Audi R8 V10 Plus review: Ben Griffin spends a week with the second-generation German supercar – and realises it might just be the perfect supercar for British roads.
The Audi R8 is back and this time in V10-only form. You get two levels of insanity, the most powerful being the V10 Plus, and both have the potential to make your internal organs all gooey.
The second-generation car has big shoes to fill as the original car made quite a splash in 2007, although some said it was a bit too safe for its own good. Just how much better is the new R8 and can it now compete with the likes of McLaren, Porsche and Ferrari?
Accuse the R8 V10 Plus of being evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, and we would agree. But while it may appear similar on the surface, there’s been a lot of work done that makes it a true supercar and not a souped-up sportscar.
For starters, it’s mechanically similar to the Lamborghini Huracan yet retains the trademark R8 looks. It’s fierce and imposing, thanks to being rather low and wide, but not overly loud and crude like its Italian sibling – although the lack of dihedral doors is a shame (and not as practical).
There are some aesthetic differences for the V10 Plus such as a carbon fibre spoiler instead of a pop-up aerofoil in the standard V10. You also get carbon fibre on the door mirrors, side blades and diffuser, while the standard 19-inch alloys house gigantic carbon ceramic brakes.
These additions and the use of an aluminium space frame enhanced with carbon fibre help the R8 V10 Plus have a dry weight of 1,454kg, making it lighter 50kg than its predecessor and 40 per cent more rigid. Both figures you should care about.
We have to hand it to Audi, the R8 gets so much attention it’s almost dangerous. Fellow road users are happy to take cameraphone snaps of the car while driving, and pedestrians will come over and have a chat about it or ask for photo. Job well done, then.
The interior is extremely comfortable, too, but not as distinguished as, say, a Ferrari. But what it lacks in Italian flair, it makes up for with a sensible layout and solid build quality.
The R8 V10 Plus we had came with a WiFi hotspot and a Bang & Olufsen system that sounds as good as the engine when you mess around with the equaliser settings. As for the infotainment display, it sits where analogue dials would be, just in front of the steering wheel.
This means the navigation instructions are right in front of the driver, which is a good thing if travelling solo as you can keep your eyes on the road ahead more easily. The only downside is the fact the screen is landscape, which means you can see miles to the side but not so far in the direction you are headed.
There are two main areas where the new R8 falls down and the biggest issue is practicality. The front boot is so tiny you can only get two bags of shopping in so you’ll either need a second car or go on a diet, while in-cabin storage areas are limited.
You can chuck some stuff behind the seats if you’re really desperate, and there is an optional storage pack (£250) that improves things. The glove box is pretty big, too, and it has cup holders in addition to a compartment for your phone near two USB ports, but it’s no vehicle for hoarders.
However where Audi has been able to make life easy for the driver, it has. Rear visibility is good enough for reversing, which is useful when the rear-view camera costs an extra £600.
The fine nappa leather seats, meanwhile, are hugely supportive but not at the expense of comfort. After a three-hour drive we felt no more uncomfortable than if we had done the journey in a saloon, which is remarkable. They also keep you from getting all sweaty.
The R8 is also far easier to get into than some sports cars, which require you to be a contortionist, and the amount of cabin space makes it feel less claustrophobic than its rivals. Put the front seats back and it will accommodate people over 6ft quite happily.
There is, of course, the issue of having just two seats but really only the Ferrari FF and a few other 2+2s offer family cruising. Friends and family will have to form an orderly queue for a ride and that’s that.
Performance & handling
Let’s start with the second issue with the R8; the steering. Our test car was fitted with Audi’s Dynamic Steering (£1,200), which provides quicker steering at lower speeds.
The system itself works well, allowing 90-degree corners to take little steering effort, while there’s virtually no need to make micro-steers to hold a straight line on a motorway. But the downside is it’s less easy to tell what the front wheels are doing.
This may upset those who spend their days on a track pushing the limits, but on a road the level of grip is so ridiculous and the steering and agility so sharp it slices through the corners like a samurai sword through paper. Honestly, to put the R8 under any strain requires utter insanity or giant balls.
The quattro all-wheel drive system, which can now divert all power where it needs to be, will launch it from 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds – and probably not that much slower in the wet. Come rain or shine, it’s going to leave nearly every other car behind.
Honestly, it’s so fast it hurts. 0-124mph takes just 9.9 seconds. Beyond that, it will top out 205mph and get there with unrelenting pace. There’s really no need for this level of performance on a road, but it will make you grin like a loon every single time you have a taste.
Much of the grunt stems from its handbuilt 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10, which in V10 Plus form has an extra 69bhp. That’s 601bhp in a car that gives full torque at 6,500rpm – far enough from its howling 8,500rpm rev limit. And there’s no waiting for a turbo or two to spin up.
