“No other production car is closer to its racing car than the new Audi R8.”
That’s what Audi Australia’s managing director said yesterday as we were getting ready to take the German company’s latest supercar out around Eastern Creek, err, I mean Sydney Motorsport Park.
The R8 won’t officially launch in Australia until halfway through the year, but Audi has brought over 15 left-hand drive models for us to fang around a racetrack and feel the difference between it and the previous generation which was a smash hit.
Audi sold 404 R8s in Australia since the original model launched locally in 2007 equipped with just a V8 before adding the Lamborghini derived V10 power plant in 2009.
That’s a lot of cars in that end of the market, especially in a market as small as Australia, so to say there’s pressure on the second generation R8 is an understatement.
Developed alongside the GT3 LMS race car, we were driving the R8 V10 Plus, the high end model that puts out 449kW of power and 560Nm of torque, propelling the car from 0-100km/h in just 3.2 seconds. The V10 engine stuffed in its rear is the exact same unit you will find in the Lamborghini Huracan.
In other words, if you plant your foot down, it goes and it goes hard. And due to being a naturally aspirated engine, the throttle response is excellent when compared to that of a turbocharged engine. This, combined with the new 7-speed dual clutch gearbox means that in automatic mode — which is almost always better than you at working out what gear you should be in — the power to pull out of a corner is just what you want it to be. It’s perfectly linear and allows you to plant your foot as soon as you come out of the apex.
Then once you’re on the straight, you can let all of those ponies in the back free, as we did going in excess of 250km/h down the main straight at Sydney Motorsport Park and then continue around turn one, which is one of the fastest corners in Australia, with only some slight braking to get you below that 200km/h mark.
That turn showed off the areas Audi has done with most work with in the new R8. It was so stable, even under braking at stupidly high speeds. There was no indication that it was ever going to do anything but take that corner and take it hard.
This is thanks to the newly developed Quattro all-wheel drive system which keeps the R8 in control so well that if you took this car to a track day you would basically be cheating. You can’t upset it unless you’re truly a maniac.
New to the R8 is three performance modes which change how those whiz bang computers interact with the Quattro system. You can choose between snow, wet or dry settings which adjusts how much power is sent to the front or rear wheels. It’s not just some gimmick either, Audi set up a soaking wet corner and encouraged us to try and be the next drift king by getting the R8 as sideways as possible.
In the performance dry mode, I was easily able to, with the tail flying out as I slid around the corner, while my passenger needed a change of underwear. But next was in the performance wet mode, which I did the exact same thing – turned the car as hard as I could while simultaneously planting my foot as hard as I could on the apex of the corner. The car had a slight jolt, but immediately remembered that good little cars don’t go sideways and pulled itself back in line.
After being a hooligan, I chucked it back in comfort mode to drive back to the pit garage. While it was only 3/4 of a lap it felt perfectly comfortable. The ride was smooth, the seat didn’t want to shatter my back and the interior was spectacular.
Seriously, the interior is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen in a car. The virtual cockpit, first seen in the TT, needs to be in every single one of Audi’s cars. Removing the clutter and screen from the centre console and putting everything in the dash makes it more modern and easier to use for the driver. Then there are the air vents that look like jet turbines, the diamond stitching on the roof, carbon fibre inlays and drive mode buttons on the steering wheel which feel straight out of a LeMans car. It’s the perfect mix of luxury, contemporary and sporty.
But while for the most part the new R8 felt spectacular, one area where I felt let down was the exhaust system. It was simply too quiet, especially compared to the last R8 V10 LMX I drove. There was none of the drama on downshifts that you had in the old model, nor did it sing as loud when climbing up to the red line. Don’t get me wrong, you certainly know it’s a serious car just by hearing it, but it’s lacking that race car sound to match its race car feel.
Priced from $354,900 for the standard V10 and $389,900 for the V10 Plus, the new R8 for the most part more than lives up to the legacy of its predecessor. In fact it exceeds it in some areas, such as the technology department with the virtual cockpit and laser headlights as standard. It’s a spectacular mix of track day warrior and every day supercar which I don’t think any other car can match.
I want one.