Audi R8 V10 Plus
We drive the range-topping 543bhp Audi R8 V10 Plus, which rockets from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds
The Audi R8 has aged well and a raft of minor cosmetic changes inside and out keeps it looking fresh. The range has also been boosted by the introduction of a slick seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox and a more powerful and lighter V10 Plus model, which trades a minor reduction in comfort for a slightly more focused driving experience. For most of the people most of the time, the V10 Spyder is our choice though, thanks to its better all-round ability.
Audi has revised its R8 supercar and added a new flagship model to the range. The V10 Plus has 25bhp more than the standard V10, taking total power from its 5.2-litre engine to 543bhp. Plus, thanks to extensive use of carbon fibre, the newcomer is a useful 50kg lighter than the standard R8.
Factor in an all-new seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox, which includes launch control, plus grippy quattro all-wheel drive, and you have a car that can rocket from 0-62mph in just 3.5 seconds, regardless of the skill of the person at the wheel.
If you want to make drag races more of a challenge, the V10 Plus is also available with the R8's open-gated manual box. Choose this and you’ll save almost £3,000, although in the end you'll probably end up paying more than this in replacement clutches. The manual car is also two-tenths of a second slower from 0-62mph and emits more CO2.
The new automatic is such a massive improvement on the single-clutch robotised manual R tronic in the previous R8 that it’ll be the gearbox of choice for all but the most die-hard driving fans. Admittedly, it's not quite as smooth as a normal torque converter box in fully auto mode, but it's not far off. And in manual mode, unlike some other dual-clutch systems, it really does give you full control via the gearlever or steering wheel paddles, which are now larger than before.
The box won't suddenly slip back into automatic mode unless you tell it to, it’ll let you bounce the engine off its rev limiter if you don't shift up in time and it can skip gears to ensure you’re always in the most appropriate ratio – handy when changing down under hard braking.
And in the V10 Plus, you can brake harder and for longer than in the normal car, as it gets fade-resistant carbon ceramic brakes as standard. This peace of mind allows you to really make the most of the chassis upgrades Audi has carried out but for everyday driving we found them far too grabby compared to the standard brakes. Instead of the V10’s standard magnetic ride adaptive dampers, the V10 Plus comes with fixed-rate lowered and stiffened sports suspension for tighter body control. Just be warned: this does make the car less comfortable on bumpy roads. If you're after an every day car, a standard R8 V10 is the pick for you.
The V10 Plus also has a more aggressive geometry for the front wheels. This provides sharper initial steering response, which is easy to spot, although once again there is a trade-off, this time in the form of marginally less mild high-speed stability. Thankfully, this isn’t so easy to spot.
In fact, when we tested the car at the Misano circuit in Italy, it was just as easy to drive as any R8, but just that little bit quicker. It's still an idiot-proof supercar that will also reward expert drivers. Thanks to its rear-biased quattro all-wheel-drive system – which can only ever send a maximum of 30 per cent of the engine's power to the front – and a stability control set-up that can be fully disengaged, the R8 V10 Plus can behave like a total hooligan if you want it to.
The styling also ensures this car is no shrinking violet. The R8 has always been quite ostentatious, but optional metallic blue matt paint and a raft of design tweaks turn up the heat further. As well as the enhancements to the standard R8 – which include redesigned front and rear bumpers incorporating full LED lights – the V10 Plus gets blistered side-blades in carbon fibre. The wing mirrors, front splitter and rear diffuser are all made from carbon fibre, too, as are the backs of the lightweight leather bucket seats, which grip you tight but aren't quite as cosseting as the standard seats.
But do all these upgrades really justify the Plus's £12,000 premium over the standard V10? The answer is yes – so long as you don't mind sacrificing a bit of comfort and every day usability to own what is the ultimate R8... for now at least.