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Driven: New Audi R8 is half racecar

Potent pedigree: The R8 V10 road car and R8 LMS GT3 racer are charged with very different tasks, but the pair are closer than distant cousins in Audi's family tree.

Fifty per cent of Audi's R8 LMS racer parts make up V10 road-going version

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10 Jun 2016

AUDI claims that its all-new second-generation R8 supercar is its closest link to the company's motorsport activity and high-performance heritage, but the sports DNA is more than skin deep, with just under half of the hardcore R8 LMS racer's components shared by the new road car.

Like Audi's supercar foray of 2007, the next-generation R8 is being offered both as a road-going version in the form of V10 and V10 Plus variants as well as a purpose-built GT3 racer, but the hi-po pair hide many similarities under their coupe shells.

At the core of the two-seater's construction is a 79 per cent aluminium and 13 per cent carbon-fibre space-frame that shares 95 per cent of its construction across both road and track models and weighs in at 200kg when underpinning the road car.

While the racecar has a number of no-compromise features to add pace on the track, the 5.2-litre V10 engine is almost identical in both cases, however, the road-going R8 has a more sophisticated fuel-injection system with manifold injection in addition to the shared direct injection.

In race trim the R8 pumps out a hearty 430kW compared with the R8 V10's 397kW and 449kW for the V10 Plus, but the road cars add fuel-saving cylinder deactivation and a bimodal sports exhaust to keep the neighbours happy when at home and occupants happier on the open road.

When under low load, fuel injection and ignition is interrupted to one bank of cylinders effectively allowing the R8 to run as a 2.6-litre five-cylinder and contribute to a combined fuel economy figure of 11.4 litres per 100km – a 13 per cent improvement over the previous 5.2-litre V10.

To prevent excessive cooling of the deactivated bank, the engine management system swaps the dormant cylinders every 60 seconds with a “seamless” process that the driver can not perceive, says Audi.

Despite its potent output, screaming 8700rpm redline and dry-sump lubrication system, the road car servicing schedule differs little from a more modest Audi model with 15,000km intervals, which is included in the price for the first three years. The racer requires a full engine rebuild after 20,000km.

There are other notable differences such as the kerb weight – 1225kg versus 1454kg dry, the racer uses a six-speed pneumatically-controlled sequential transmission in place of the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch for the road car, while the LMS is significantly more expensive.

Customers can get into an Audi R8 V10 from $354,900 before on-road costs, stepping up to the V10 Plus costs $389,900, while customers looking to enter a GT3 series in an R8 LMS will have to fork out the equivalent of $554,000 (€359,000).

“This is our closest representation to our motorsport heritage,” said Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle. “Fifty per cent of the parts are common with our race vehicle so this is indeed the halo of our brand.”

The R8 V10 Plus flagship is Audi's fastest production road car to date and can accelerate to 100km/h in 3.2 seconds, 200km/h in 9.9s and on to a top speed of 330km/h, but V10 versions are not sedentary with a 0-100km/h dash of 3.5s and 320km/h v-max.

Power is sent to all four corners via Audi's now illustrious quattro four-wheel-drive system. The mid-mounted engine delivers torque to the front axle via a water-cooled electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch, which can divert 100 per cent of torque to either end.

For the most affordable R8, cost has been minimised in part by iron brake rotors, while pricier R8s get exotic carbon-ceramic rotors measuring 380mm at the front and 356mm at the back. The composite material kit saves 15.2kg of unsprung weight over the V10.

The serrated-edge iron discs are grabbed by mighty eight-piston callipers, while the ceramic versions get a six-pot calliper. Rear callipers are four-piston in both cases.

V10 Plus gear ratios are bunched closer in third, fourth and fifth gears for more savage acceleration, but are pushed out wider than V10 versions in sixth and seventh for longer legs.

Suspension is taken care of by the purist's aluminium double wishbone arrangement in all corners with magnetic ride standard for V10 or optional for V10 Plus, while power steering is electro-mechanical. Wheels measure 19 inches at the entry-level or 20 inches for V10 Plus, and tyre pressure and, more unusually, temperature monitoring is standard.

Audi's 'drive select' system allows the response of suspension, steering, engine and exhaust note to be altered at the push of a button, from Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual modes. V10 Plus cars get an extra level of customisation with an additional performance, adding Dry, Wet and Snow into the equation.

More aggressive downforce has been engineered into the V10 Plus with up to 100kg generated by the fixed carbon-fibre rear spoiler and 40kg by the nose aerodynamics, while V10 versions get a more inconspicuous dynamic spoiler that hides at lower speeds.

For $7700, customers can upgrade either R8 variant to Audi's laser light headlights and dynamic rear indicators, which trace from inboard out instead of a more conventional flash.

Unlike some competitor's 'laser' headlights, the light generated by Audi's system does originate from a real laser diode. The light emerges at a blue/violet frequency of 450nm and is then passed through a phosphorescent filter, which converts the beam into white light four times brighter than LED or Xenon technology.

Exteriors are customisable with three non-metallic colours, five metallics, pearlescent Daytona Grey, 'crystal' effect Macaw Blue and a matte Camouflage Green, although customers with a bit more cash to splash can opt for a custom colour of their choice through the Audi exclusive program.

The trademark R8 'sideblades' can be specified in five colours or nude carbon-fibre, which is standard for the V10 Plus.

The R8's interior showcases a number of the car-maker's calling cards that have made their debut in recent models, including the 'monoposto' arch that encircles the cabin with areas trimmed in matte carbon-fibre.

After breaking cover in the TT sports sibling and then the Q7 large SUV and A4 ranges, the Virtual Cockpit fully digital instrument cluster now makes it into the R8, bringing the consolidated 12.3-inch screen in place of conventional dials and gauges.

Air-conditioning vents that resemble jet engine nacelles are also a carry-over from the R8's smaller TT sibling.

For the new R8, the engine start button has been moved to the leather sports steering wheel similar to Ferrari's approach and is joined by the drive select switch on the opposite spoke. For V10 Plus versions, there are two further buttons for controlling the additional performance drive modes and the volume of the sport exhaust.

Seating is for two occupants in fully electrically adjustable sports seats for the V10 and lighter fixed-back Recaro buckets with deeper side support for the V10 Plus. The more flexible V10 seat can be specified for the V10 Plus if preferred. Both versions are heated.

Extensive Nappa leather upholstery is offered in a range of four colours and more matte carbon-fibre can be added to the airvent and dash display surrounds for $4100. The same material in gloss can be added to the engine bay for $7750.

Audi says a golf bag can be stowed behind the seats in a 226 litre storage area, while the luggage compartment in the nose offers another 112 litres of space.

Like other MMI-equipped Audi models, the R8 offers access to all infotainment applications and has a choice of MMI Touch, steering wheel button or voice-activated controls.

Bluetooth connectivity, USB and two SD card ports, DVD drive, 3.5mm auxiliary plug, 10GB hard-drive, reversing camera, top-spec navigation plus and smartphone compatibility are standard range-wide.

For the brave, Audi offers an extensive range of options. The roof can be diamond upholstered in Alcantara for $6400 ($3200 V10 Plus), a choice of extra leather packages range from $10,250 to $17,950 and the matte carbon-fibre door sills with illumination cost $2400 to name a few of the extras.

2016 Audi R8 pricing*
V10 (a)$354,900
V10 Plus (a)$389,900
*Excludes on-road costs

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