Audi R8 V10 Plus – Review
Aravind Jayachandran, I'm a huge petrolhead, an automobile engineer, a massive fan of Ferrari, and loves collecting die-cast models for inspiration.
But outputs 610 PS from the Lamborghini Huracan’s 5.2L V10 engine.
Whenever I have a supercar for review, I feel like an Indian celebrity. From fellow motorists fumbling with their smartphones to take a picture to children giving me the thumbs up and high pitched woos. Even the local cops wave their hands in admiration, rather than stop me for speeding or a ‘random’ check.
This time, it was the Audi R8 V10 Plus responsible for all that positive attention, which was made painfully clear when I had to return the car and head back to my rented studio flat in a bus. Then again, as Dr Seuss said, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”. And there were plenty of things to smile about that day with second gen R8, the Lamborghini Huracan’s polite and sober German cousin. Here’s our review.
If you put the previous R8 side by side with the current one, you’d be surprised to see how little has changed. The basic cab-forward design and incredible road presence are retained, but Audi has made it more angular and lairy to match with its better performance credentials. Yet, the new R8’s styling isn’t as heart-throbbing as that of a typical Italian supercar or even a British supercar like the McLaren 570S.
The characteristic side blade has been split in two and makes way for this muscular shoulder line that flows into the flaring front fender, which still generates polarizing opinions. Our test car had a few expensive features in the list, which include the eye-piercingly bright laser headlights, Sports Exhaust, and the Audi Exclusive orange exterior colour that seems to have been swiped from Lamborghini’s paint booth. The not-so-subtle colour works really well with the carbon fibre elements and 19-inch anthracite black 5-twin-spoke rims of the test car.
At the back, it has a fixed carbon-fiber rear wing, which not only is the visible distinction between the V10 ‘Plus’ version and the regular 540 PS R8 V10 (it has an active rear spoiler) but also adds a more dynamic edge to the exterior. Unlike the Huracan, a large glass engine cover is fitted as standard in the Audi R8, thus freeing up rear visibility and offering a good view of the V10-powered jukebox.
But, oh the interior! If I could put emojis in this review, it would have to be the one with hearts as eyes. This has to be one of the best interiors in a supercar today. The cabin is not as striking as the jet-cockpit-inspired Huracan, but the sheer simplicity, space and ergonomics are well worth the praise. It’s a shame that the exterior doesn’t look like a next-gen Audi R8 because the interior looks and feels like one.
Look at the aircon controls! Are aircon control supposed to look pretty? They do in the new R8’s cabin. Also, as part of the typical supercar checklist, there are plenty of carbon fibre panels inside the cabin in order to exaggerate its light-weightiness; I especially like the sculpted carbon fibre element that houses the excellent Virtual Cockpit display. It even has a gear selector that looks like a jet plane’s thrust lever, befitting its performance credentials.
However, if there’s something to gripe about, it has to be the standard Recaro bucket seats in the test car. Thankfully Audi is offering the comfier Sport seats as an option, which is power-operated and can be adjusted in 18 different ways, while the bucket seat only offers mechanical adjustment for pedal reach and electric height adjustment.
Some will retort that the bucket seats are lightweight or ‘weight reduction, bro’, but those benefits can only be reaped when you drive it more spiritedly. The Audi R8 is an everyday supercar, rather than a track-focused beast like the Lamborghini Huracan Performante, so the Sport seats match better with the R8’s true characteristics.
For a mid-engined supercar, space and practicality in the R8 are satisfactory, although not as substantial as the Porsche 911 Turbo S. If you’re looking for storage space in the back, don’t bother as there’s a 5.2L V10 engine mounted. Instead, the R8 has a trunk under the front hood, but the spare wheel has taken up accommodation.
As for the feature list, the R8 is not a tech fest like a top-end A8 but has the necessary equipment enough to remind you that it’s an Audi. Like the Huracan, all infotainment services are integrated into the high res driver’s display (or Virtual Cockpit in Audi’s terms). It’s highly customizable in the way you want data to be presented, and the 3-D graphics are smooth, crisp & fluid. Then there’s the excellent Bang and Olufsen audio system, although the symphony from the engine bay was even more pleasing than anything the radio was playing.
