Audi R8 V10

With a 5.2-litre V10 engine, is this £100,000 Audi R8 the best yet?

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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From its LED-equipped headlamps to the wailing exhaust note, the Audi R8 V10 is instantly recognisable and offers a character that’s not just distinct from the competition, but different to that on offer from the lesser V8 machine too. This is an impressive achievement, made all the more significant by the fact that this car betters the smaller V8 in almost every other way. Now, if only Audi could make it cheaper!

It’s the V10 engined, two-seat coupe that’s aiming to put Audi at the front of the race to build the world’s greatest sportscar. And with an incredible 525bhp on offer from the 5.2-litre FSI engine, it certainly looks like it’s got a jump-start on many of its direct rivals.

Aimed at the likes of the Aston Martin DB9 and Porsche 911 Turbo, the £100,700 machine certainly isn’t cheap. Yet despite this Audi says it’s already taken over 975 orders from eager customers – orders it expects to fulfil despite the current financial turmoil.

First deliveries are likely to be made in early summer – and unlike much of the competition Audi is confident that this model’s practicality means they will be a regular, if not common sight on the UK’s roads. So, what have drivers got to look forward to?

Those lucky enough to find themselves upgrading from a ‘standard’ V8 engined R8 will find much that is familiar. For example, this model uses the same ultra light aluminium spaceframe chassis, and it’s going to be hand built at the same German factory.

Build quality is sensational, particularly inside, where the fit and finish of the cabin trim is in our opinion the best currently available in this class – even if some rivals offer more sumptuous materials, or a more innovative look.

However, there are some important differences between this model and its lesser brother. Most obvious is the new V10 engine. As well as being some 30kg heavier than the V8, it also delivers 100bhp more, and will rev to almost 9,000rpm.

But it’s the way that this power is delivered that sets this new model apart from all others.
Out on the open road it emits the most incredible noise. Offering startling thrust from low in the rev range, it will propel the R8 V10 from 0-62mph in only 3.9 seconds. Top speed is 190mph. But more than this, the V10’s greatest achievement is that it offers far more refinement than the V8, while delivering far greater pace.

To make the very most of the new engine, our test car was fitted with the firm’s ‘magnetic ride’ adaptive suspension. Also available on models like the TT, this sees the dampers filled with a fluid that changes viscosity when an electromagnetic current is passed through it.

The net result is that the suspension provides a surprisingly comfortable ride over broken surfaces, while resisting body roll in corners. It takes time to adapt your driving style to make the very most of the arrangement, but this coupled with the car’s near perfect weight distribution endows the R8 with class leading stability on challenging roads.

Of course, it’s possible to provoke the four-wheel drive machine into a small slide if you do press the accelerator too hard, too early, but with the ESP traction control switched on any unexpected drama is brought quickly under control. In fact, the car’s impressive traction helps offer the driver a sense of security not available from many rivals.

Our car was also fitted with Audi’s automatic R Tronic six-speed gearbox. Ratios can be swapped using paddles behind the steering wheel, or the centrally mounted gearlever. Shifts are swift and smooth, backed by a satisfying bark from the exhausts as you change down.

So are there any criticisms? Honestly, there is no one area that undermines this car’s appeal or driveability. However, the four-wheel drive machine still can’t quite match the steering feel on offer from the Porsche 911. And even though we found our test car’s optional ceramic brakes delivered huge performance, there is not much feel on offer from the pedal. Making up for this is the engine’s near instant throttle response, and the gearbox’s, swift, accurate changes.

And who could forget the looks. Hugging the road, with its highly decorated engine visible through the rear glass screen, it’s a shape that even the very best machinery from Italy would be well advised to keep a close eye on…Ferrari, you have been warned!
 

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