It was a sunny, yet cold and breezy morning at the Audi Sport circuit in Neuberg, Ingolstadt – Audi’s home in Germany, when we were greeted by the gorgeous and talented Rahel Frey; Audi's factory driver in the R8 LMS Cup who actually finished fifth overall last year.
Despite being told that there would be someone from the company to guide us through the Audi Driving Experience, we had least expected it was going to be one of Audi’s factory drivers themselves. At this point of time, we knew that it was going to be a good day.
Frey then led us to a conference room for a quick briefing on what was going to happen the whole day, the do’s and don’ts, followed by a ‘Q&A’ session, and all the usual stuff.
A cup of coffee and a few jokes later, it was time to finally move on to the main agenda; what we flew about 28 hours from KL for – to get our hands on the 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus.
Engine: 5.2-litre, Naturally aspirated, V10, petrol
Max power: 610hp @ 8,250rpm
Max torque: 560Nm @ 6,500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic with paddle shifters, AWD
Fuel consumption (combined): 13.9 litres/100km
Origin: Neckarsulm, Germany
Price (estimated): More than RM1.25 million
First unveiled at last year’s Geneva International Motor Show, the second-generation R8 has gone through a significant amount of updates with the sole aim of outdoing its predecessor, and from what we have seen, there is no doubt that Audi has done a good job.
First and foremost, the new R8 V10 Plus is the fastest and most powerful series-production Audi of all time, and the big news is that there will not be a V8 or a manual model anymore. Instead, the new R8 is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine.
While the base model is capable of producing 540hp, the range-topping R8 V10 Plus which we tested has the engine tweaked to produce a whopping 610hp and maximum torque of 560Nm, enabling it to accelerate from naught to 100km/h in only 3.2 seconds and achieve a maximum speed of 330km/h. Paired to the engine is a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox which replaces the outgoing single clutch automated manual transmission.
Similar to the outgoing model, the R8 is still built on an aluminium monocoque chassis, but this time, more carbon fibre has been added in key places, which has resulted in increased rigidity by 40 per cent and 20 per cent less weight.
An interesting fact about the new R8’s platform and powertrain is that it is the exact same package that is underpinning the Lamborghini Huracan, thanks to the fact that Volkswagen Group owns both Audi and Lamborghini.
However, we can assure you that the car will not remind you of a Lamborghini at any time, and truth be told, the R8 feels unmistakeably Audi.
Despite being half-siblings, the R8 and the Huracan are still competitors and joining the Italian in the rivals’ corner are cars like the Mercedes-AMG GT, McLaren 650S, and the Porsche 911 Turbo S.
Measuring at 4,420mm long, 1,240mm tall and and 1,940mm wide with a 2,650mm wheelbase, the R8 has not changed much from before in terms of size. The second-gen model is now wider by 36mm, shorter by 20mm, and taller by 12mm. Wheelbase length on the other hand, remains the same.
Besides the slight difference in dimensions, the R8 has its lights redesigned to look like it came off a ship in Star Trek, and if you have some additional cash you don’t know what to do with, you can opt for Audi’s laser light technology. On top of all that, the front grille has been redesigned as well, looking sharper and wider than the outgoing model. Behind, the lights and the exhaust pipes have been redesigned too.
In case you’re wondering how to distinguish the R8 V10 Plus from the standard model, just look at the wing mirrors and the rear spoiler, as the former has them made in carbon fiber, while the standard variant has them finished in body colour. Outwards, the R8’s design remains familiar, but the car is 50kg lighter, and 40 per cent more rigid than before.
Inside, the R8’s cabin has been completely redesigned, with new features like the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display, new air-cond control levers, a revised centre-stack with gear levers and buttons similar to the ones found in the TT.
Thanks to the redesigned cabin and the increased overall height, the R8’s cabin feels roomier now. In fact, it was more spacious than expected for a supercar. Getting in and out of the car was not an issue as well, even for the writer who stands close to six-feet tall and weighs one-tenth of a tonne.
