in the R8 are about as stress-free as they come; despite its racing
bloodline, the 5.2-litre V10 is unexpectedly muted in general driving: while
it growls deliciously as soon as you give it some welly (it revs all the way
up to 8,700rpm almost as high as a racing engine), the mechanical soundtrack
is never tiring even at full blat. Great visibility is something else usually
given up by supercar owners but the R8 has it in spades. This is a supercar
you can drive for the very first time to Tesco's or Sainsbury's and reverse
easily into a real-life parking space when you get there. Practical too: there's
decent storage space behind the seats and 100 litres in the front boot.
Also standard fit on the V10 is Audi's driver-adjustable magnetic ride with
adaptive damping. Given that this R8 is such a hardcore performance machine,
the ride is amazingly supple. Yes the suspension is firm but that doesn't stop
it riding compliantly. Speed bumps are taken with equanimity and most of the
time it feels supremely well damped and nothing less than a pleasure in which
to travel or drive for mile after mile.
Like its 4.2 V8 stablemate, the V10 R8 feels and is perfectly
balanced. And despite seeming to be glued to the road, it also manages to feel
playful a state helped by the quattro's power split favouring the rear
to the degree that most of the time the R8 feels genuinely rear-wheel drive.
However the quattro system is constantly apportioning power to the front and
rear axles in constantly varying degrees as dictated by the road conditions,
so there's never any of that 'waywardness' that very powerful mid-engined, rear-drive
sports cars sometimes exhibit. Not so the R8, which is always as composed and
unruffled as you can get.
All cars have handling limits 'Ye canna cheat the laws of physics'
but the R8's are high enough to honestly call it unflappable. Even cornering
like Penelope Pitstop doesn't give the ESP any real work to do because the R8
stays neutral for such a long time and even as it finally breaks away
it doesn't bite.
And when it comes to reining in the R8 the brakes prove to be totally reassuring:
huge ventilated and perforated discs with 8-piston callipers up front and 4-piston
callipers bringing up the rear ensure the R8 stops as quickly and as smoothly
as it accelerates. Naturally the R8 comes with a comprehensive package of safety
aids including the latest-generation Electronic Stability Programme (the driver
can also select different ESP settings to suit different driving conditions).
Factor in the brilliant suspension, idiot-proof handling, precise and beautifully-weighted
steering, superbly rewarding manual gear change and the awesome ten-cylinder
engine and the 197mph R8 delivers a singularly satisfying driving experience.
While stunning performance is always on tap, the R8 is without a doubt the easiest
supercar to live with on a day-to-day basis. In fact, we just can't fault it.
R8 5.2 V10 FSI quattro | £103,215
Maximum speed: 197mph | 0-62mph: 3.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 19.5mpg
Power: 517bhp | Torque: 391lb ft | CO2 351g/km | Insurance group 20