Audi R8 review


- Credit: Archant

With the howl of the V10 engine sitting inches from your head, the new Audi R8 is a supercar designed to thrill with all the frills says Mark Whitchurch

Launched in 2006 amidst Audi’s dominance of endurance sports car racing, the R8 took Audi away from its traditional rallying routes, amplifying the company’s success at famous races such as Le Mans as well as adding some much needed glamour to the image of its up market range.

Initially sharing the 4.2 litre 420 bhp V8 motor with the RS4, the R8 was an instant rival for the benchmark Porsche 911. Sharing many of its components with the Lamborghini Gallardo, it was inevitable that the Lambo’s 5.2 litre V10 power plant would find its way under the rear deck lid of the R8, transforming the R8 from a 911 rival to a full blooded supercar.

A decade after launch, this second generation R8 retains this phenomenal high revving hand built engine that produces 540bhp in R8 form or 610bhp in R8 Plus guise, the model tested on the roads of Hampshire. A few enhanced creases and pinches to the R8’s cloak have refreshed the profile whilst retaining the cockpit forward stance that embodies the low, sleek design profile of its forefathers.

Flatter, wider and more muscular this second generation R8 boasts an entirely new chassis. Weighing just 200kg, this is one of the key elements that gives the R8 an impressive power to weight ratio of 392 bhp per ton! Developed from the ground up to be tauter and to create a more focused supercar on both the road and track, this new chassis incorporates the latest construction techniques that combine aluminium, carbon fibre and reinforced plastics. Weighing in at 1,454kg, the R8 is now 50kg lighter than its predecessor, even though it’s more rigid and packed with more kit.

Within the cabin the R8 continues to impress. The virtual cockpit digital display is the headline feature that takes Audi’s peerless approach to interior detail to a new level. All the key driver’s controls are gathered around the steering wheel, including the starter button, the exhaust sports button and driving dynamic selection. The attention to detail is at its best within the air conditioning controls that look effortlessly simple in design, yet are multifunctional.

This is the fastest production Audi to date capable of travelling from 0 to 60mph in 3.2 seconds and is the first that can officially push past the 200mph barrier, topping out at an autobahn busting 205mph! Whilst the 0-60 mph time is impressive, it’s the 0-124 mph time of 9.9 seconds that really starts to bring the R8’s performance to life. The rapid shifting seven speed S-tronic gearbox responds so fast you are not left wanting for a manual experience.

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The newly developed electromechanical power steering system feels initially light and not as communicative as you would expect, but with time behind the wheel your senses soon adjust and you can place the R8 with confidence and pointed accuracy.

Supercars are not normally associated with economy, however Audi have tried to instill some green credentials. The engine now incorporates a cylinder on demand system that, working with the FSI direct injection system, shuts down one of the two cylinder banks to help conserve fuel. Over and above this, the S-tronic gearbox will also detect when there is no throttle applied and will engage a coasting function. This clever use of technology enables the R8 Plus to return 23mpg, which is a 10 percent improvement on the outgoing variant.

The idea of a sensible, reliable supercar will, to many, seem like a contradiction. But the R8 is the supercar that you really could use for all aspects of daily motoring. For me, the lasting memory of this subtle but engaging supercar will be the howl from that V10 engine sitting inches behind your head. Prices start at £119,500 for the R8 V10 rising to £134,000 for a monstrous V10 Plus edition.

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