While there is a wide range of material and colour options for the cabin, the car which we tested looked like how rapper Snoop Dogg would want his – with Suede brown Alcantara roof and pillars, complemented by bucket seats, door panels, and the centre console clad in brown Nappa Leather. The only thing missing were two furry dices hanging from the rear-view mirror.
Comfort and refinement levels exceeded our expectations. Visibility was also decent. However, we feel that things would’ve been better if the wing mirrors and rear-view mirror were slightly bigger.
True to Audi’s claims, all functions were driver-oriented and allowed easy operation even when we reached our limits - and all could be done while the driver’s hands were on the steering wheel. Complementing the whole experience was the newly designed sport seats with integrated headrest which provided excellent lateral support.
How does it drive?
For a car that kicks out 610hp and 560Nm of torque, the level of composure the R8 V10 Plus offered was mind-blowing.
Yes, it scares the undies out of anyone who stands next to it when it comes to life, revving up to 2,500rpm and back upon the press of the ignition button on the steering wheel but that’s what supercars do, don’t they?
But once it settled down, the R8 V10 Plus was a ‘smooth operator’. Before we took it to the Neuberg track, we had the opportunity to test the car’s straight-line acceleration and experience the abilities of its quattro all-wheel-drive system, the ABS brakes, as well as the new electro-hydraulic steering.
Despite being powered by a naturally aspirated high-revving engine, the R8 V10 Plus’ acceleration was so quick and brutal that it felt like were in a turbocharged car, and all the credit goes to the new dual-clutch S tronic gearbox.
There were four driving modes which we could choose using a ‘Dynamic Select’ button on the steering wheel – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual, where the car’s throttle response, steering feedback, transmission, and the suspension setup varies from one mode to another. Since we had no time to sit and fiddle with the Individual mode, we tried out the remaining three.
As the name suggests, Comfort mode was the most comfortable, with the throttle, gearbox, and the quattro system taking things easy, making it the ideal for road usage. Auto mode on the other hand saw the car adjusting itself based on where and how the car was being driven, giving the driver the best level of performance and grip based on what the car ‘feels’.
And then, there was the ‘Dynamic’ mode, in which we spent most our time with, simply because it was the most fun. Upon selecting the drive mode, the engine got grumpier, throttle became more sensitive, the steering and suspensions stiffened up, and off we went onto the Neuberg.
If the driving experience of the new R8 can be described in one word, it would be ‘inspiring’. The chassis, dynamic steering, and the quattro system worked hand-in-hand so well that the car responded exactly how we intended it to, even at manic speed, inspiring us to push it even harder.
There was so much composure everywhere, both when it was dry or wet. Yes, the car did whip out its rear when we tried to exit a couple of corners fast under Dynamic mode, adding to the excitement, but it could be brought back to tempo in no time. Throughout our stint on the track, our hearts were beating fast only in excitement, but never once in fear. That is how superbly composed and safe the driving experience was.
As fast as we (thought we) were, we realised that the car’s limits were beyond our abilities, and let the pros like our instructor Rahel Frey show us how to properly ‘abuse’ the car. In all, it was an unforgettable experience.
How economical is it?
This question shouldn’t even pop up in the mind of anyone who wants to get a car in this segment, but we will enlighten you with the numbers anyway.
Audi Malaysia has not yet disclosed which of the new R8 V10 will be introduced here, but if at all this variant comes in, expect it to be priced higher than the current R8 V10 quattro FSI which asks for RM1.25 million.
In terms of fuel economy, the R8 V10 Plus' combined fuel consumption is rated at 13.9 litres/100km - a figure we (unsurprisingly) far exceeded in our track stints.
In all, the new R8 does everything its predecessor could do, better. Not only does it looks sharper, but performs in a more impressive manner and has the ability to beat many of its rivals both on and off the racetrack.
The only downside is that it does not have the visual appeal of a Lamborghini Huracan or a Mercedes-AMG GT. So, if you are looking for a supercar that you want to flash around and be noticed from a mile away, the new R8 might not be the right car for you.
But if you are someone who prefers flying under the radar until someone comes and tries to find out what you are capable of the hard way, this is it. Look no further.
Looking for an Audi R8? Find one now at Carlist.my