TRACK TEST: Audi's incoming second-gen R8 V10 Plus is the everyday supercar to make you look a genius at the race track.
TRACK TEST: Audi's incoming second-gen R8 V10 Plus is the everyday supercar to make you look a genius at the race track. Mark Bean

Track test and review: the new Audi R8 V10 Coupe Plus

IT WAS 1985 when I got my first A1-size bedroom poster. The car? A Lamborghini Countach 5000 QV. Black with gold rims, tastefully enough.

I stayed faithful until the Ferrari F40 arrived in 1987, when the now passé Lambo made way for Maranello's red exotica, the supercar classily reflected (by the genius of airbrushing) on a shiny black floor.

Perhaps that's why, 30 years on, my default supercar daydream is always Italian.

Lotto win tonight? I'd be at an Italian dealership ready for my "Welcome to the family" experience as showroom doors opened Monday morning.

But would that be a mistake? The thing is, the Brits, Japanese and even Swedes make some damn fine supercars these days too, and then there are the Germans. If ever there were a country to make a supercar that's reliable, user-friendly and even practical to go with ludicrously rapid it's them.

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

Case in point, the Audi R8. The sensible supercar, they say. All that performance but without the ownership dramas. After all, there are few things as embarrassing as having your scissor door's struts going cactus in front of the city champagne bar.

The second generation R8 arrives later this year, but as a rather splendid amuse-bouche, Audi shipped over 15 left-hand drive examples of its 2016 R8 V10 Plus - the fastest ever production Audi - for media and customers to sample at Sydney Motorsport Park. I know, tough gig.

What's new?

There are two models - the 397kW R8 V10 Coupe at $354,900 and 449kW R8 V10 Plus Coupe at $389,900; making them sharper in price than the outgoing equivalent models.

Both feature a 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 engine, meaning the V8 is now gone, as is any chance of a manual gearbox. So you're 'stuck' with a high-revving Lamborghini-derived V10 mated to a quite incredible seven-speed S tronic gearbox.

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Contributed
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Contributed

Cylinder-on-Demand curbs drinking by shutting down a bank of five-cylinders when possible, and the Quattro all-wheel-drive has been redesigned, with a key feature seeing an electro-hydraulic clutch distributing torque between front and rear wheels with no fixed distribution.

So unlike the current R8, the new car can send 100% of the torque to the front or rear wheels - there are no limits in place - and does so rather intelligently to make you a hero exiting corners at the race track.

Design has been sharpened up, arguably losing some of the 2007-launched original's purity, but while the new R8 is shorter, wider and flatter, dimensions are little changed.

The distinctive side blades along the flanks are now of two-part construction, there's a honeycomb front grille, and newly shaped headlights and rear lights.

Looking particularly racy at the R8's fat rear are a mighty carbon fibre diffuser and fixed carbon wing.

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

On the track

With no road drive possible, we were stranded with the 449kW R8 V10 Plus fleet at the race track only. Real shame, thought none of us.

The introduction came with familiarising oneself with that much power and the ability to hit 100kmh in 3.2 seconds, and 200kmh in under 10 seconds. And experience the bite of carbon ceramic brakes as they pull up the R8 in internal organ-crushingly short distance.

So a few flat-out acceleration tests - oh how brilliant these high-revving, instant throttle response non-turbo cars are - to remind it's a full force supercar.

The V10 note - throatier than before - is a delightful, addictive sensation behind the ear, ensuring you crave redline playtime for as long as possible. And boy does it rev.

The S tronic auto recognises when you're in full attack mode and is very rev generous, but it's hard not to grasp the steering wheel paddles and take charge of gear shifts yourself, demanding it stay over 8000rpm for the symphony of sounds alone.

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

Okay, the straight line speed proved its supercar credentials, now for the smarts that stop you killing yourself in an R8.

The Audi truly is a supercar that car be used everyday, isn't plagued by those expensive idiosyncrasies (I'm talking to you, 1980s Lamborghinis) and will work very intelligently to keep you on the black stuff.

