If you consider it, the Audi R8 is the only car that cannot be mistaken in shape for anything else but an R8, right? In the second-generation Audi R8, three simple theories were adapted for the four-ring marque: lighter, faster and more powerful. I hopped on a plane and landed at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve racetracks near Faro, Portugal, to drive the new Audi R8 V10 Plus - a very serious performance machine. Its 5.2 liter, normally-aspirated V10 engine now develops 610 horsepower - as much as the Lamborghini Huracán.
The new Audi R8 is 4.42 meters long and 1.94 meters wide. Its proportions, with its cabin placed far forward, long back and relatively short wheelbase, make the technology concept of the mid-engine sports car clearly recognizable at first glance. Characteristic design features of the previous model now take on a sharpened expression. The side blades, for instance, are now interrupted by the continuous shoulder line that gives the sides a look of tension and excitement.
Large air inlets with vertical fins and LED headlights flank the wide, low-profile Singleframe grille that has a strong, sculpted appearance. As an option, Audi can deliver LED headlights with laser spots which double the range of the high beam headlights. This option also includes dynamic turn signals in front (they are standard in the LED tail lights). The look at the rear is shaped by the diffuser, the ventilation screen of the engine compartment and - on the V10 Plus - a CFRP fixed wing.
The eleven exterior colors that are offered may be combined with any of the six versions of side blades. The R8 V10 Plus adds CFRP side blades with a gloss finish as standard equipment (optional for the R8 V10). The Audi exclusive program lets customers order any paint colors blended according to their wishes. Buyers can also choose any color for the side blades.
In the interior, the lightweight design concept of the new Audi R8 is expressed in taut lines. The defining element is the arch-shaped "monoposto" that wraps around the cockpit. The instrument panel appears to float weightlessly, and turbine-shaped controls for the automatic air conditioner are arranged along its lower edge. Behind the seats is a cargo space with 226 liters of capacity. It supplements the 112 liter luggage compartment at the front of the car.
The low-mounted sport seats with integrated head restraints are entirely new. In the Plus model, there are lightweight bucket seats (optional on the V10). Customers can choose between Alcantara and fine Nappa leather for the upholstery, in a number of different color combinations. In addition, two leather packages are offered, as well as a new diamond quilted pattern and decorative trims in matte CFRP. Individualists can have nearly any other special wishes fulfilled in the Audi exclusive program.
At the controls of the new Audi R8, the driver feels like a race car driver. All important functions can be controlled without the driver taking their hands off the steering wheel or looking away from the road. The R8 sport leather steering wheel with multifunction Plus, which is standard on the R8 V10, integrates two satellite buttons for starting and stopping the engine and for Audi drive select.
The R8 performance leather steering wheel with four control satellites (standard on the V10 Plus, optional on the V10), offers one additional push-button with a turn wheel for the performance mode and another for controlling the exhaust system.
The digital display is also reminiscent of a race car: the Audi virtual cockpit, a TFT monitor with a 12.3 inch screen, presents all information in intricately rendered, high-resolution graphics. The driver can choose between three views. In the performance view, the rev counter is centrally located, and other indicators and gauges are arranged around it - such as for torque, power, oil temperature, tire temperature, g-forces and lap times on the race track. Drivers can individually configure the gauges around the speedometer and rev counter according to their needs and uses.
The new R8 comes with a generous set of standard equipment. One highlight is MMI navigation Plus with MMI touch. As with a smartphone, the operating logic is structured in flat hierarchies, including a free text search function. Vehicle functions can be controlled from the steering wheel, the MMI terminal on the console of the center tunnel, or by voice control. ‘Audi connect' is the perfect component to complement MMI navigation Plus. It brings the new R8 online via the high-performance LTE standard.
The second-generation modular infotainment platform (MIB) makes this possible. The sound system from Bang & Olufsen and the Audi phone box round out the infotainment lineup.
The new quattro drive
Positioned behind the V10 is a seven speed S tronic that executes lightning-fast gear shifts by electrical control (shift-by-wire). The dual-clutch transmission directs forces to a newly designed quattro drive system with an electro-hydraulically-activated, multi-plate clutch at the front axle. It has active water cooling for maximum performance. The clutch distributes drive torque fully variably according to the driving situation - up to 100 percent can be directed to either the front or rear wheels.
Management of the clutch is integrated in the Audi drive select dynamic driving system, and it gives the driver a choice between the basic modes of comfort, auto, dynamic and individual. On the R8 V10 Plus (and as an option for the V10), the performance mode comes with three additional modes: dry, wet and snow. They adapt key handling parameters to the friction coefficient of the road surface. A mechanical rear differential lock is standard; its locking values were newly tuned to work together with the actively controlled quattro drive.
The motorsport DNA of the new Audi R8 also expresses itself in the chassis area with its aluminum double wishbone suspensions. On the V10 Plus, the tuning is very sporty, and electronically controlled shock absorbers (Audi magnetic ride) are available as an option in both engine versions. The new electromechanical power steering system gives drivers finely differentiated road feedback. As an alternative, Audi can install dynamic steering, which adapts its steering gear ratio to the vehicle's driving speed.
