First Drives

25 October 2012

First drive: the Audi R8 V10 Plus

Sam Philip gets into the fastest accelerating Audi road car... ever

Sam Philip
Car image

Go on then. Hit us with the big attention-grabbing one-liner. What is it?

Only the fastest-accelerating Audi road car in history!

OK, that's not a bad attention-grabbing one-liner. How quick is it, exactly?

Significantly. The R8 V10 Plus will do 0-100kph in 3.5 seconds and top out at 318kph, figures within a gnat's crotchet of the Ferrari 458 Italia. Such is the impact of a 5.2-litre V10 churning out 550bhp through all four wheels.

What's the 'Plus' bit about? I'm guessing it doesn't ride a bit higher and have a useful chunk of extra bootspace, a la Golf Plus?

Sadly not. The V10 Plus is the flagship of the R8's mid-life facelift for coupe and convertible, which sees spangly all-LED headlights rolled out across the range, a comprehensive weight-loss strategy and, most importantly, a new 'S-tronic' double-clutch gearbox to replace the R8's clunking old automated manual. While the power outputs of the standard V8 and V10 remain unchanged at 430bhp and 525bhp respectively, the range-topping V10 Plus - available in coupe form only - gets a 25bhp power hike, ceramic brakes as standard and lots of lightweight CFRP.

So what's it like?

Entirely un-terrifying. The R8 V10 has always been a seriously rapid but seriously approachable supercar, and the Plus serves up more of the same with a lump of extra speed for good measure. It remains an easy thing to drive slowly: the steering is light and clean, the visibility is decent, and those ceramic brakes are unusually progressive even when cold.

And when you don't drive it slowly?

It's fast. Very fast. Pretty much as fast as you can possibly go down a wet back road, actually. With the security of four-wheel drive, you can blitz the V10 Plus to the rev limiter on tarmac requiring a ginger right foot in a RWD supercar. And it sounds ruddy marvellous when you do.

And that gearbox?

A revelation. We never got on with the R8's old 'R-tronic' box, but this is one of the best flappy-paddle systems out there. It's silky smooth in normal mode when pottering through town, but ballistically quick when you engage Sport mode, banging through downshifts with a thumping woofle. Unlike many dual-clutch set-ups, it's capable of dropping two, or even four gears in a single blip, a surprisingly useful feature when you've been ambling behind a lorry in sixth gear but urgently need to find second for a ooh-look-a-bit-of-clear-road overtake. Audi expects some three-quarters of R8 customers to go S-tronic. We suspect it could be an even higher proportion.

So, having just found a lot of cash down the back of the sofa, I should buy a Plus, right?

No. Well, we wouldn't, anyhow. Fast and capable as it is, we'd stick with the non-Plus V10 as our R8 of choice.

But it's less fast. Faster is always better. Don't go getting all Oak-Huggers Monthly on us.

But the Plus is also harder-riding, with passive damping and a specifically beefy suspension set-up befitting of the sportiest model in the line-up. It isn't quite a vertebrae-shattering Nurburgring special, but on bad roads it's not quite so fluent as a standard V10 coupe equipped with Audi's clever magnetic ride. And, let's be honest, 525bhp is probably sufficient for most school-runs.

I still want the fast one.

If you've got the cash to retarmac your morning commute, go right ahead. We'll have the standard V10.

Coupe or Spyder?

Either. We're not that fussy, y'know...

The specs
Audi R8 V10 plus, 5204cc, V10, AWD, 0-100kph in 3.5 secs, 318kph, 550bhp, 540Nm, 1,595kg, 9.31kpl, 299g/km CO2

Tags: audi, r8, r8 v10, r8 v10 plus

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