New Audi R8 V10 Plus Review : Lightning Strike

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Added in: Audi

We were left rather high and dry on a wet Mumbai afternoon the last time we got to lay our hands on the wheel of the previous gen Audi R8. Slippery, soaked roads saw the restless beast slap around as all its four wheels spun intently, fumbling for traction, even as the precarious road conditions offered none. This time around, though, in its all-new avatar, the R8 V10 Plus couldn’t have come to us on a better time to drive. A brilliant, bright day, topped by pleasant winter breeze saw us driving away from the Mumbai bustle rather early in the day.

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As we rolled out of the city on to the wide open highway leading to Nashik, we registered one of our most unforgettable days behind a steering wheel. The new R8 V10 Plus etched itself an utterly loved place in our hearts by turning out as one of most exhilaratingly fast and fun machines we have ever  driven on Indian streets. Here’s the much cherished tale from the day then…

Images : Abhijeet Kadam

Engine, facts and numbers

Let’s get done with the facts first. The new, second generation R8 is a natural progression of the Herculean effort made by Audi to create a truly world class hi-performance sportscar, which verged on to be a true supercar. It was a majestic success, as the first gen R8 towered above its rivals and mesmerised the world with its distinctive character and unmatched agility. Not to mention the splendid engine, which revved to its lofty redline like there was no tomorrow. It won accolades and awards the world over and established Audi as a maker of impeccably built extreme sportscars.

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It its second generation avatar, the R8 builds upon the solid foundation laid down by its predecessor, and storms into proper supercar territory demolishing even the smallest shreds of doubt one may have had about its potency. The new R8 is presented only with a 5.2 litre naturally aspirated V10 which dishes out 540hp on the ‘base’ version. The one we had for test is the R8 V10 Plus, which delivers 70hp more, and boasts 610hp of manic power output by an engine which revs as though it’s been fit into a superbike. 0-100km/h is disposed of in 3.2 seconds, 0-200 comes in 11.2 seconds and the top speed is rated at an insane 330 km/h.

Design and styling

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On the surface, the front headlamps have been restyled with an angular look, with the radiator grille also having been reshaped.

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The chrome slats within the grille of the previous version have given way to a mesh treatment with a subtle shine on the front surface. The size of the air intakes has reduced, though they now feature vertical fins to suck in more air as the car gathers speed. The bumper too is more angular and its lower lip now gets licked by carbon fibre.

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On the sides, the signature R8 cowl gets spilt in two horizontally by the car’s shoulder. The recess in the door gets deeper and sharper with the wing mirror getting a contrasting carbon fibre treatment.

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Our test car came equipped with fantastic looking 5×2 spoke 19 inch wheels shod with Continental SportContact 6 tyres with 235/35 section front and 295/30 rear tyres.

For its new version, the R8 gets the cutting edge Audi Spaceframe chassis as before, though it’s made of even more sci-tech elements now.  Aluminium and carbon fibre have been used liberally to make the monocoque up to 15 percent lighter than its predecessor while still endowing it with 40 percent more stiffness. As a result the new gen R8 weighs up to 50kg lighter than the one it replaces.

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At the rear, the twin, round chrome pipes get replaced by a trapezoidal quad outlet flanking a massive carbon fibre diffuser. Gone is the folding spoiler and in its place resides a new unit made of carbon fibre which always stands erect.

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The tail-lamps get restyled and so do the air outlets beneath them. The registration plate is now in body colour, unlike the black plastic that joined the flanking air vents earlier. The rear windscreen and the surrounding area also get a bit of restyling with a wider stop lamp and a few other bits.

Audi has also bumped up the compression ratio on the engine and has introduced a new dual injection tech comprising both direct and indirect injectors. The powerplant also boasts cylinder on demand (COD) feature which shuts off one of the two cylinder banks by deactivating injection and ignition to deliver fabulous fuel efficiency when the car is driven languidly. The new engine is also lighter, and revs more intently to a slightly higher point.

The underpinnings get an overhaul too with a wider front track, and a reconfigured suspension that now gets double wishbones at all wheels.

Performance and handling

Alright then, we sit inside the all-new cabin which is a far cry from the innards of the previous gen car. Welcoming us is the increasingly prevalent Audi Virtual Cockpit, though the steering wheel here is quite exclusive – it’s properly distinguished and has a shape and some buttons you’d never find on the lesser Audis.

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The low lying seat is a racing unit with manual slide and recline controls to save weight. It’s wrapped in gorgeous black leather, though, with contrasting white stitching. A dash of red wouldn’t have hurt here we think.

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Push the steering mounted, red coloured engine start / stop button and the 5.2 litre V10 monster comes to life dispatching all the aural delight you’d expect from a car this epic. It’s not the intimidating holler of the F-type or the thunderous roar of the Huracan – it’s a somewhat loud, pronounced burble which has raciness and performance emblazoned on every note of it. That sound by itself suggests that it’s coming from an incredibly lightweight engine which would rev its way to the paradise with as much as a twitch of the right foot.

There’s still me time before we unleash this machine though. It’s early morning, and since we’re driving it on the battered Mumbai roads, we want to practice caution. It’s early morning, but there’s some buzz on the Mumbai roads – the odd biker swerves in, the rickshaw guy wants to make a U turn from the slow lane across the road. We aren’t too sure of the ground clearance either, so we drive with a fluffy foot, and decide to keep it cautious until we are on a proper toll road.

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This is where a revelation socks us senseless – it’s something totally unexpected of a car this monumental. The average fuel efficiency for the 20 odd km we have travelled is nudging 10 km/l on the trip computer. No, we’re not kidding, that Cylinder on Demand stuff works, flabbergasting us as much as probably it’s astounding you. You really can drive the new R8 V10 Plus as your everyday car and get a fuel efficiency figure comparable to your petrol powered Skoda.

On our way out of town, we negotiated speed bumps of all shapes and sizes, including those of a frightening variety – the R8 didn’t scrape its belly even once. The ride quality is slightly on the stiffer side and feels somewhat bouncy at slow speed over rough surfaces. As you gather speed, though, the suspension settles down nicely and we don’t think it’s complaint worthy for this sort of an application, especially when driven in Comfort mode.

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Onto the inviting, sometimes dead straight, sometimes sinusoidal and sometimes gently winding toll road to Nashik, we decide to the give the R8 V10 Plus the beans. And what a spellbinding theatre ensues! The engine on this baby is an absolute masterpiece, probably the most astonishing we have ever driven on Indian roads. It’s got a ridiculous 8800 rpm redline, and it gets there in a blink!

Mash the right pedal and the R8 screams its way forwards manically, thrusting you back pitilessly in that leather clad racing seat. The tacho needle would keep dancing up and down the digital tacho at an unrealistic pace all this while. The engine here packs in the raw fury of a raging tempest, a tempest that spins on ball bearings. Irrespective of the gear engaged, the tacho needle blitzes its way to redline and back before you know it.

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Engage manual mode, where the transmission doesn’t upshift by itself, and in a straight line, pedal to the metal, you’d sometimes fail to shift before the tacho meets the limiter. So hurried is the engine in its speed build-up, it reminded me of inline-four supersports more than any other car ever has. It’s an occasion in itself to see a car’s engine rev so intently. In the case of the R8, it’s a feisty celebration with firecrackers, festoons and confetti blasts.

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You can choose from comfort, auto, dynamic and individual modes or set the car in Performance mode, which is engaged via a chequered flag button on the steering wheel. Together with a rotary wheel, the Performance mode allows you to select dry, wet and snow programs.

Launch control can be engaged by employing dynamic mode, turning off the Electronic Stability Control and then launching off by keeping the brakes engaged and pressing the accelerator. This builds the revs to around 4000 revs, and slingshots you with the maximum amount of acceleration possible.

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The seven speed S-tronic transmission paired with that tornado of an engine is as quick as its power monger counterpart. It’s astonishingly fast, probably the quickest gearbox we have ever used on any road going car. Any faster, and we’re not sure whether we’d be able to tell the difference. So while it swaps cogs imperceptibly as you feather the accelerator or use part-throttle, it’ll kick down a few cogs in a flash if you braked hard before going around a bend.

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With some fast fingers, that transmission would allow you to draw some sinful pleasures using the pedals behind the steering wheel.

Around the bends, the R8 V10 Plus obliterates your perception of how much speed you could carry around a corner. The fully electric steering is uncannily quick, dialling in great amounts of turn with even small inputs. The only quicker steering I remember having used is that of the tantalizingly yummy C63 S AMG which kept us on the edge throughout its spellbinding gig around the divine bends of Aamby Valley.