In both engine versions, the new Audi R8 has standard 19 inch wheels and 20 inch wheels with size 245/30 tires in front, and 305/30 at the rear (available as an option). The powerful brakes decelerate the car effectively; in the top model, the disks are made of carbon-fiber ceramic (optional on the R8 V10).
Besides integrating the quattro drive system, the Audi drive select system also integrates other systems into its four basic modes: the accelerator pedal, steering, S tronic, damper control (optional), dynamic steering (optional) and the flaps of the exhaust system. In the dry, wet and snow performance modes, the Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) system is also managed.
In the top model, the R8 V10 Plus, the unladen weight (without driver) is only 1,555 kg, and the dry weight is a low 1,454 kg. Playing a decisive role in this systematic lightweight design concept is the Audi Space Frame (ASF), which weighs just 200 kg thanks to a new type of multi-material construction. It comprises 79 percent aluminum and 13 percent carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) and was designed according to the Audi motto "The right amount of the right material at the right place for optimal function." The aluminum parts create a framework that integrates large CFRP components - the center tunnel, rear wall and B-pillars. On the R8 V10 Plus, add-on parts such as the side blades and diffuser are made of CRFP, which complements the lightweight alloy exterior skin. Compared to the previous model, the multi-material ASF has 40 percent greater torsional rigidity, and its acoustics and crashworthiness also get top grades.
Like a race car, the aerodynamic concept of the new Audi R8 is designed primarily for driving stability. Its central element is a long and wide diffuser in the underbody. On the R8 V10 Plus, a total of 140 kg of downforce is generated at top speed: 40 kg at the front axle and 100 kg at the rear axle.
The engine of the new Audi high-performance sports car is available in two versions - with 540 hp for the R8 V10 and 610 hp for the R8 V10 Plus. Their maximum engine torque, 540 Nm and 560 Nm, respectively, is available at 6,500 rpm for both engines. Compared to the previous model, power has increased considerably, and the responsiveness of the high-revving (up to 8,700 rpm), naturally aspirated 5.2 liter engine is now even more spontaneous. Like a race car engine, the V10 engine has dry sump lubrication. Its characteristic sound is now even fuller, and Audi can install a sport exhaust system as an option.
Fuel economy is better than in the previous model - by up to 13 percent. The new V10 engine was given effective efficiency technologies. They include the COD (cylinder on demand) system, which shuts off one row of cylinders under low load conditions. Another is dual injection, which injects the fuel into the combustion chambers and induction manifold according to demand. When the driver takes their foot off the accelerator pedal at speeds over 55 km/h, the new R8 goes into a coasting mode. When the car comes to a stop, a start-stop system deactivates the V10 engine.
The new Audi R8 is right among the leaders in terms of its driving performance. The V10 accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.5 seconds, and it accelerates to a top speed of 320 km/h. For the V10 Plus, the fastest production Audi ever, the figures are 3.2 seconds and 330 km/h, and it takes just 9.9 seconds to sprint from 0 to 200 km/h. In the top model, each horsepower only has to move 2.38 kg of dry vehicle weight - an excellent power-to-weight ratio.
How is it to drive it on both track and public roads? Think of it: the seven-speed, S-tronic, dual-clutch transmission is changed faultlessly and immediately. Shift times? I estimate 0 seconds. The V10 buzzes noisily at speed, but not in the Italian-Ferrari-opera sort of way. It sounds more experimental, more blended, and more tuned. Gear changes and early liftoffs are met with a great rumble from the dual back exhaust.
On the southern Portuguese roads the R8 felt like a supercar, and rode a lot like a really fast Audi sedan. The chassis appeared resistant to bad and bumpy roadways especially during braking, turning and acceleration. Even around unfamiliar, decreasing radius turns, it just absorbed the ripples and kept moving forwards.
With more power and technology, the second-generation Audi R8 is a noticeable improvement over the outgoing first-gen model. In general, people will compare it to a close Italian relation, the Lamborghini Huracán. Price tags aside, the R8 surpasses the Lambo in daily usage. The Huracán is equally admirable on the track, but it's a fatiguing drive every day. The Audi R8 has yet to be released in the Middle East markets, as the car won't arrive until mid-2016.
One word: Silhouette
Pros: Improved exterior, balanced chassis, powerful and responsive engine, quick gear shifting, easy to drive on a daily basis.
Cons: Cargo space too tiny, distracting infotainment system (because it is only facing the driver), gear knob shape, no V8 option.
Rivals: McLaren 570S, Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo S, Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracán.
5.2L FSI, V10, 540 hp @ 7800 rpm, 540 Nm @ 6500 rpm
7 speed S Tronic, AWD Quattro
Top Speed: 320 km/h, 0-100 km/h: 3.5 secs, fuel consumption: 11.4L/100 km
Weight: 1,487 kg
R8 V10 Plus
5.2L FSI, V10, 610 hp @ 8250 rpm, 560 Nm @ 6500 rpm
7 speed S Tronic, AWD Quattro
Top Speed: 330 km/h, 0-100 km/h: 3.2 secs
Fuel consumption: 12.3L/ 100 km
Weight: 1,454 kg