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Audi R8
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Audi R8 by VF Engineering driven

Driven November 2010

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Significantly altering a car as precisely created as an Audi R8 is usually a recipe for disaster - you may manage a faster car, but you tend to lose the driveability and balance that makes a car like the R8 such a joy. Certainly, whacking a lovely big Roots-type Eaton supercharger on top of the 4.2-litre V8 and hopping the power up from 417bhp to just under 550 and torque up from 317lb ft to 437 would seem to qualify for ‘significant modification'. But this R8 from Californian tuner VF Engineering is eerily brilliant, simply because it doesn't feel particularly ‘tuned'.

Tootle around, and you'd be hard pushed to know that the car was forcibly inducted. The supercharger upgrade has been designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, so there's no heavily slammed suspension or extra wing kits. The brakes and suspension are standard and apparently more than up to the job, so the VF R8 rides and drives like Audi intended, which is to say, brilliantly. All very nice, to the point that you start to wonder what the fuss is about. Then you let the motor have its head, and you realise why God invented superchargers.

The trick is to imagine the V8 in all its glory and then give it 30 per cent more of everything, in every gear. It still revs to over 8,000rpm, but holes that you never noticed in the delivery are filled with great globs of torque and power that would see this V8 demolish a V10 (which has 30bhp less, and weighs 50kg more) on a twisty road, or at least keep pace with less effort. Third and fourth gears are absolute blinders, revving cleanly and quickly right to the car's red line, only the faintest whine from the supercharger mounted just behind your head even audible over the generous thrum of the exhaust. This is not the old-school kind of 'charger installation that sounds like you have a mosquito the size of a small dog trapped in the alternator belt. This is something altogether different.

The installation itself is incredibly neat - looking like an OE set-up - and it comes with warranty. As partof the package, the Audi speed-limiters are removed, the software upgraded and various intakes and belts re-jigged to allow the 'charger to do its thing. You do pay for the slickness of this transformation though - a not-inconsiderable £17.5k for the fitted kit. But when you start looking at a second-hand, low-miles R8 V8 for around £65k and do the maths, you can get V10 pace for new V8 money. Not a bad deal - especially as the delivery is worth the price of entry on its own.

Tom Ford

Performance: 0-62mph in 3.9secs, max speed 195mph est, 19.0mpg
Tech: 4163cc V8, RWD, 548bhp, 437lb ft, 1580 kg, n/a g/km CO2

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