A motoring uni­corn

Audi R8

HWM (Singapore) - - Test - by Kenny Yeo

It was about ten years ago that the rst Audi R8 went on sale. The R8 was Audi’s rst mid-en­gine su­per­car and it was a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for the brand. It proved that Audi could hang with the big boys from Italy and its Ger­man ri­vals from Stuttgart. The rst gen­er­a­tion R8 was praised for its good looks, prac­ti­cal­ity, and per­for­mance. In­so­far as su­per­cars are con­cerned, it had al­most no faults. By now it should be clear that the new R8 has a lot to live up to.

And I’m afraid we are o to a shaky start be­cause I don’t think it looks as good as the model it re­places. Mostly it is be­cause of the nose, which pro­trudes slightly and re­minds of a witch’s crooked nose. It also has more an­gles, which makes it look more ag­gres­sive. Per­son­ally, I pre­fer the more uid and or­ganic form of its pre­de­ces­sor. Still, there’s no deny­ing that on the road, thanks to its wide frame, the new R8 com­mands se­ri­ous road pres­ence. Oh, it also helps that the test car I drove came in bright Dy­na­mite Red.

Swing the wide doors open and you are greeted with a very mod­ern cabin. The R8 gets Audi’s Vir­tual Cock­pit, which means you get LCD screens in place of tra­di­tional ana­log di­als. There’s also a myr­iad of but­tons and switches on the steer­ing wheel that lets you con­trol al­most all as­pects of the car, from ve­hi­cle set­tings to nav­i­ga­tion and even

mul­ti­me­dia. It’s all very high-tech, and quite com­pli­cated es­pe­cially if you are not fa­mil­iar with Audi’s MMI in­ter­face.

Speak­ing of com­pli­cated, the car of­fers an in­cred­i­ble amount of cus­tomiza­tion. The en­gine, sus­pen­sion, steer­ing, Qu­at­tro set­ting, and en­gine sound can be all be ad­justed to the driver’s lik­ing, and each mode can be se­lected be­tween Com­fort, Auto, or Dy­namic modes. I sus­pect some driv­ers can feel over­whelmed by the num­ber of set­tings avail­able to them. How­ever, I feel that it is im­per­a­tive to spend some time and ef­fort un­der­stand­ing how to set the car up so you get the most out of your drive.

Per­son­ally, I like my su­per­cars to feel racy, so I left the en­gine, steer­ing, Qu­at­tro, and en­gine sound in Dy­namic mode most of the time. I left the sus­pen­sion in Com­fort not be­cause it is too harsh in Dy­namic, but rather be­cause I nd com­fort to be the most well-judged. With so many road works go­ing on around the is­land, a lit­tle ex­tra com­fort is wel­comed. Plus, Com­fort doesn’t feel wil­lowy at all and I don’t feel like I’m sacri cing con­trol or re­spon­sive­ness.

It is in Dy­namic mode that you get the most out of that in­cred­i­ble en­gine. That V10 is eas­ily the R8’s party piece. If you want a 2-seater mid-en­gine su­per­car with nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine these days, you are left with, lit­er­ally, a hand­ful of choices. I can list them here: Audi R8, Lam­borgh­ini Hu­ra­can, and Lam­borgh­ini Aven­ta­dor.

It’s a short list, but for­tu­nately, once you get past the some­what ho-hum styling and com­pli­cated con­trols, the R8 is an ab­so­lute gem. That 5.2-liter nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V10 is a work of au­to­mo­tive art. It pulls ef­fort­lessly to 8,700rpm, mak­ing all kinds of ex­cit­ing and se­duc­tive noises in the process. It crack­les and pops on lifts offs and over­runs, howls and whines through the lower reg­is­ters, and ab­so­lutely roars when it surges to the red­line.

It is mighty pow­er­ful too. 540hp and 540nm of torque might not look like much in com­par­i­son to ri­vals like the Fer­rari 488GTB and McLaren 570S, but

CON­CLU­SION The Audi R8’s epic V10 makes it a motoring gem.

in the real world and on pub­lic roads, no one will ever ac­cuse the R8 of feel­ing down on power. It just pulls through the gears like a hot knife through but­ter. Audi says it will do 0-100km/h in 3.5 sec­onds, but it feels faster.

The en­gine is clever too. If it de­tects that you are just cruis­ing along, it can shut­down half its cylin­ders and work as a 5-cylin­der en­gine to help save fuel. That said, don’t ex­pect mir­a­cles. With a heavy right foot, I man­aged just 5.5km/l. On the bright side, it has an 83-liter fuel tank, so at least trips to the gas sta­tion will be min­i­mized.

The R8 han­dles bril­liantly too. The chas­sis is tight and the steer­ing is re­spon­sive and of­fers a lot of feed­back. It’s a won­der that Audi, the same com­pany that makes fam­ily es­tates like the A6 Avant that I drove a cou­ple of months back, can also make some­thing as com­mu­nica­tive as the R8.

When you are done thrash­ing the en­gine and throw­ing the R8 into cor­ners, you can dial ev­ery­thing back to Com­fort mode and the R8 be­comes a com­pletely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal. The en­gine qui­etens down, the gear shifts be­come gen­tler, and the R8 just be­comes an easy and re­lax­ing car to drive.

It has de­cent car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity for a mid-en­gine su­per­car too. You won’t be able to t golf bags into the R8, but the front lug­gage com­part­ment is big enough for a cou­ple of travel bags. There’s some stor­age space be­hind the seats, which is use­ful for smaller stuff like gro­ceries. De­spite its low ride height, I didn’t en­counter any prob­lems clear­ing humps or en­ter­ing/ex­it­ing carparks.

The big­ger is­sue with us­ing the R8 on a daily ba­sis is ac­tu­ally its doors. Like most coupes, they are very long. If you park too close next to any­thing, you will have dif­fi­cul­ties open­ing the door and get­ting out.

In sum­mary, the new R8 lives up to the high ex­pec­ta­tions set by its pre­de­ces­sor. It may not be as good­look­ing and can be quite com­pli­cated to use, but it drives like a dream and is ac­tu­ally prac­ti­cal for a mid-en­gined su­per­car. And then there’s that won­der­ful nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V10, which is worth the price of ad­mis­sion alone.

So many but­tons and switches, the steer­ing wheel can be a lit­tle con­fus­ing.

The cabin is a high-tech place to be in.

A nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V10 en­gine is a rar­ity these days.

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