|1. R8 V10 Plus models get a 25 hp bump for a total of 550 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. 2. 0-60 takes just 3.3 seconds with a 197 mph top speed. 3. Pricing is set at $179,645 with the S-Tronic paddle-shift transmission.|
The R8’s ferocity is tremendous. And not just in the shocking acceleration or spectacular braking, but in how quickly it can turn on you.
Adding emphasis is that this every day exotic can easily lull you into a comfort zone. Rivaling the Porsche 911 as a daily drivable sports car (though with a much more wild look), it comforts you in luxurious leather and Alcantara and let’s you cruise through your day with its fancy new smooth-shifting 7-speed dual clutch transmission. And then there’s that “quattro” badge on the dash, delivering a mental safety net, with the reassurance of all-wheel grip.
Push it to the limit, however, and the R8 reveals itself as genuine exotic. Once the tail end of the car moves around quattro becomes about as meaningful as your Miranda rights in an Iranian jail.
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It’s unlike almost any other AWD car on the market. That may be because it’s capable of delivering 85 percent of its power to the rear wheels. Step out a bit and modest application of throttle can help you steer it with the rear. But if you don’t spell careful with a capital C, it’ll swing round faster than a Chuck Norris roundhouse.
That’s because while it does offer grip at both axles, as well as exceptional daily drivability, it remains a mid-engine exotic and there’s only so much quattro can do to combat the momentum of a 5.2-liter V10 engine mounted behind your head.
Driven with finesse and it’s blisteringly fast. So much so we managed a new record time at the AutoGuide Test Track, posting a remarkably quick 1:18.449, nearly two seconds faster than our previous record time!
And it feels it. Perhaps the only thing more astounding than the pull of the V10 engine at high revs, is how amazing it sounds. Blasting along at full song and there’s no denying this is German car has an Italian soul – the V10 being the very same one found in the Gallardo.
MORE POWER, BETTER TRANSMISSION
Making 525 hp in most V10 models, this halo car ups it to 550, enabling an outrageously fast 0-60 mph time of just 3.3 seconds. Top speed is an equally eye-opening 197 mph, though we only managed 121 on the rather short front straight at our test track.
Also impressive is the new dual-clutch 7-speed S-Tronic transmission. Replacing the old R-tonic unit that was jerky on the street, the new tranny dramatically improves smoothness and further enhances the car’s credibility as a daily driver.
Blasting from second to third and then to fourth, the interruption in power is essentially nonexistent. Paired with an 8,000 rpm redline it often feels like it’s just winding out infinitely and won’t ever stop. In fact, power deliver is so smooth, AutoGuide hot shoe David Pratte described it as feeling, “like a CVT that doesn’t suck” before exclaiming, “this is some Star Wars level shit.”
CAPABILITY WITH LIMITATIONS
Rather than a lengthy list of adjustable drive factors, the R8 simply has a Sport button. In that mode throttle is ultra sensitive and there’s no need to flap the paddles either as the car handles gear changes seemingly through telepathy.
Touch the brakes and it gears down instantaneously. Carbon ceramic units (standard on the V10 Plus model), they’re necessary. Not because of weight, but due to the absurd speeds capable.
There’s no fading here. EVER. The Pirelli tires give out long before the brakes do.
When pushed the front 235s bring on understeer, while the ability to power out of a corner is also somewhat limited by the ability of the 295-wide rear tires to deliver traction.
“Plus” models also get a track-ready suspension. Gone is the adjustable magnetic ride that’s standard in the V8 and “regular” V10 models. In its place is a conventional spring and shock setup. On bad roads you may regret it, but even for the vast majority of driving, if this is Audi’s version of hard-core, it’s worth living with.
LIGHT BUT LUXURIOUS
Other goodies added on as a part of the “plus” designation include a collection of carbon fiber bits. Up front is a carbon splitter, while out back is a diffuser so aggressive it looks lifted from a competition race car. Mostly hidden, you cannot, however, miss the huge carbon side blades.
These parts, along with some reduced sound deadening and lighter seats, add up to drop 130 lbs, meaning the V10 Plus model weighs nearly identical to the V8, with a curb weight at a reasonable 3,660 lbs.
The interior is far from stripped out, though our tester included $6,300 optional diamond-quilted leather seats (white stitching on black leather) and a matching quilted Alcantara headliner. With V10 Plus models equipped with the dual-clutch automatic starting at $179,645 don’t balk at the extra…. it’s worth every penny.
These extravagances add to the already excellent livability of the R8. Only the Porsche 911 offers this combination of performance and practicality.
If there are any drawbacks to the R8, it’s that the roof overhang is quite severe and for taller drivers you’re forced to crouch down and forward in order to see traffic lights.
In that respect it gives up only a slight amount of daily drivability to the 911. Oh, and it costs a serious chunk more. It compensates for those faults, however, in a look so extreme that in the bar scene of exotic sports cars it makes the 911 look like the hot girl’s ugly friend.
And in V10 Plus form the performance matches its style. More surprising than this car’s wild side is that after six years on sale its design is still incredibly modern and its performance on par with the very best in the world.