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The R8 V10 Plus drives bafflingly flat into the bends. On a dry, sunny day, and on the kind of smooth, grippy surfaces we were driving on, I don’t remember having carried so much speed into a corner with so much confidence. The mid-engined setup along with the exceptionally lightweight chassis feels incredibly light and neutral. There’s no sense of lardy weight here. The R8 V10 Plus grips hard, and then grips some more, even as you push it well beyond what’s traditionally been your upper definition of sane. It then looks back at your befuddled face with a rascally ‘what’?

The all new quattro AWD is more compact and more efficient at juggling power between the four wheels. The drive can be sent fully to the front or rear axles based on the requirement and then, there’s a mechanical locking diff at the rear for optimum rear traction at all times. So the grip is ever present by the truckload. Yet, there’s hardly any apparent sense of the understeer that you typically associate with such AWD machines. The R8 feels so naturally balanced and so lithe, there’s never a sense of weight associated with it, even as you feel the G-forces gnawing at your gut.

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Even when you make the R8 V10 Plus break traction by deliberately dialling in mischievous steering movements, it does so in such a controllably poetic manner, it instigates you to indulge in the act rather than making you nervous and lift off. As you make it step off the line, the impeccable engineering underneath makes it carry out the act with the nuanced grace of a ballerina, in an utterly charming manner. The ceramic brakes, sharp as a scalpel, add tons of reassurance to the equation – the thing stops on a dime. Harsh braking, even mid-corner is beautifully neutralized by the stellar chassis, letting minimal disturbance filter through.

The steering by itself isn’t the most direct of the units we have used. The all-electric setup feels a little light and tad lacking in feel, but as mentioned before, is super quick and very precise.

A few rounds of uphill and downhill runs through the fantastic Kasara ghat sealed the day as the most exhilarating we’ve had behind the wheel of a car in the real world, till date.

Interior and Features

The floating panel between the two seats gets a generous dash of carbon fibre around the controls. The drive selector unit itself is beautifully crafted, and looks stunning with its chunky angular shape with a topping of leather. Finish and quality is exquisite with generous use of carbon fibre inside the cabin.

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The pièce de résistance of the cabin, though, are the controls for the air conditioner. It comprises a set of three beautifully crafted knobs with digital readouts jutting out of the centre console and look sensational.

Let us take you through the exquisite interior and other features of the R8 V10 plus with some help from these images.

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Frameless windows on doors add to the exotic appeal. Bang & Olufsen speaker system delivers great audio. Buttons and knobs on the door panel are shared with some other Audi cars. There’s some space in that door panel, so you could possibly squish in a half a litre water bottle there

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Door sills are splattered with rich carbon fibre and get sporty R8 branding

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Below the Start / Stop button, you get the exhaust enhancer button which adds more drama to the car’s exhaust sound. The difference with the system engaged is quite significant as compared to the standard soundtrack.

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Some luggage space is available under the front bonnet, though this area is largely occupied by a space saver spare

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LED lights are equipped with dipped beam, high beam, daytime-running lights, indicator and static turning light technology.

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There’s some space behind the seats for some luggage. A small haversack our two would probably fit without much trouble

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Carbon fibre accents abound inside the cabin

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Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster changes its form and information on display as per the driver’s preferences

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A nifty cubbyhole ahead of the gear selector panel hiding twin USB and one aux-in ports can swallow your wallet or cellphone with ease. This area also supports wireless charging.

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Not much space inside that glove box, but hey, it’s not too bad either by supercar standards

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Front armrest features twin cup holders

Summing it up

The Audi R8 V10 plus costs about INR 2.7 crore ex-showroom. At that price, we cannot think of a two door supercar which can be driven faster on the Indian roads than this one right here. It’s astonishingly swift, handles like a dream, sounds heavenly and while doing all of that feels friendly, practical and utterly charming. Sure, there are other options like the Huracan lp610-4, and the 911 Turbo S and they’re both astonishing in their own unique ways. So while the Huracan offers more theatre both visually and aurally, it costs a lot more, and in the end isn’t any faster on the street than this one here. The 911 Turbo S is probably more practical, but doesn’t have the visual drama, nor is it as fast; it costs a bit more too.

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A supercar, at the end of it, is meant to go fast, look splendid and entertain along the way. The Audi does all of that better than any other car in its price range. That one fact by itself should make it the most compelling buy within its class.

Check out the Audi R8 V10 Plus image gallery below. Click to expand and start a slideshow. Do let us know your thoughts through the comments section below or through one of our social networking channels.

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