Slowing down is another strong point, as the carbon ceramic brakes make it easy to scrub off speed gently or brake so hard it snaps your neck. It’s reassuringly forgiving, adding to its overall drivability on public roads.
Then there’s the ride quality. Go for the Magnetic Ride package, fiddle with the Individual setting to put the suspension in comfort and everything else in sport mode and supercar insanity has never been more comfortable. Or easy to drive, for that matter.
Dynamic can be a tad firm for British roads. But most of the time the new R8 glides along happily, taking speed bumps and other inconveniences in its stride like an Audi A4.
The seven-speed S tronic gearbox changes gear so fast we thought it was possessed and in sport mode it’s super-aggressive. We much preferred leaving it in the standard setting, which quickly rattles off changes when you want it to but is relaxed the rest of the time.
Honestly, with that much torque it pulls hard in every gear and on a motorway that is more than enough to break the 70mph limit with half throttle. Those who want more control can use the paddles, but there’s not much need to.
While you’re there, you can also select Standard or Sport for the exhaust note, both of which are very loud but the latter is grumbly like a Bugatti Veyron and the latter more thrashy and raw. Either way, your neighbours will complain.
We should probably mention the launch control, which helps the R8 leave the line so fast it almost wheelies. In the rain it still surges forward like a missile. Gravel? It can still slam your passenger’s head into the seat if they are caught off guard. Neck braces should be standard equipment.
When we say there’s absolutely no issue with performance, we truly mean it. You could get something faster on paper, but potentially never really use it. With the quattro system, all 602bhp is usable virtually all of the time and that’s an astonishing feat of engineering for the first Audi to officially break 200mph.
Economy & environment
Continuing on the theme of usability are various efforts on Audi’s part to keep fuel bills down. Besides the effortlessly quick engine, which never really needs to be revved hard to shift, you get stop and start, which keeps things quiet at a standstill.
The engine will also decouple from the transmission when coasting, meaning it will save even more fuel that would otherwise be wasted through mechanical braking. When the Audi says it has 300 miles of fuel, it’s really not lying if you take it easy.
Audi claims the new R8 will do up to 22.8mpg (just shy of the standard V10’s 23.9mpg) and we can well believe that. It’s actually a 10 per cent improvement on the old R8. As for CO2 emissions, think 289g/km so it will cost £505 to tax every year if you pay in one lump sum.
Equipment & value
The Audi R8 V10 Plus is an expensive car but it’s very easy to bump up the price with worthwhile extras. For instance, the reversing camera is arguably worth having for an extra £600, while the Alcantara headlining with a stitched diamond design costs £2,400.
Then there’s the wonderful £1,750 Bang & Olufsen sound system, which is essential for anyone with a love of music, and the extended fine nappa leather package that enhances the look and feel of the cabin. Yours for £2,750.
Only the LED and Laser Light headlight extra was more expensive, at £3,000, and the gloss carbon fibre engine bay trim, which costs another £2,950. Overall, our car cost £153,575, which is the price of ten houses up north but in supercar land that’s bloody cheap. Even if it’s nearly doubled since the original V8 model.
When you consider the R8 V10 Plus is essentially a Lamborghini Huracan with a different badge and a less financially-ruining price tag, the R8 V10 Plus is hard to fault.
To break into the sub-three second 0-62mph club often requires spending towards and beyond a million pounds, which only highlights what a bargin the £140,000 R8 V10 is, although it is likely to depreciate heavily like its predecessors so there’s an argument for waiting to buy a second-hand one.
Supercars are so fast it’s easy to end up knocking on the pearly gates of heaven and the R8 is as rapid as it gets. But the all-wheel drive system does make it more predictable in slippery conditions, while the various electronic systems keep it from throwing up any surprises.
To that end it’s actually rather safe, plus the bonnet is so long it should be measured in miles. Crash at a sensible speed and you and your passenger may just live to tell the tale. It’s also much stiffer and has airbags, which will do their bit to keep you in one piece.
The R8 V10 Plus will out-accelerate just about anything regardless of road conditions and the handling is arguably better than that of the Mercedes AMG-GT, yet it rides better. The only area it lets itself down slightly is with steering feel, but even that’s forgivable.
The R8 lacks the same prestige as a Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren, but the amount of people who hang out of their car windows to take a picture or film it going past suggests it’s got serious cool-factor going for it.
What we really love though, is that beneath all the lairy carbon fibre the R8 V10 Plus has soft, sensible side to it that allows it to tackle long journeys, potholes and speed bumps. It’s no more difficult to live with than a boring saloon.
Yet when Sunday drivers finally pull over it can accelerate so rapidly time almost goes backwards and with zero effort on the part of the driver.
To that end, the R8 V10 Plus is not just a formidable supercar, it’s one you would willingly want to drive to the shops. To work. To bloody anywhere you can think of because, quite honestly, you will never want to venture outside of the cabin. Which is the point of a supercar, isn’t it?