Sometimes it happens in a heartbeat, and other times it takes days and days, but I love it when a car gets under my skin. And the second-generation Audi R8 V10 Plus has buried itself so deep under my epidermis that it’s fast becoming one of my favourite cars. Ever! Given the ridiculous procession of metal that I’ve driven, including the Ferrari 488 GTB (search the article) that’s a bold claim, but one made without hyperbole.
The car itself features the kind of crisp naturally aspirated engine that will be mourned long after turbochargers have finally taken over the planet. The R8 is also blessed with a blend of supercar seduction and everyday usability that is deeply appealing. In short, the second-gen car has stood upon the shoulders of the giant first-gen V10 Plus – a car that I already thought was one of the most soulful and talented ever bolted together.
But beyond the R8’s many attributes, the Plus has dominated my 2016 with three epic adventures. The first occurred the day after the Bathurst 12-Hour, when I spent a day driving a left-hand-drive Plus around Mount Panorama. The memory of pulling 285km/h down Conrod Straight or skating across Skyline at 200km/h will stay with me forever, as will the sub-2:30 lap time.
My next Plus-sized adventure took place late at night on an autobahn near Frankfurt. Over the course of a few hours, the R8 Plus covered hundreds of kilometres and chewed through two tanks of fuel. Despite the language barrier, when I was paying for the second tank at the same service centre, the attendant clocked the familiar yellow R8 over my shoulder and gave me a knowing smile. The heroic Audi breached 300km/h on at least 50 occasions and twice rubbed up against the rev-limiter at an indicated 339km/h (I held it there for 30 seconds hoping it’d trip over to 340km/h).
While bombing up and down an autobahn might not be the textbook definition of the Thrill of Driving, shallow kinks quickly morph into corners when the speedo’s digital read-out trips beyond 300km/h. But the R8 was up to the challenge, lunging for the fast lane when it cleared, or spearing through sweepers at 320km/h with a sense of stability many cars fail to exhibit at half that speed. At 339km/h, the R8 was covering 94 metres per second, or the length of a football pitch every 1.06 seconds.
And, boy, didn’t it sound fantastic while doing it. There’s something magical about the way a big-hitting naturally aspirated engine hardens its note when under serious load. The V10 felt like it was steeling itself for the final push above 300km/h, while backing off at big speed provoked pops, bangs and staccato machine gun fire from the exhausts. At night the sound effects were accompanied by a light show of dramatic orange flashes and lingering blue flames.
Most recently, I spent a day scorching across the roof of Australia on the deserted, pre-seasons roads of the Snowy Mountains. To avoid incriminating the participants, numbers will not be mentioned, but let’s just agree that there isn’t a dynamic question about the Audi R8 to which we do not know the answer.
In the Plus, the 5.2-litre V10 makes 449kW at 8250rpm, 560Nm at 6500rpm and has a screaming 8700rpm ceiling – the ‘regular’ V10 which makes 397kW and 540Nm. The engine features both direct- and port-injection and it’s the latter that gives the V10 the ability to howl to nearly 9000rpm, while the 12.7:1 static compression ratio (up 0.2:1 over the first-generation Plus) helps deliver razor-sharp throttle response.
There’s an 18.5mm offset between the two cylinder banks and the conrods of opposing pistons are fixed with a common crank pin. If that makes no sense, fair enough, but it results in an alternating bring pattern of 54- and 90-degrees and it’s what gives the V10 such a unique, howling sound. The Lamborghini Huracan uses the same engine but its shoutier and not as rehned. There’s also dry-sump lubrication that can withstand 1.5g of lateral acceleration.
“The drivetrain asks that you participate in the process of going fast by extending the 449 kW V10”
New to the V10 is cylinder on demand (COD) that shuts down an entire bank of the engine under certain load and gear conditions. In gears four to seven of the dual-clutch gearbox, and with low to intermediate load on the engine, the ECU shuts down fuel and spark on one bank. After 30-60 seconds of continuous deactivation, the ECU will refire that bank and shut down the opposing bank. It’s clever tech that goes some way to explaining the 0.6L/100km drop in consumption (now 12.3) on the combined cycle, but I’ve probably never experienced it activate.
That it lacks the instant-gratification torque of a turbocharged Ferrari or McLaren shouldn’t be confused with a lack of pace. The R8 is absurdly fast. The drivetrain does ask that you participate in the process of going fast by plucking the right gear and extending the engine throughout its soaring vocal range. I only wish for more tactile paddles with which to pluck another angry shift.
XAudi claims that the Plus takes just 3.2 seconds to reach l00km/h and 9.9 to hit 200km/h. While the 0-200km/h time can’t compete with the blistering 8.3 claim for the 488 GTB, the Audi never feels anything short of insanely quick.
Despite the huge power and speed of which it’s capable, the R8 is honest and friendly in its dynamic responses so that you never fall behind it. It’s always on your side. Whatever you do, don’t read those last sentences as a sign that the Audi is benign and boring. It is anything but.
The second-generation Plus isn’t as keen to spike into heart-stopping oversteer as the first-gen car, but it will still adopt shallow and satisfying slip angles on corner exit while maintaining impressive forward thrust. Bigger angles are available but they require levels of provocation that borders on over-driving. Should you over commit, the standard carbon ceramic brakes are up to the task.
Six-piston calipers squeeze 380mm front rotors, while four-piston calipers clamp the 356mm rear discs. After a day of high-speed punishment in the Snowies, the brakes retained their high bite point, and they only began to exhibit fade after 30 laps at Mount Panorama. When cold, the ceramics can be a little grabby, but temperature and familiarization soon smooth progress.
At $386,616, the new-gen Plus is more than $20K cheaper than the old car, but it’s still in the deep end with the likes of the Lamborghini Huracan (starting from $378,900), Porsche 911 Turbo S ($456,500), Ferrari 488 GTB ($469,988) and McLaren line up of 540C, 570S and 650S ($325,000-464,000). The Audi is more exciting than the Porsche, though it can’t match the 911’s practicality, and it delivers a more polished experience than the Lamborghini. Ultimately, the R8 Plus isn’t as fast as the McLaren 650S or Ferrari 488 GTB, but the driving experience is just as thrilling, and it sounds better than the Brit or Italian. Like the McLaren and Ferrari, the Plus delivers a complete supercar experience. It really is one of the greats.
Engine: 204cc V10, dohc, 40v
Power: 449kW @ 8250rpm
Torque: 540Nm @ 6500rpm
Transmission: even-speed dual-clutch gearbox, all-wheel drive, LSD
Front and rear suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, magnetic dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs, 380mm front, 356mm rear, ABS, EBD
Wheels: 20 x 9.0-inch front, 20 x 11.0-inch rear
Tyres: 245/35 ZR20 front, 305/30 ZR20 rear
0-100km/h: 3.2sec (claimed)
Top speed: 330km/h (claimed)
Basic price: $386,616