For many people, the Audi R8 is the beginner’s supercar, even when fitted with a V10 engine derived from the Lamborghini Gallardo. But now Audi has introduced a new flagship Plus version, which has a more track-focused edge, and we’ve driven it in the UK for the first time.
The Audi R8 V10 Plus comes with a few key mechanical upgrades, including lowered, stiffened non-adjustable suspension and quicker steering.
These changes, combined with some weight-saving measures such as lighter bucket seats and carbon side blades, mean that on a track the Plus steers faster, corners harder and responds quicker than the normal V10. Bury the throttle and it feels every inch the supercar, with back-breaking acceleration and an ear-splitting soundtrack.
Its balance flatters the novice, while the disengageable driver aids and rear-drive bias ensure experts can enjoy its potential. Then there’s the brakes.
The Plus comes with carbon ceramic discs as standard, which means you don’t have to worry about fade on the track. Fitting these – plus the bucket seats and carbon side blades – would add £12,000 to the price of the normal R8 V10, which is exactly the same premium you pay for the Plus. So, effectively, the mechanical tweaks are free.
Audi has also managed to release an extra 25bhp from the car’s screaming 5.2-litre engine, taking the output to 542bhp. As a result, the 0-62mph sprint time falls by a tenth to 3.8 seconds. However, when equipped with the new seven-speed S tronic gearbox, which includes launch control, it drops to 3.5 seconds.
Pay the extra £2,900 for the new dual-clutch auto, and you won’t be disappointed. It’s far better than either the clunky six-speed manual or the even clunkier old R tronic single-clutch auto. The new gearbox is smooth in auto mode, but really comes into its own when used manually because, unlike some other systems, the box won’t shift up until you tell it to.
Considering all this, the V10 Plus should be the pick of the R8 range – but it’s not. While the upgrades make the V10 Plus a better track car, they don’t make it a better road car. Although its lower, stiffer fixed-spring sports suspension is by no means uncomfortable, it doesn’t deal with bumps and ruts as well as the adaptable dampers that are standard on the normal V10.
At low speeds, the ceramic brakes are grabby and, while the bucket seats hold you firmly in place, they aren’t as comfortable as the standard items. If you want the ultimate R8 for the track, go for the V10 Plus. But if you want the ultimate R8 for the road, get the normal V10.