Speaking of the engine bay, it houses the glorious 5.2L naturally aspirated V10 engine paired with the 7-speed S-Tronic DCT gearbox, which outputs 610 PS and 560 Nm of torque. Personally, it’s one of my most favourite engines fitted to a car, and I’m glad as well as surprised that Audi decided to plonk this unit in the second gen R8, given that most supercar manufacturers are adopting turbocharging for small displacement and environment-friendlier engines.
Even though it’s a naturally aspirated unit, there’s still plenty of torque at the lower end of the rpm band for good tractability in city conditions. In its comfort setting, there’s no indication that the engine behind outputs 610 PS which, target buyers who trundle from a mall to an expensive coffee shop, would appreciate.
On the highway, the engine mellows into near silence, shuts off five cylinders for better fuel efficiency and the S-Tronic gearbox shifts through gears like a lazy automatic. It’s as easy to drive as a VW Polo GT.
So where’s all the drama of a supercar, you ask? Well, press the button that has a chequered flag on the steering wheel, and all hell breaks loose. It’s like James McAvoy’s character in the movie Split, where he transitions to ‘Beast’. This is a button reminding the R8 that it’s a 610 PS mid-engine supercar, not a Polo GT. In ‘Performance mode’ (accessed by said button), the exhaust valves open up, the V10 engine bellows at a higher rpm, gearbox response is instantaneous, and the stability control becomes less intrusive.
At an event last year, I drove the R8 on an airstrip to experience what the powertrain was capable of. Setting off from a standstill in Launch Control, the R8 rocketed to 100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds which, in reality, translated to a kick in the chest as the surroundings start to blur the faster you go. It is claimed to easily touch a top speed of 330 km/h.
What I like about a modern naturally aspirated engine is their affinity to rev, which I was reminded of in the R8. It can rev all the way up to 8,000 rpm, accompanied by a howling, baleful exhaust note. Despite being blinding quick, the engine feels like its hardly working rather than working hard, at least on public roads. There’s so much power in the higher-end of the rpm band that you need to ensure the road ahead is empty and muster up enough courage, before putting all that power down. If you want to put the engine to good work, a track day at the BIC should suffice.
The new R8 is based on the MSS (Modular Sport System) architecture which it shares with the Lamborghini Huracan. It’s an evolution of the aluminium space frame used in the previous R8, with the B-pillars, central tunnel, and rear firewall made from carbon-fiber composite materials. It’s over 45 kg lighter, the centre of gravity has been lowered, and the quattro system incorporates an electronically controlled clutch that can quickly distribute 100 percent of power to the front wheels, all helping refine its handling around twisties.
Understeer is a lot less in the new R8, sticking to the intended line with strong levels of grip. It’s not as razor sharp as a Ferrari 488 GTB or Porsche 911 GT3, but the R8 lets you chuck it into a corner at quick speeds and emerge with a smile of disbelief. The steering in Performance mode is accurate and quick to turn into corners while being light in Comfort mode for quick manoeuvres.
The R8 also shines in ride quality. It’s still a firm setup, but compared to other supercars in its class, the R8 feels like a limo. Even tiny speed bumps and potholes can be taken without shedding speed which, in other supercars, would shatter your spine. Although it doesn’t have a lift system, the car’s ground clearance and bumper design ensure that you can negotiate most speed bumps with relative ease.
At INR 2.55 crores (ex-showroom Delhi), we reckon that the new R8 V10 Plus is quite simply the most sensible supercar to buy in India. It’s marginally less expensive than the Porsche 911 Turbo S, whilst being more theatrical, more exciting, and more eye-catching. Compared to the Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4, the R8 does pretty much the same things, whilst being less expensive by nearly a crore. So unless you care about the brand name, we’d actually recommend the Audi R8 over a Lamborghini Huracan.
What will impress prospective buyers is its Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde personality; at the press of a button, the R8 V10 Plus can be as comfortable and quiet as a small Audi on the road, as well as a mad, bellowing supercar when you’re on a track or closed roads.
This banned ad of the Audi R8 V10 plus perfectly sums up my experience behind the wheel. And it makes me miss it as well.