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Car reviews - Audi - R8 - V10 Plus

Our Opinion

We like
Cabin refinement and comfort, cruising efficiency, sharp aesthetics, instrument cluster, V10 wail, relative value
Room for improvement
Cabin and luggage storage, steering wheel buttons a little busy, doesn’t get clever HVAC vents from TT, not in my driveway longer

Gallery

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Audi logo30 Nov 2016

Price and equipment

Wearing a pricetag just south of $400,000 (as tested it was $442,400 plus on-road costs), there’s an expectation of a reasonable features list, even when the main skill set is aimed at cornering and getting to the next bend in short order.

The standard features list sees the Audi R8 V10 Plus sitting on 20-inch forged aluminium wheels – although the R8 on test sat on 19-inch wheels with 245/35 Continental tyres, which won’t have done the ride quality any harm.

The V10 gets to exhale through an active sports exhaust system, as well as having cruise control, electromechanical park brake, power-folding adjustable auto-dimming exterior mirrors, an alarm and a fixed gloss carbon-fibre rear spoiler in place of the electrically-adjustable wing on the standard R8.

Also on the Plus is the Audi drive select system (with auto, comfort, dynamic and individual modes) but the Plus adds a Performance mode with three additional settings – dry, wet and snow – but there’s no adaptive dampers as standard within that system, which is not always a bad thing, but more on that later.

There’s also keyless entry and ignition (with start button on sports leather-wrapped steering wheel and paddle shifters), climate control and LED interior lighting.

The infotainment system is somewhat redundant with the V10’s soundtrack but it has the full sat-nav (with real-time traffic, all displayed on the virtual instrument panel) as well as Bluetooth and two USB inputs for phone and music, digital radio reception, a CD input (a rare thing now), voice control, two SD slots and a 10GB memory.

Given it has a Bang & Olufsen 13-speaker 550-watt surround sound system it does hold its own against the engine.

Interior

Looking up at the Alcantara headlining and settling into the sports leather bucket seats, it’s immediately apparent that while the coupe has a snug cabin, it’s not cramped to the point of discomfort.

There’s no question it is low – 1240mm in overall height means you do get down before you get in, but once settled inside there’s headroom and even a bit of width in the footwell.

Storage space behind the seats is officially 112 litres, with a 226 litre ‘boot’ in the nose, so packing light for a weekend away is mandatory.

Audi cabins exude a quality feel to the materials, the design and the build – the R8 is no exception, with a minimalist centre stack leaving much of the functionality to the MMI controller on the transmission tunnel and the virtual cockpit.

While the R8 doesn’t get the nifty vents of the TT it does have the 12.3-inch LCD display, which can be tailored to display mapping and dials for speed and engine revolutions, or just revs and a digital speed readout, or myriad combinations of both.

It is informative and clear, yet another example of Audi interior design that gives others something to chase.

The driver gets a performance version of the leather steering wheel, which has four (as opposed to two) satellite operating buttons for the drive select functions, the exhaust and ignition.

The test car also had the no-cost optional power-adjustable sports buckets with adjustable bolster and lumbar functions, as well as the extended Nappa leather upholstery and trim option which adds nearly $10,000 to the pricetag.

Engine and transmission

While it is shared with the Lamborghini Huracan (the 724 LP610-4 AVIO Coupe no less), the 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 in its cheaper Audi clothing is smooth and linear as it revs quickly to deliver 449kW at busy 8250rpm, with peak torque of 560Nm arriving where some lesser engines are delivering peak power – 6500rpm.

The 90-degree DOHC 40-valve V10 has a race-bred dry sump lubrication and delivers fuel to the cylinder by direct or manifold injection by way of continuous intake and exhaust camshaft adjustment.

The lightweight coupe tips the scales at 1555kg thanks to an alloy and carbon-fibre construction, meaning those outputs can be put to ground via the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system quick enough for a sprint to 100km/h in 3.2 seconds and a 330km/h top speed.

Firing away from the start line in closed-road stages in Adelaide did little to suggest Audi was being optimistic about its performance, but tempered by the transport stages between blasts, fuel use was reasonable.

The 83-litre tank wasn’t drastically drained by the special-stage antics, hovering in the low teens until the full-throttle exploits saw the number rise closer to 20 litres per 100km.

But the combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 12.3 litres per 100km is far from pie in the sky when able to make more use of the idle-stop fuel saver and cylinder deactivation, the latter being a seamless transition.

The additional outputs of the ‘Plus’ (which is $35,000 more) increases the thirst by 0.9 and drops the sprint to 100km/h by 0.3 of a second.

