Motoring journalism is a strange business sometimes. When Audi offered us an early chance to drive the new R8 V10 Plus we obviously jumped at it, but we now find ourselves on the left-hand side of the car and with a closed Mount Panorama at our disposal.
So this is far from a thorough road test, but does offer a glimpse into the abilities of Audi’s latest supercar. At first glance there seems to be little in the way of comprehensive change; the styling can be best described as evolutionary, the 5.2-litre V10 carries over with a seven-speed dual-clutch and all-wheel drive the only drivetrain option.
Under the skin, however, there’s a new aluminium/carbonfibre chassis that also underpins the Lamborghini Huracan. There are two variants, the 397kW/540Nm V10 and 449kW/560Nm V10 Plus we are driving today. Pricing for each will be released early next week, but you’re looking at around $400,000.
The engine is undeniably still the star of the show. A V10 R8 has never wanted for pace but this new tune gives it a whole new level of ferocity. If anything, the 3.2sec 0-100km/h feels conservative and by the time we’re halfway up Mountain Straight the speedo is reading 200km/h and still climbing rapidly.
The advantage of retaining the atmo V10, of course, is not just instant throttle response but also the outrageous noise it makes. V8 Supercar driver Karl Reindler is providing instruction via car-to-car radio but I can’t hear a damn thing he’s saying over the racket behind me as the engine screams around to its 8700rpm limiter. The dual-clutch ’box is also worthy of mention, with shifts that are more or less instant.
Exiting Forrest Elbow, the digital speedo struggles to keep up as the car rockets past 250km/h, eventually topping out at 282km/h with a very conservative braking point, which is actually about 5km/h faster than the Audi R8 LMS race car managed in the previous day’s Bathurst 12 Hour.
This sort of speed certainly gets your attention, especially as Conrod isn’t the smoothest surface, the ESP subtly intervening as the car jinks about on the bumps and then goes light over the crest.
The stop into The Chase is one of the the biggest in Australian motorsport and is a great showcase for the R8’s hugely powerful carbon ceramic brakes. The pedal feel is excellent and they have plenty of stamina.
As with all mid-engined cars the rear will wander around a little under brakes but never in a way that feels unruly. The car’s stability and balance is impressive; we certainly aren’t going race pace but even balancing the throttle at 150-160km/h across the top of the mountain the car is rarely upset, usually just offering some slight front-end push to let you know the limit is near.
In tighter turns it’s easier to get the new R8 to the apex thanks to faster steering, fixing one of the few criticisms of the old car. On exit the new car will adopt a nice four-wheel slide, even within the constraints of ESP, though we’re promised that with the switchable all-wheel drive system in ‘Wet’ mode more drive is sent to the rear for sideways antics. There are also settings for Snow and Dry conditions which are optimised for more traction.
It’s an extremely impressive performance and one that’s extracted quite easily. Just about anyone could drive an R8 V10 very quickly but there feels to be a reward for experienced drivers, though it’ll take a drive at a less daunting venue with more relaxed electronics to be definitive.
Likewise, any road impressions will have to wait but it seems the R8 certainly won’t be overwhelmed in a fiercely competitive supercar segment that this year will welcome the Ferrari 488 GTB, McLaren 570S, updated Porsche 911 Turbo S and Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2.
The Lamborghini is the R8’s obvious rival, sharing the chassis, engine and all-wheel drive system and offered at largely the same price. The R8 feels a little less aggressive, smoothing off some of the Huracan’s sharper edges, while also offering a slicker interior.
Choosing between the two will probably come down more to the character of the individual buyer rather than any differences in the cars themselves. Regardless, it should be fun finding out when the two cars arrive later in 2016.
For more details and full pricing on the new Audi R8 range check www.motormag.com.au next Monday.