Bo­hemian rhap­sody

Ger­many has a hit on its hands with the perky Audi R8 su­per­car writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

AHEALTHY help­ing of Lam­borgh­ini horse­power has lifted the Audi R8 into the su­per­car league. The mid-en­gined Ger­man speed­ster has al­ways had the look of a su­per­car, but was let down — if only a lit­tle — by the 4.2-litre V8 usu­ally in­stalled in the mid-sized A4 sedan.

Now it has that sharp edge thanks to the 5.2-litre V10 en­gine usu­ally fit­ted to the Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lardo. It makes 386kW and 530Nm, run­ning to a red­line at 8700 revs.

The R8 V10 is easy to sum up. It’s the fastest road car to ever wear an Audi badge.

That means a top speed of 316km/h, a 0-100km/h sprint in 3.9 sec­onds and fuel econ­omy of 13.7 litres/100km for the six-speed man­ual and 14.7 for the R tronic manu-matic.

‘‘What is the sig­nif­i­cance of the R8 V10? It is the ul­ti­mate car from Audi,’’ gen­eral man­ager of mar­ket­ing Immo Buschmann says.

Af­ter a half-day thrash­ing around Lake­side Race­way north of Bris­bane, in back-to-back laps with a ‘reg­u­lar’ R8 V8, the great­ness of the V10 is ob­vi­ous. It throws you back in the seat, grabs the next gear, howls like a Le Mans racer, and spends much of its time just try­ing to get enough trac­tion to get into action.

‘‘To me it’s like a rag­ing bull with the V10. It sounds like an F1 car with that whine and it feels like the en­gine wants to jump out of the back of the car,’’ re­tired racer Brad Jones says.

He’s paid to drive the car for Audi on hot laps and he used to race a Su­per­Tourer for the com­pany, but can­not help telling the truth.

‘‘I wish I could drive it without the trac­tion con­trol. The light is blink­ing all the time here at Lake­side. I reckon it’s at least a sec­ond a lap quicker than the V8, and would be more on a smoother track with slower cor­ners,’’ he says.

Apart from the en­gine, the me­chan­i­cal pack­age re­flects that of the V8. But there is a dif­fer­ent grille, LED lamps at both ends, a few badges and oval ex­haust pipes to let peo­ple know this is the real R8.

The wheels are 19-inch, there is a Bang & Olufsen sound sys­tem, nappa leather and heated seats, and a tyre-pres­sure mon­i­tor.

The alu­minium frame and body are reg­u­la­tion R8 and so are the safety sys­tems in­clud­ing elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, anti-skid brakes and front and side airbags. And so we come to the price. Park­ing an R8 V8 in the drive­way costs at least $277,196, right up against the quicker Porsche 911s and As­ton Martins, but the V10 is in an­other league. The six-speed man­ual is all of $351,000 and the R-tronic gear­box takes it up to $366,990.

Don’t fret if you haven’t placed an or­der — Audi Aus­tralia ex­pects only 10 cars a year and most al­ready have a de­posit against them. So, what kind of per­son is af­ter an R8 V10? ‘‘We want to at­tract cus­tomers who were in­trigued by the R8 . . . but were wait­ing for the V10,’’ Buschmann says. Turn the key on the R8 V10 and you feel and hear some­thing dif­fer­ent.

It’s not the fright­en­ing bark of a Fer­rari V12 or the in­stant thump of an As­ton V12, but it is dif­fer­ent, and you know it will be bet­ter.

Slide the al­loy man­ual lever into first gear and that re­ally says it all. The V10 pins you against the seat. A slow change to sec­ond, and the en­gine thumps hard again as the clutch comes up. It’s the same into third, be­fore a breath on the brakes for the first cor­ner.

The V10 shows what a great job Audi did on the R8 be­cause the car sits flat and planted. The tail moves just a smidge side­ways un­der full power, but never enough to trou­ble the elec­tronic safety nets.

The brakes are eas­ily up to the job. Even af­ter dozens of hot laps with other driv­ers the tyres grip well and steer­ing is nice and pre­cise.

I did not bother with lug­gage space, but the sound sys­tem is good and the twin buck­ets are ter­rific. So is the air­con­di­tion­ing.

I got a chance to check the speedo a cou­ple of times around Lake­side, with my hel­met firmly in place. It topped 215km/h down the front straight and was over 200 around the twisty back sec­tion. That is se­ri­ously fast.

Driven back-to-back with the R8 V8, the V10 does not feel as sharp. But that’s prob­a­bly be­cause I am less wor­ried about push­ing hard in Audi’s ‘‘baby’’ car.

There is al­ways an air of men­ace about the V10 ‘‘daddy’’ and that’s what makes it so good. It’s a car you’d def­i­nitely con­sider against a Porsche and even a Fer­rari. not a poser.

Su­perla­tive: Audi’s R8 burned up the Lake­side Race­way, prov­ing it could sit com­fort­ably in the es­teemed com­pany of a Porsche 911 or As­ton Martin V12.

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