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