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Audi R8 V10 plus review (2013 onwards)
What: Audi R8 V10 plus
Where: Misano, Italy
Date: October 2012
Price: £124,675 – £127,575
Available: On sale now, deliveries begin January 2013
Key rivals:Porsche 911 Turbo S, Aston Martin DB9, Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG, Nissan GT-R, Jaguar XKR-S
More focused range-topping R8 gets a dynamic edge and delivers real thrills with everyday usability
We like: Extra power, extra focus, still looks great, awesome sound, brilliant gearbox
We don’t like: Thirsty, four-wheel drive can give vague front-end feel, limited practicality
If the standard 525hp Audi R8 V10 wasn’t enough for you and you felt a touch more power and a more focused chassis was what it was missing, you’re in luck – this is the Audi R8 V10 plus. Like the standard 10-cylinder engined car, but turned up to 11.
Unlike the standard V10 though, the new range-topping R8 is only available as a coupe, so there’ll be no open-top thrills here. Anyway, lopping the roof off would damage the newfound dynamic ability Audi has worked so hard to create.
The question is, is the plus really a step up from a standard V10 and does it warrant the extra 12 grand for a few adjustments to the engine and chassis?
Chief among the mods that separate the plus from the normal V10 are the addition of 25hp – brought about by an ECU remap – and the deletion of the R8’s magnetic ride adaptive suspension, replaced by fixed rate dampers.
And you notice the extra power. It feels that little bit more urgent than the standard car, and the more conventional spring and damper setup all but eradicates body roll.
The engine is a peach – torquey and muscular but with a hunger for revolutions. It pulls from tick-over right to the redline with remarkable linearity, at which point you can involve the car’s best feature: the new seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox.
It replaces the clunky and recalcitrant Lamborghini-derived R tronic unit from the previous generation R8. In Sport mode upshifts are smooth and super snappy, while downshifts are announced by a lovely musical multi-cylinder throttle blip and a gravely rumble from the exhaust.
The new transmission also adds a launch control function, which, in conjunction with the 550hp and 398lb ft of torque (up 7lb ft on the standard V10), sees the V10 plus accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 3.5 seconds.
Carbon ceramic brakes are fitted as standard to wipe off all that speed and give decent power. We tried the car on the Misano circuit in Italy and even after repeated hard stops in warm conditions, fade was minimal and bite remained good.
The composite brakes help to reduce the plus’ mass by 50kg over the regular car, too, unlocking an extra dynamic facet the chassis has in its arsenal.
Ride and handling
It feels more nimble than the standard car, helped by the plus’ retuned suspension geometry. The ceramic stoppers shed 4kg in unsprung weight per corner over the standard steel setup, and as a result, turn-in is sharper.
Running out over the saw-tooth kerbs of the Misano circuit, wheel control is improved, too, and under braking from seriously high speed – at points with steering lock on – the car felt stable and assured. Even mid-corner, little roll is apparent.
This most focused R8 will still fall into understeer as its default balance, although it can be cured with a gentle lift, dab of brake or stab of power. Slow in fast out is the mantra with any Quattro four-wheel drive system however, as we’re reminded in our track briefing.
Sacrifice some speed on the entry to keep it neat and tidy to the apex, then open the steering (easy to do thanks to the nicely direct and positive gearing) and exploit the all-wheel drive traction to the full, deploying every last one of the 550 ponies on tap.
It’s certainly a driving style you have to adjust to, but once you do, you can utilise that maximum 85% of torque sent to the rear wheels. As much as 30% of available power can also be sent to the front axle, in a bid to drag you out the corner as quickly as possible.
Once you’ve got your head around it, there’s a compelling case for four-wheel drive in a supercar.
Even on the road the modifications made to the plus are readily apparent and drive going to all four wheels means you can take liberties with power, exploiting the traction where other rear-wheel drive machinery would be troubling the ESP.
The architecture of the R8’s cabin is now five years old, but it’s not showing any signs of tiredness or poor ergonomics next to the competition.
The updated car receives a few tweaks inside, including more leather and aluminium trim for the transmission tunnel and kneepad areas, but the big news is the additional standard equipment.
Copious amounts of carbonfibre trim
The plus (as well as all facelifted models) gets sat-nav and Bluetooth, as well as heated seats and all-LED headlights fitted as standard – around £6,000 worth of extras over the previous generation R8.
There are other minor alterations inside, including redesigned instruments and gearshift paddles. There’s also copious amounts of carbonfibre trim, some bucket seats backed in the same material and a nice suede-rimmed steering wheel to differentiate it from the rest of the range.
The R8’s interior just remains a lovely place to be. It’s comfortable, well appointed, and despite its sleek exterior profile, visibility is good – it’s got the feeling of integrity and sturdy build quality that is so familiar from the Ingolstadt firm, too.
Economy and safety
Squeezing 550hp from a 5.2-litre V10 has had its impact on economy – combined fuel consumption stands at 21.9mpg while CO2 emissions stand at 299g/km with the S tronic gearbox. That’ll be £1,030 for the first year’s road tax, please.
Although Euro NCAP crash test ratings aren’t available for the R8, no significant structural changes have been made to the chassis.
There are plenty of safety features, including ESP (switchable between fully on, a relaxed Sport mode and fully off), carbon ceramic brakes fitted as standard on the V10 plus and the reassuring security of that four-wheel drive system.
The MSN Cars verdict
The Audi R8 V10 plus is a perfect example of the everyday useable supercar and a mid-engined handling masterpiece. But so is the standard R8 V10. Whether it warrants the extra £12,000 over the normal 10-cylinder car depends on how much importance you place on the extra focus from the chassis.
For those who want the ultimate R8 though – whether its for bragging rights down the pub or to actually exploit the car’s full potential on track – it’s a brilliant package that will excite you, yet cosset you in complete comfort when you require it. And as a thing to covet, it’s pretty special.
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