The second-generation Audi R8 is faster, stronger, and lighter than the original and it might just be the best driver’s car on the market.
When the first Audi R8 hit the road in 2007 it took the world by storm, sweeping up award after award and a few here in Australia too. That first car was powered by a V8 and it was both beautiful to look at and exciting to drive, then along came a V10-powered version and it was just as good looking but more powerful… but it didn’t handle quite so sweetly as the V8.
And now the second-generation Audi R8 is here. And, and not to spoil the story, it’s a revelation. This time there’s no V8 version, just a tweaked version of the old car’s 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10, and it’s a heavily tweaked version at that.
For a start, there’s more power than ever with the thing pumping out, in standard R8 V10 guise ($354,900+ORC) it makes 397kW and 540Nm of torque, and in R8 Plus ($389,400+ORC) trim it produces 449kW and 560Nm of torque. It’ll get to 100km/h between 3.5 and 3.2 seconds, respectively and that makes it the fastest production Audi yet.
The new R8 V10 is shorter than the old car (4.42m) and wider 1.94m and stands 1.24m high. The snout is sharper looking than before and the gaping vents in the front help feed cool air to the quattro all-wheel drive multi-plate clutch to keep it from overheating, and the LED headlights can be cost optioned with Audi’s clever Matrix LED headlights.
As mentioned, there are two variants and the easiest way to tell them apart is by the spoiler, the R8 has a lip spoiler while the R8 Plus has a fixed wing. There are 11 exterior colours to choose from.
Climb inside and the quality is as you expect from an Audi, with a beautifully clean looking dash crafted from high quality materials and with a build quality few of its competitors can match. Visibility is pretty good for a mid-engined car and, as we’ve sampled on other Audis, the all-digital instrument display behind the steering wheel (doing away with analogue dials) is crisp and clear.
There are only two seats in the Audi R8, and there’s a small shelf (capable of holding 226 litres) behind the two seats that Audi reckons can take a set of golf clubs. This supplements the 112 litre luggage bucket under the front bonnet (remember, the engine is in the middle).
As mentioned earlier, the engine is a 5.2L V8 and it delivers drive to all four wheels permanently via a multi-plate clutch that can shuffle up to 100% of drive to the front or the rear as required.
The new-generation R8 is only available with a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission that’s as smooth as you could hope for. The engine itself is a growly sounding thing with a note that gets harder and more angry sounding the harder the thing is driven.
And it gets better when in its most raucous setting (Dynamic) which can be accessed via Drive Select (there are four modes, and three additional performance modes on the R8 Plus) which allows two flaps in the exhaust to open and let the full noise out.
As great as the old R8 V8 was, this new one’s better. Indeed, there’s a level of adjustability that few of this car’s peers can match, and the turn-in is pin sharp. And unlike other cars in this segment, it tends to flatter the driver rather than try and fight against you.
The steering in the R8 is a new electro-mechanical affair and these systems are getting better and better, and they work well - offering good straight-line stability and nice weight and manoeuvrability when having fun, and there’s just enough feel to keep you dialled into the car’s doings.
The standard R8 gets Audi’s magnetic ride system which offers adjustable dampers to suit the driving mode selected. We sampled this and fiddled around with the various driving modes and you can indeed feel the difference, but the one constant was the way the system was able to filter out the worst of the roads lumps and bumps, and that’s even in its most focussed (read: firm) Dynamic setting.
The R8 V10 Plus gets stiffer springs and dampers (although it can be optioned with magnetic ride) which will still soften the worst of the road, but adds an elevated sense of agility to the R8’s movements. Both suspension types, however, dial out body roll even at ludicrous speeds. And the brakes, wow, especially the carbon-ceramic brakes on the R8 V10 Plus (a $20,300 cost option on the R8 V10), although there’s nothing wrong with the standard brakes on the R8 V10.
In terms of safety, the R8 V10 gets airbags for the driver and passenger, side airbags, seat-mounted and side head level curtain airbags. It also offers stability and traction controls, quattro all-wheel drive, anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock, electromechanical park brake and a collapsible steering column. There’s also an alarm, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera.