In a brief and all too infrequent episode of extreme good fortune, Audi recently not only gave me the opportunity to drive the latest Audi R8 V10 Plus, they also allowed me to keep it for a week. The R8 is an automotive symphony of noise, raw power and surprising comfort. As you might expect, I had a wonderful time soured only by the knowledge that I would soon have to give it back.
Waking The Dead
To my eye there’s a hint of Audi’s LMP1 Le Mans racing car about the design. It is understated elegance with just the big fixed wing acknowledging the purpose. There is no escaping this car. Starting from cold, the R8 opens all the taps and bellows like a belligerent bull. A couple of the neighbours complained. Fortunately they live three streets away and I don’t see them very often. Soon though, after the throat clearing, the V10 motor settles back into a grumble of bass notes as the R8 starts the working day.
I have to admit to missing the old V8 that was available in the previous model. I recall that I preferred the drive to the V10 model when I drove them back-to-back. The V8, because it was lighter, seemed to me to be the better steer with the added bonus that it sounded proper; that was then however. In this latest version you can only get the the 5.2L V10 in two states of tune, hence the ‘Plus’ option.
Opting for the Plus version gives you an awesomely usable 602bhp against which the cheaper model’s 533bhp seems paltry. You will pay more for the V10 Plus obviously but if you can afford the £133,000 base price (£153k with options as tested) then the difference is hardly likely to be of concern.
Step Into The Office
Audi reckon that over 20mpg is possible and that’s true. I actually achieved it briefly on an economy run by driving like my Nan, assisted by Stop/Start and Audi’s cylinder deactivation technology. The reality is about 16/17mpg, but you won’t care. That’s how good this car is.
It is really pleasing that Audi have eschewed the now ubiquitous turbocharger in favour of a good old naturally aspirated Lamborghini lump with Gloss Carbon engine bay trim which can be seen through the rear panel when you approach the vehicle. Once the ignition is on you can open the hatch and caress the engine if you really want to. Up front under the hood is a deep well into which shopping or enough luggage for a saucy weekend away will easily stow.
For additional storage there’s a parcel shelf behind the seats (where the CD player lives leaving the sleek dash unsullied). Fitted in this area was a zippy, full width holdall-style ‘storage package’ (£250!) that had a look of a caravan accessory about it but which turned out to be very useful for the additional storage of small things.
If you do go for a saucy weekend away then make sure it’s a high-end hotel because anything less and you’ll want to sleep in the motor, it’s that comfy. Fine Nappa leather multi-adjustable sports seats with contrasting stitching makes the Audi R8 V10 Plus a very nice place to be. With the aid of pneumatic bolsters my wife pronounced it ‘very comfortable’. As an accolade there is no higher praise, let me tell you.
A Dash Of Technology
The dashboard is an eloquent lesson in how less is more. You can see it in the images. Nothing superfluous has been added. None of the trinkets and tinsel that makes the interior of some supercars look like a courtesan’s boudoir. Most of the controls are on the multi-function steering wheel (with the alternative of a central knurled wheel on the central tunnel) including the wonderfully evocative big red button that starts and stops the car. Beneath that is the ‘Sport’s Exhaust’ button which turns the soundtrack from merely loud to unsociably raucous.
On the left hand side of the steering wheel is a button marked with a chequered flag. Do NOT touch this button. I touched it once and found that I had put the R8 into Race setting. Essentially this means that the traction and stability controls are much less intrusive and things start getting a bit lively on the handling front at speed. Save it for the track. The Audi R8 V10 still sends its power to all four wheels but now exclusively through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox; there is no manual option.
The ‘Drive Mode’ button offers up the usual ‘Comfort / Auto / Dynamic / Individual’ settings. Comfort is good for a long dull run at motorway speeds but otherwise ‘Dynamic’ is the place to be for the most satisfying driving experience; or you can set the parameters to suit your driving style. Even in Dynamic, the ride is more than acceptable. Thanks to the optional Audi Magnetic Ride and Dynamic Steering (£2800 the pair) even the most sporting of drives will still leave you with an intact spine.
No rising infotainment screen here; all the information is on the Virtual Cockpit TFT screen. It works, it’s great and it is in your eyeline. In my opinion this Audi technology is one of the best innovations for years. Navigation, Bang & Olufsen sounds, Audi Phone Box – it’s all there at your fingertips. I don’t usually go overboard for the latest high-tech stuff but I will make an exception in this case. Superb.
The Ride Of Your Life
What a week! In the Audi R8 V10 Plus sixty-two miles per hour greets you in just 3.2 seconds and 205mph is at your beck and call should you dare to dream the impossible dream. The deep low-slung driving position, the ergonomic quality of the fixtures and fittings, the paddles that fall exactly for fingertip control all add to the experience.
The sure-footed handling, the effortless surges of power accompanied by the roar of the sports exhaust, leading to firework shenanigans on the overrun in Dynamic mode, make every drive special. To answer my own question then, yes, this really is a supercar you can use every day – and not just because you have to either. Very exciting. Very special. Very Audi.
The R8’s tech styling
The V10 engine
Audi R8 interior