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Drive

The Audi R8

With this car you can have the most fun you’ve ever had since discovering the art of procreation
I am chasing my mate’s M3. He’s got it on its limits; the R8 V10 Plus sits calmly on his tail, finding the challenge almost arrogantly easy, and only ever calling on about 5,200 rpm of the available 7,000 on which it is able to call

Time flies. It’s hard to believe that the Audi R8, familiar to most of us, was originally introduced as far back as 2006. Exclusively designed, developed and manufactured by Audi’s high performance subsidiary company Quattro GmBH at Neckarsulm in Germany, the car was based on the platform of the Lamborghini Gallardo. It was a hit from the start, and with it Audi successfully took on highly competitive brands like Porsche (911), Aston Martin (V8) and Jaguar (XK and latterly XF).

 


 

It was a successful assault, because the R8 had that magic combination of styling and performance, with all the on-road excitement and capability that makes us petrol-heads eager to part with disproportionately large amounts of money.

Evolution

8 years and several model evolutions later, the ultimate expression of this great car is the Audi R8 V10 Plus. With 10 cylinders, 542 bhp, and four-wheel drive it goes from zero to the benchmark 62 mph in 3.0 seconds, and has an official top speed of 198 mph. Essentially a production version of the limited edition special R8 GT, the V10 Plus has 25bhp more power than the standard V10. The uprated engine, along with stiffer springs and carbon-ceramic brakes make this ‘ultimate’ road going R8 the fastest accelerating road-going Audi ever.

The not insignificant £12,000 purchase price premium over the standard V10 pays for the engine and suspension fettling in the Plus, ceramic brakes, and minor cosmetic enhancements to the front (new headlights and more matt) and rear (single pot exhaust pipes).

In the particular car you see here, our 19 inch 5 arm double spoke Y-design wheels, storage package, Audi parking system and Bang & Olufsen sound take the purchase price from the standard £128,000 to just over £132,000. A lot of money, but then this is an awful lot of car.

One day…

Deep reflection then; is it worth it? To do the answer justice we covered nearly 1,000 miles in this car on some of the finest road you can find within the heart of the beauty of North Wales; ‘as you do’ should you choose to make this kind of investment in wheels for pleasure.

The answer to the question came by chance about 600 miles later whilst sitting in the car waiting for a friend. A middle-aged chappie was standing admiring the car for a while before tentatively approaching me and knocking on the window. The friendly bloke said the R8 V10 Plus was his dream retirement car, and did I think it would be worth the investment? The instant excited grin on my face said it all. He waited to watch the V10 Plus accelerate hard away from the car park, and I knew that one day this man will actually own the car I was merely testing.

Driving the dream

The joy of the R8 V10 Plus experience has so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin. How about stationary? Distinguished only by subtle design features such as circular exhaust pipes and a new front spoiler design, those otherwise unchanged drop-dead gorgeous lines remain a pleasure to admire. The glass covered V10 engine (it illuminates at night when you press the remote key to unlock the car) is a work of engineering art that goes just as well as it looks…and more. It’s so nice to actually be able to see and appreciate such a fine engine without the traditional ‘look at this’ bonnet lifting.

Once inside it is comfortable and cossetting behind the wheel. The V10 Plus naturally rides firmer than the standard V10, an inevitable performance compromise easily outweighed by the handling advantages. The familiar and now somewhat dated dashboard and switchgear are the only detraction from this car’s unique beauty and poise.

Yet the anticipation and excitement speak louder, the V10 Plus crudely arresting your attention with its razor sharp purposeful growl. A brief pre journey look under the ‘bonnet’ at the front (which is of course ‘the boot’) suggests modest packing – nonetheless we squeezed in a lap-top, small suitcase and hefty camera. The fitting of the optional netted bench oddment luggage holder behind the seats proved really useful, great for quick ‘grab n go’ luggage and accessories, and in our view a ‘must have’ option.

Manual versus double clutch

All V10 Plus’s come only with Audi’s new 7-speed double clutch DSC transmission. It is quite frankly brilliant, and you’re hearing this from a manual gear-change junkie. Pushing this car hard through the deserted roads of North Wales proved it. The V10 Plus is amazingly powerful , its 560 horses rocket you forward with unrelenting force, be it from rest, mid-range speeds, or 100 mph plus – in fact, any speed you care to name. Once ‘on a mission’ you can nudge your instant gear-changes up and down with either the floor shift or steering mounted paddles. Either way the dual clutch box obeys your commands in fractions of a second. If you were chasing this car in an equivalent manual version of something else you just couldn’t keep up with it.

Much as it pains my heart in resignation to say it, a quick snap down-change from high speed into a hairpin bend was the final decisive victory for the dual clutch ‘box in this car over a manual for me – you simply cannot change down manually this quickly and successfully integrate it with sustained speed, you’ll lose time, distance, ‘flow’ and momentum with every change. Damn.

Effortless

On this occasion I am chasing my mate’s M3. He’s got it on its limits; the R8 V10 Plus sits calmly on his tail, finding the challenge almost arrogantly easy, and only ever calling on about 5,200 rpm of the available 7,000 on which it is able to call. Admiring the V10 Plus in his mirror behind the wheel of the M3, my friend commented that the V10 was simply ‘effortless’ in our back to back drive.

This isn’t only about speed by the way, but the magical recipe of four wheel drive, a perfectly placed engine keeping the centre of gravity rooted and confidence inspiring, combined with sharp turn-in balance and precision, and extremely high cornering thresholds.

Last but not least the ceramic brakes; the V10 Plus is all the evidence you need that the investment is worth it. They are simply amazing, just a slight touch at any speed and the speedo drops dramatically in an instant.

With this car you can have the most fun you’ve ever had since discovering the art of procreation. That was the reason for our ‘post 600 mile smile’, and if I had £137,000, I too would be joining my retiring friend as the proud owner of an Audi R8 V10 Plus.

The Audi R8 V10 Plus

0-62mph: 3.5 seconds. Top speed: 197mph. CO2: 229g/km. Economy: 21.9mpg. Engine: 5.2-litre V10. Power: 542bhp. Price: £127,575. Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, four-wheel drive. Equipment: Sports seats, leather trim, carbon ceramic brakes, sat-nav, Bang & Olufsen stereo. Torque: 540Nm.

- Kevin Haggarthy