To illustrate, the Audi racing experts told us to point the R8 V10 Plus at a hairpin left bend, put on maximum steering lock and at the corner's apex, floor the throttle to waken those 449kW.

To anyone who's ever had a car swap ends on them, this instruction seriously does not compute. Not least because the run off area wasn't all that generous, and they'd wet the corner for extra fun too.

The Plus model scores a performance mode with three settings - dry, wet and snow. With wet selected, and a bit of a prayer, said throttle was floored in the middle of the corner. Instant engine response, the smallest of easily mopped-up rear-end breakaway and physics-defying drive out of the corner was the result. This car makes mediocre drivers look very talented indeed.

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

To prove this, it was full track time. I took my place in the pitlane ready for hot laps at the wheel following a lead car, which would gradually pick up the pace if you looked tidy and confident enough.

Waiting in line, I got to take in the very race-spec cabin. You sit incredibly low and in a lovely position in cosy racing bucket seats which are, of course, firm but still cossetingly Audi. There is plenty of headroom such is your low position, and the skinny windscreen, low down steering wheel buttons (including one that "mans up" the exhaust note, helping it sound like the V10 F1 cars of old) and virtual cockpit with all your vitals in high definition behind the steering wheel are quite superb.

Touring our finest roads in one of these? It would be more comfortable than you think, and there's even space for soft bags behind the seats as well as in the front compartment.

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Contributed
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Contributed

Then we were off. Whaaack! The first flooring of the throttle puts you on hyper alert. Testing grip through the first corner was a waste of time: these things just stick with the quattro system almost sniggering at my probably three-tenths pace. It is so accurate, precise and composed that it sees you tackling corners at speeds you wouldn't believe possible if you'd not seen the car in front fly through it as if it were on rails.

It is a dynamic master class of steering accuracy, balance and grip. And the sound of that V10...you just never want it to stop.

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

What do you get?

Most important is the aforementioned engine, drivetrain, chassis, technology and race-bred engineering, but naturally you also score serious toys.

There's 20-inch wheels, Alcanatara headlining, carbon brakes and DAB+ radio for the first time. Then there's the brilliant 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit, navigation, MMI touch pad (a touch sensitive rotary/push-button switch) and Bang & Olufsen sounds, plus much much more.

Other options?

Audi pitches the R8 V10 Plus at the pricier Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo S ($456,500) and Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4 ($428,000), and cheaper 911 Carrera Turbo ($384,900) and two-wheel-drive Huracan LP580-2 ($378,900). And let's not forget the Mercedes-AMG GT S ($294,610). Decisions...

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

The lowdown

So, how do you like your supercars?

The R8 may lack the Porsche 911 Turbo's heritage and confirmed warp-speed brilliance, and may not quite have the mind-blowing traffic-stopping looks of a Lamborghini, but it's far from subtle. In fact, it's gorgeous.

If you want a supercar you can genuinely use everyday, and can make you look a genius at the race track very easily indeed, lay down your $389,900 on an R8 V10 Plus now. Lotto balls, I'm counting on you.

What matters most

What we liked: Seriously… just look at it; normally aspirated (no turbos) V10; blisteringly quick; its physics-defying way of making ordinary drivers look talented.

What we'd like to see: Owners taking it to a track rather than just showing off in the city; our lotto numbers to come up.

 

Vital statistics

Model: 2016 Audi R8 V10 Coupe Plus quattro.

Details: Two-door mid-engined all-wheel-drive supercar.

Engine: 5.2-litre naturally-aspirated V10 generating maximum power of 449kW @ 8250rpm and peak torque of 560Nm @ 6500rpm.

Transmission: Seven-speed S tronic auto.

Consumption: 12.3-litres/100km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 3.2-seconds, top speed of 330kmh.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $389,900.

Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean
Pre-production 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe being tested at Sydney Motorsport Park. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean


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