AUDI’S ALL-NEW R8 SPORTS CAR MAKES A HECK OF AN IMPRESSION
Stopped at the traffic lights in the all-new Audi R8 with its stonking V10 engine and sports exhaust to make it sound so much sweeter, I noticed the passenger in the car next to me was trying to attract my attention.
I glanced across and sitting in the front next to his grandma was a boy of about 8, who had wound down the passenger window. “I love your car,” he yelled across at me.
“It looks great.”
Happy to find not only a fellow fan, but a young petrol head, I replied, “It sounds even better.”
I pressed a steering wheel-mounted button that increases the exhaust notes, and gave the R8 a good rev. The young boy laughed and clapped — while Grandma joined in by leaning over and giving me the thumbs up.
Needing no encouragement to show off, when the lights turned green, I hit the gas, used the steering wheel paddles to knock up through the gears and let the exhaust pop away.
In the rear view mirror I could see the pair smiling — and the R8 show could have continued. Except I was just by my house.
So my few glorious seconds of showing off the R8 ended when I had to tap down the gears, slow down and turn into my road.
That performance only reiterated what makes Audi’s R8 sports car so special.
Sure, its rivals are Porsche’s 911 turbo, the McLaren 570S and Ferrari’s 488, but the R8 is firmly also an everyday car.
I used it for the daily 30 minute commute on inner city roads to Driven’s office, where the low and very loud rumble of the exhaust never got, well exhausting to me. A return trip from Auckland to Te Awamutu to visit a friend showed the wild side of the R8.
Audi NZ decided to opt straight for the stonking R8 V10 Plus model for our market, rather than the V10 that delivered 397kW of power and 540Nm of torque. The more powerful V10 Plus version has chest pounding 448kW/560Nm to work with.
It has a top speed of 330km/h and goes from stop to 100km/h in 3.2 seconds. Fuel consumption is 12.3l/100km, but during my seven-day test period I was averaging 20l/100km. Yes I’m a lead foot and when you have so much power to play with, you don’t want to go for an economy drive record.
The R8 is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, plus four drive modes: auto, comfort, dynamic and individual that changes the vehicle’s characteristics including suspension and steering.
Inside, the R8 shares a lot of the Audi TT’s excellent features, including the virtual cocktail and air vents with controls in them.
Priced at $350,000, the R8 shares a lot of DNA with family rival the Lamborghini Huracan.
They are constructed from aluminium with carbon fibre in key structural area, the same 5.3-litre, V10 engine and the same seven-speed transmission.
But looks-wise they are less siblings and more cousins — the Huracan’s attitude is “look at me”, the Audi’s is “hear me roar”.
Audi unashamedly uses its motorsport technology and history in this vehicle, with the company’s engineers using their racing experience to get the most out of the R8.
It gets its mid-mounted engine from the 1930s grand prix race cars produced by the company under its original Auto Union badge, and in 2000 Audi won Le Mans with the concept R8.
Audi’s technical development boss, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, said “the new R8 V10 Plus is the most powerful and fastest production Audi ever. Our engineers are transferring their bundled racing expertise from the race track to the road.
“No other Audi evokes such dynamic passion, and none is so closely related to a race car.”
I’m sure Porsche would agree to disagree with Dr Hackenberg’s statement, but there’s no denying this generation R8 is a sports car in its own right.
It retains a 48:52 front/rear weight distribution with the spaceframe chassis weighing just 200kg and the R8 tipping the scales at an impressive 1454kg.
Compared with the previous R8, this generation is hasn’t changed much in size, at 4426mm long, 1240mm high, a wheelbase of 2650mm and width now of 1940mm, up 40mm.
Looks-wise, it gets a very sculptured front — with the large honeycomb grille, a low, board front on look and tauter side panels. The four rings of the Audi brand now sit on the hood.
Under the hood is a storage space.
And here lies one of the vehicle’s faults. The space is tiny with my handbag and laptop satchel taking up a chunk of the room, and though there is a parcel shelf behind the seats, you’d have to pack sparingly.
The other negative is that the low-profile 20in tyres on rough bitumen at times made my road trip to Te Awamutu a bumpy journey.
But turning off the main drag and on to quieter side and country roads, I dialled in dynamic mode, and used the paddles to move through the gears.
With the engine behind my head, it was great to let the V10 entertain as I powered through corners and tested the handling of the car.
Going over an undulating patch of side road just over 100km/h, I even accidentally got some “air” which the sports coupe easily “landed”.
On the way back to Auckland, I ignored SH1 and instead took the Waikato River road route through Ngaruawahia and Huntly before popping back on the main drag before Hampton Downs.
With the late afternoon sun, the empty roads and the finely tuned sports car, it was easy to see why Audi NZ’s only problem will be how many of the R8 V10 Plus they can get to satisfy demand.