Ride and handling

As real world tests of a performance car go, the winding, lumpy and pockmarked roads of the Adelaide hills are worthy of an honourable mention.

Odd cambers, blind crests and tightening bends are all part of the mix but the R8 Plus takes it all in its stride.

Some of the R8 incarnations are offered with adaptive dampers but the V10 Plus doesn’t get that setup as standard, it’s an option for $4100 but the clever magnetic ride setup wasn’t pined for during the course of our time in the car.

The standard suspension is double wishbones front and rear, with the Plus spec sport suspension fitted with springs and dampers aimed at “sportier handling” according to the manufacturer.

Measuring 4426mm long, 1940mm wide and on a wheelbase of 2650mm, the R8 sits comfortably in traffic, shirking all but the nastier of bumps and ruts with more aural intrusion than feeling the bump through the seat.

It’s no A8 and the old-school suspension is most certainly intent on finding some corners into which it can sink its teeth, something that doesn’t take long.

Tight, twisty switchback roads demonstrate the enormous grip from its all-wheel-drive system and its low, wide stance, with understeer only creeping in when late braking and corner radius were misjudged.

Steering effort is light – perhaps a little over-assisted – but accuracy and speed of turn-in make the R8 an entertaining back-road machine.

Climbing into the upper reaches of the rev range when exiting corners delivers no drama from a traction perspective – there’s grip to spare – but the syncopated soundtrack of ten cylinders through an active exhaust approaching 8000rpm is different but no less appealing.

Safety and servicing

Large carbon-fibre-reinforced ventilated and cross-drilled ceramic brake discs are clamped by six-piston front and four-piston rear callipers which bring it to a disturbingly quick halt when asked.

A $20,300 option on the normal R8, the ceramic brakes are standard on the V10 Plus and are much better to use for the most part than earlier incarnations of the type just a bit grabby when cold, the sharpness disappears to leave immensely useful brakes.

There are also front, side and curtain airbags for the two occupants, as well as stability and traction control, an electronic “differential lock” to send drive to the wheels most able to use it, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic wipers, autodimming mirrors, parking sensors front and rear and reversing camera.

The standard setup is automatic bi-LED headlights with dynamic indicators and automatic high beam dipping, but the optional LED/laser headlights were fitted, a $7700 option which extends the reach of the high beam and sadly doesn’t include weaponised functionality for the headlights.

Verdict

It is difficult to imagine a vehicle in this price range that doesn’t hold considerable appeal but the R8 has a level of functionality that runs beyond the norm for a low, wide 600-horsepower supercar.

Previous experience in the 911 Turbo shows that such cars can border on practical and the R8 is no exception.

It misses out on the 911’s rear ‘seat’ which extends its usefulness but both could be driven every day – as could the Ferrari 488 – through daily traffic without ruptured discs, numb bum or loosened fillings.

The 488 loses out on price and the 911 Turbo looks a little too much like its siblings but the R8 stands out from the rest of the performance Audi range, save perhaps for the more rounded TT.

Scintillating yet subtle, it delivers serious pace in a package you could pedal every day.

Rivals

Ferrari 488 GTB from $469,988 plus on-road costs
The latest super-coupe from Ferrari is powered by a twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8 that produces an astonishing 492kW and 760Nm, which just pips the R8 to 100, doing it in a claimed 3 seconds using only the rear wheels. Lag free and remarkable for getting any of that through the rear wheels, the drivetrain and suspension work to deliver a considerably gifted vehicle, but asks plenty for it.

Porsche 911 Turbo from $384,600 plus on-road costs
For now, the 911 Turbo offers 397kW and 660Nm (or 710Nm on overboost) from the 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six, also using a twin-clutch gearbox and all-wheel drive to hit 100km/h in 3 seconds.

Less overt than the Italians (or its Audi sibling) the subtle muscle of the Turbo does plenty without apparent effort and wearing a price tag that starts just below the R8. Immense ability and a solid feel more than make up for the low-key (by comparison) exterior – still the one for my driveway.

Lamborghini Huracan LP-610-4 from $428,000 plus on-road costs
Packing the same 449kW/560Nm drivetrain as the R8 V10 Plus, the Huracan takes extroverted styling to a new level, even for a Lamborghini. Not the car for those seeking a quiet drive anywhere, the styling is capable of inflicting whiplash on pedestrians and other drivers but there’s a couple of options to be had on the R8 V10 Plus before reaching the Lambo’s asking price.

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