REVIEW DATE: 09 Dec 2008
The Audi R8 now has a V10 engine. Be afraid. Steve Walker reports.
Audi's ambition would appear to know no bounds. The manufacturer is seeing just how far its brand can stretch with the R8 V10 supercar and this 518bhp monster shows no sign of running out of slack. The 0-60mph sprint takes less than 4 seconds but with quattro all-wheel drive and a luxurious cabin, the R8's everyday usability remains intact.
Some people are never satisfied. Audi's engineers gave us a 414bhp V8-engined supercar that looked like something hijacked from the set of a science fiction movie and people almost immediately started badgering them to fit a bigger engine. The UK's resident car nuts had spotted the similarities between the Audi R8 and the Gallardo from Lamborghini. They knew that Lamborghini was part of the VW Group like Audi and they assumed that the two mid-engined supercars would share parts. One part they clearly didn't share was the Lamborghini's thunderous V10 engine and, car enthusiasts being car enthusiasts, that was the one part they felt they'd really like it to have. Eventually, Audi gave in.
Audi and Lamborghini have always been rather vague about the links between the £80,000 V8 R8 and the £140,000 V10 Gallardo and who can blame them? They have a very profitable brand hierarchy to protect. We can safely take it that the two cars ride on similar platforms and use similar technology but the arrival of the R8 V10 with a £100,000 pricetag will inevitably throw the Lambo's value proposition in to sharper focus. Audi has employed the V10 engine before, in the S8 luxury saloon and, most notably, in the lunatic RS6 with a pair of turbochargers chucked in for good measure. This is the first time, however, that it's been used in a car designed for the express purpose of going very quickly.
The Audi R8's V10 engine is a 5,204cc unit with 518bhp at 8,000rpm and 530Nm or torque at 6,500rpm. In the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, the engine produces 552bhp and 540Nm but R8 V10 buyers are unlikely to feel short changed. The 0-62mph sprint takes just 3.9s, confirming the model's status as a genuine supercar and the top speed, where conditions and the driver's sense of self preservation allow, is 196mph. Audi offers a choice of gearboxes, a six-speed manual or the R tronic twin clutch system with its steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The R8 V10 is actually faster with the R tronic's advanced software swapping its cogs and in that form, will barrel through 124mph in 12 seconds flat.
"A car designed for the express purpose of going very quickly."
Audi has mounted the V10 engine slap bang in the middle of the R8, or as close to dead centre as its engineering boffins could manage. This has allowed them to achieve a nigh on perfect 44/56 front/rear weight distribution. The engine itself uses dry sump lubrication as seen on many racing cars which allows the engine to be mounted closer to the road for a lower centre of gravity. The engine's formidable output is channelled to the tarmac by the ubiquitous Audi quattro all-wheel-drive system which continuously varies the amount of power it supplies to the front and rear axles to maximise traction. Stand on the brakes even at the more ludicrous velocities of which the R8 V10 is capable and you'll barely have time to say crikey before the huge ventilated, perforated discs anchor on and bring you to a standstill. Upgrade to the optional ceramic brake discs and the V10's stopping will get more dramatic still.
The standard R8 is quite a sight. It's a car that doesn't adhere to established supercar conventions with its snub nose and stocky build but the modern lines hang together beautifully and give it a mountain of road presence. The R8 V10 highlights its extra potency with a front grill and air-intakes finished in high gloss, unique 10-spoke alloy wheels, bigger side sills, wider side vents, oval tail pipes and a special rear diffuser. On the nose sit the world's first all-LED headlamps which use the high intensity LED lighting for low and high beam operations. The car's extensive 2.65-metre wheelbase produces a roomy cabin which is dominated by the superb leather sports seats and features tasteful LED illumination.
The R8 uses advanced aluminium construction to minimise weight and even with the addition of the V10 engine, the car tips the scales at a modest 1,620kg - 31kg more than the V8-engined car. The double wishbone suspension is combined with Audi's magnetic ride technology which stiffens or softens the dampers to optimise the ride according to road conditions and the driver's style.
There are no trim levels with the R8 - just V8 or V10 power and a collection of highly desirable but somewhat pricey options. Standard kit includes a DVD satellite navigation system, electric seating adjustment and an excellent Bang & Olufsen stereo packing 465 watts of music power. The R8 V10 certainly isn't cheap but in the context of the supercar elite which it can live with in terms of performance, it could be construed as a bit of a bargain. You certainly don't get much Ferrari or Lamborghini for £100,000 and the R8 V10's closest direct rivals will be models from the top end of the Porsche 911 range. It's priced at similar levels to the 911 Turbo which achieves similar performance with its turbocharged 3.6-litre unit.
The R8 V10 is not a cheap car to run but if you want to go this quickly on four wheels, relatively big bills are a necessity and most of the alternatives will be even heavier on the wallet. The official fuel economy figure is a creditable 20.6mpg which is only fractionally worst than the V8 model but if you're routinely hitting that 8,700rpm redline as every good R8 V10 owner really should, returns will be a lot worse.
Audi dealers must have grown sick and tired of people asking them when the R8 V10 was coming. Almost from the moment the V8 model was launched, the thoughts of the brand's enthusiast following turned to a Lambo-slaying V10 model. Well now it's here. 518bhp should be enough to satisfy even the most rabid performance junky and Audi can now sell you one of the most desirable performance cars half-way sensible money can buy.
Whether you view the R8 V10 as good value depends on your point of view. It's undeniably expensive but there are far more expensive cars that will scarcely be any more rewarding for the average buyer. Audi hit the bull's-eye with its R8 and the V10 model will give us a further glimpse of just how far upmarket the brand can profitably go. Executives at Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini will be amongst the nervous spectators.
|For R8 V10|
|OVERALL||8.3 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|