The pinnacle of Audi’s range, its R8, is one of few remaining sports cars still equipped with an offensively large, high-revving naturally aspirated engine and we get our hands on one.
These days, with restrictions on cars emissions and such likes, manufacturers are downsizing the capacity of their engines and adding turbochargers to replicate similar power and torque, without the highly polluting side effects.
Some will feel this move is taking a step backwards, it’s an easy way to create power, yet one that delivers in a phenomenal way, I personally am a big fan – for many an enthusiast however, there is nothing quite like the screaming brute of a power-train as found in this Audi.
Despite the fact that Audi have already streamlined the rest of their performance range to run planet-friendly engines, their pinnacle of performance, the R8, is one of a dwindling breed to be fitted with a whopping great 5.2L V10 producing 602bhp with 560lb/ft of torque.
Off the top of my head and without using Google, I can only think of two other manufacturers that have retained such a stance – i stand corrected by the beards of the automotive world of course, but even the most iconic Italian supercars are being treated to turbochargers these days – a sign of the times.
This begs the question of what is a Supercar; well by tradition I guess a supercar is a low slung, two-seated car with conspicuous looks, finished in a glaring colour, equipped with a monstrous fire-breathing engine and with a rear-wheel-drive system, which tries to kill you at every conceivable opportunity.
Does the Audi R8 pass as a supercar then?
Well YES – on all but the fact that it is all-wheel-drive, meaning that it is your friend and doesn’t actually want to kill you at any given press of the throttle – that said, soon after driving this model – a more affordable, ‘RWS R8’ was launched, being inspired from racing pursuits, this model carries an exciting rear-wheel-drive system.
Having spent a reasonable amount of seat-time in the previous Audi R8 V10 Spyder on-track over the last few years, and despite the fact that I am not a huge fan of supercars in general, the R8 was one of very few that left me thinking ‘I could live with this everyday – I wonder what it’s like on the road’.
A question I wish I’d never asked, as when a friend bought one, I was trusted with it for a day and absolutely hated it – inside the older car wasn’t something that was overly plush, the infotainment was not only over complicated , but very dated too and the gear-change was jerky and overall, just horrible.
Since then, Audi have face-lifted the R8, giving it some very important changes throughout, the most important of which for me, is the fitment of a 7-speed twin-clutch gearbox, and at an Audi Range Review a few months back, I got the chance to sample this new model, thankfully so too.
Via the RMS Motoring community, I had read great things about this latest R8 due to members of the site possessing the latest version and with immense reviews; I was raring to go when given the chance to drive it, in the hope it could change my opinion.
Change opinion it did, and what a car the R8 V10 Plus has now become, a true gem, though one which only the very fortunate will ever get the chance of owning with prices starting from £141,200 whilst the model tested, with options comes in just over £152,000.
Finished in what I assumed was a gloss white paint, once the sun started to set, I soon realised the car was changing colour and at this point a quick glance at the spec sheet revealed the car is actually finished in ‘Suzuka Grey’ – a pearl finish that is incredibly rich looking in certain ambient light.
Carbon fibre splitters, spoilers and side-vents add a light-weight, sporting feel to the R8 whilst the model tested is fitted with 19-inch alloy wheels, a choice I feel is more sensible for quality-lacking roads network.
Sharper styling is helped with redesigned bumpers and angular LED lighting front and rear while luggage space is just enough for a pair of racing helmets or a couple of kit bags with enough room on a shelf behind the two seats, to set your coats.
Inside the R8 is vastly improved, and thankfully so too, this is where you spend all of the time when with the car, it’s no longer as bland as dishwater and now incorporates more soft leather than ever before; matte carbon fibre trim and Audi’s virtual cockpit with a steering wheel equipped with more buttons than a Formula One car.
Like the TTRS [read our views on this model here], the R8 uses only the virtual cockpit, removing the pop-up and very cheap looking double-screen that protrudes from the dash in many Audi’s and also like the TTRS, the R8 also see’s highly simplified climate control display and knobs.
This innovative 12.3-inch colour screen replaces the instrument cluster, showing all vehicle and infotainment data easily and more in-line of the drivers sight, I personally find the virtual cockpit less distracting than traditional screens placed in the centre of the dash.
What is visible on the screen, can be customised via the steering wheel controls and from a ‘classic view’ featuring a graphic of traditional dials, you can then switch between navigation, infotainment, surround cameras, split view and drive mode selection among a few track-inspired options.
The best soundtrack available is offered not via the Bang & Olufsen premium audio system however, but via the 5.2L 10-cylinder power-train tucked behind your ears – making the Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe, one of the last remaining, 205mph capable naturally aspirated supercars.
Producing 602bhp with 560lb/ft of torque this Audi is proper fast, but with a lot of the power high up in the rev range, won’t be suited to everyone’s tastes, mine included – I, and many other non-purists appreciate the way in which forced induction engines deliver the power and the R8 just can’t provide that sheer ignorance that puts hairs on your chest.
What it does deliver though is smooth, precise and glorious sounding – now mated to a 7-speed twin-clutch gearbox, the R8 came close to making me rethink my favouritism of non-purism, but thankfully it failed, despite my huge admiration for what Audi have achieved with this latest R8 when compared against the previous model.
Satisfyingly bowled over describes my initial thoughts after a good drive in the R8 as it demonstrates an incredibly comfortable ride quality, a sumptuous interior, super-smooth yet super-sharp gear changes and with its Quattro all-wheel-drive system, perfect grip levels no matter the conditions.
It’s at this time, that thought from before struck – the thought being ‘I could live with this everyday – I wonder what it’s like on the road’ – and i am thrilled to say that on the road, all that i hated before, is now a distant memory and this is one car that i could live with!
Words and Photos: Graham Curry
[images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]