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First Drive: Audi R8 5.2 FSI [570] V10 LMX Quattro 2dr S Tronic (2014-2014)

£158,855 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£158,855
Brake horsepower
570bhp
Fuel consumption
21.9mpg
0–62 mph
3.40s
CO2
299g/km
Max speed
198Mph
Insurance Group
50E

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Ooh, is this the new R8?

No, the second-gen R8 will indeed be along shortly, accompanied by much fanfare. But this is the R8 LMX, the limited edition final version of the first gen R8 and, as such, something of a farewell. With added lasers.

Lasers?

Oh yes. The LMX was announced last summer, when Audi adopted laser lights for its Le Mans cars. So to draw parallels with its racing efforts, this road car has lasers to assist its main beam headlights. Each ‘bulb’ comprises four laser diodes, which a phosphor converter transforms into white light. All you have to do is drive at 37mph or more and, when you engage main beam, the lasers activate. The claim is that they double the effective range of standard LED lights.

Wow, what are they like?

Couldn’t tell a difference. OK, I noticed the laser spot activating and putting a beam dead centre up ahead, but on the late night country roads I drove it on I couldn’t honestly say it made that much difference. It has an intelligent camera system to prevent you flashing your fricking lasers at oncoming cars, but all this does is turn them off - the lights on this R8 certainly aren’t as clever as the Matrix LED lights that are optional on the TT. Those are ace.

Let’s talk about the rest of the car.

No problem. This is no less than the most powerful R8 ever, its 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 having been turned up to 562bhp. That’s an extra 20bhp over the V10 Plus, 10bhp over the R8 GT. However, in the grand scheme of 550bhp, that’s a gain of either 3.5 or 1.7 per cent, and torque hasn’t climbed at all, remaining at 398lb ft. I couldn’t tell a difference there, either.

But what an engine this still is. High-revving, large capacity, naturally aspirated engines are just the best. Ten cylinders revving to beyond 8,500rpm? Yes, please. It’s the response and power delivery that make it so enthralling, so good to use.

The rumour is that this engine will be carried over into the next generation R8, expected to be unveiled at the Geneva Motorshow in a few weeks time - that would make sense given the new R8’s architecture will be shared with the V10-engined Lamborghini Huracan.

So the V10 still makes a case for itself?

Absolutely, and it’s hard to argue with figures such as 3.4 and 198. I’ll let you work out the necessary suffixes.

The V10 is honeyed and smooth, picks up wonderfully and always seems to have more in reserve. Y’know, just in case. That said, I always preferred the 4.2-litre V8 in the R8. Not everyone does, I admit that, but it’s a lighter, angrier, more snarly and revvier engine than the more cultured V10. Even so, the bigger engine is so well matched to the rest of the car in the oiled, confident way it goes about its business.

Is the R8 starting to feel its age?

To drive, not at all. The rigidity of the chassis, the peerless operation of the seven-speed double clutch gearbox, the sheer traction and balance of the thing remain real automotive highlights. This is still perhaps the best judged all round supercar of them all.

I don’t think I’m wrong in saying it’s quieter and better riding than a 911, perfectly cosy inside and so easy to drive smoothly. I had to collect a friend from the airport on my way home one night. All the bags slotted in the alcantara-lined nose and behind the seats, and we chatted the 45-minute journey away with no unwanted interruptions from suspension, engine or gearbox.

It’s a wonderfully habitable device, the R8. But this LMX isn’t quite perfect…

How so?

The carbon ceramic brakes are a fraction excitable at the top end, and the LMX runs fixed rate springs and dampers. Both set-up are close to superb - especially the suspension - but I know how good the optional Magentic Ride suspension is on the R8 and I’d want mine to have it. Just takes the edge off a fraction more.

Any other bugbears?

Technology has moved on since 2007. Dot matrix displays between the dials are what you find on cheap Peugeots now, and the nav system, well, it’s approaching hopeless.

The interface still works OK, but the graphics are clunky, hooking up to Bluetooth is a hassle that saw me having to refer to the owner’s manual, and the USB input wouldn’t recognise my iPhone. Which meant I had to rely on the radio (no DAB or Bluetooth audio here) to make the most of the B&O hi-fi.

An optional extra?

No, it’s not. The LMX comes well kitted - but then so it should for £160,025. I know it’s a limited edition - only 99 will be built - but this isn’t the R8’s sweet spot. So right did Audi get the first R8 eight years ago that the V8 remains, for me, the honey of the range. Open gate manual, optional Magnetic Ride, yes please.

If you want one (and why wouldn’t you? I certainly do) your only option is second hand. The LMX is all sold out, and Audi has stopped building old R8s now. They’ve all sold out.

Anything else you want to get off your chest?

The way the R8 drives when you properly open the taps. Put it on full lock at low speed and you can feel the car judder as the tight diffs struggle, but on a good road they help you out so much, nailing the front end through corners.

The R8’s steering is beautfully geared and lovely to use, you always know it’s mid-engined, you can feel the weight move about, and yet it’s so obliging in its manners, so forgiving. It’s not as nimble as a Ferrari 458, not as exotic as a McLaren 650S, but it’s still a hell of a thing.

The best compliment I can pay the R8 is that it drives like a Lotus. If Norfolk under Dany Bahar had ever managed to get the Esprit off the ground, this is what I hope it would have felt like. Maybe a bit lighter, as the V10 R8 is on the porky side at almost 1600kg, but the slick, liquidy way the R8 pours itself down a road is something Audi has failed to replicate in the last decade.

If they cock up the next R8 we’ll never forgive them.

Specs:
£160,025, 5204cc naturally aspirated V10, 562bhp @ 8,000rpm, 398lb ft @ 6,500rpm, 0-62mph in 3.4secs, 198mph max, 21.9mpg, 299g/km CO2, 1,595kg

What do you think?

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