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Audi R8 V10 review (2009 onwards)
What – Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro
Where – Ascari Race Resort, Spain
Price – £99,575-£104,665
Available – Summer 2009
Key rivals – Porsche 911 Turbo, Mercedes SL63 AMG, Aston Martin DB9, Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, Ferrari F430
Audi's R8 goes hunting the big boys, a new 525hp V10 engine unlocking further potential we always knew was there
We like – Lambo thrills for Audi money, a true 911 alternative, steering feel, fabulous engine, secure handling, noiseWe don’t like – Jerky R tronic auto box, thirsty, not being able to afford one
The step from the relative anonymity of, say, Porsche 911 or AMG Merc SL ownership to walking through the door of a Lamborghini or Ferrari dealership is a big one. OK, there's the money. But if you can afford a £100K car it's unlikely this is the deciding factor. No, it's more the statement. A keyring with a prancing horse or a raging bull on it says a lot about your personality, not all of it positive. Supercar ownership - and by that we mean Italian supercar ownership - carries a lot of emotional baggage. Which is where Audi's R8 comes into its own.
It's definitely more exotic than a Porsche. But decidedly still an Audi, and therefore a safer bet than any flighty Italian. But Porsche still has its Turbos, its GT3s and 2s. To do battle with these a faster R8 is required. One with more cylinders. Greater power. And speed to tempt even hardcore 911 owners into the Audi fold.Enter the525hp R8 V10. The price is right, pretty much matching the 911 Turbo to the penny. Ditto the performance, the V10 elevating the R8 from merely rapid to quick with a capital F. Then there's the Lambo link, the fact it uses a version of the £140K Gallardo LP560-4's engine furthering its supercar bragging rights.
If we had one complaint about the original 4.2 R8 it was that, while fast, the car felt capable of handling so much more. Guess what - it is. And the new V10 engine proves it. It's got it all: epic noise, incredible tractability, huge charisma and, of course, power. Mainly power. 525hp to be exact, delivered at a piercing 8700rpm howl. That's a whole 105hp more than the V8 version. OK, it's a naturally aspirated screamer in the true supercar mould. But this is no Ferrari V8, hiding its best for those staking it all on redline thrills. This being a very Audi vision of a supercar there's also buckets of low-end torque.
Even at tickover you get 80% of the 391lb ft peak, the last of which doesn't come until you reach 6500rpm. So the power band is huge, pulling hard in any gear and simply getting stronger and more thrilling the closer you get to the redline. It's smooth too, spinning with inertia-free keenness and a distinctive tone reminiscent of old V10 F1 cars.It doesn't quite have the lunatic thrust of its nearest rival, the 911 Turbo, losing a tenth or two on the benchmark sprints to 62mph and 124mph (3.9 seconds and 12.3 seconds respectively) but it's a tad quicker than the Ferrari F430 and only slightly slower than the Gallardo LP560-4, with which it shares the same basic engine.
Ride and handling
The biggest challenge the R8 faced was delivering a driving experience offering a credible alternative to specialist sports car builders like Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini without scaring off more traditional Audi buyers. The fact it exceeded even the high expectation heaped upon it was perhaps Audi's greatest coup.The extra power of the V10 just shows this off to even greater effect. Never has true supercar pace been so accessible and usable. Sure, Porsche mastered this trick years back and has done very well from it thank you very much. But the R8 manages to feel both more usable AND dramatic than any 911.
The steering alone deserves a prize. Firmly weighted but never heavy, it's fast, direct and rich in detail without ever feeling twitchy or nervous. The ride too is perfectly judged, adjustable dampers (a £1320 option on the V8) composed yet compliant even in Sports mode. Forget the jerky R tronic auto though - the manual is way better.Then there's the quattro chassis. Delivering rear-wheel drive poise with just enough (30% as it turns out) front-drive bias to haul you through the turns, you can lean hard on the power in any weather. It succeeds in making supercar novices feel like heroes without dumbing down the experience for more accomplished drivers.
Speccing a boggo R8 up to the level of the V10 accounts for £10325 of the £22170 premium. Which is less a reflection of the V10's generous equipment than it is the meanness of the V8's - metallic paint, sat-nav, power-operated seats and even metal pedal trims previously options but now standard.So the cabin feels worthy of the hundred-grand pricetag at last, though there of course remains the potential to add to this considerably if you fancy exploring the multitudinous personalisation and upgrade options. It's a comfortable, user-friendly cockpit too though lacking practicality compared with the nominally two-plus-two 911.
Economy and safety
No car in this league, bar the all-electric Tesla, can make any pretence whatsoever at being eco friendly. But for the dramatic increase in performance over the V8 you pay a minimal price - relatively speaking - at the pumps, the combined mpg of 19.2 for the manual and 20.6 for the R tronic just 0.1mpg more than the V8. And gone are the days of supercars being white-knuckle rides threatening a fiery death to all but true driving gods. This is an Audi, a four-wheel drive quattro Audi packed with all the safety systems you'd get in an A4 Avant. It's also the first production car ever with all-LED headlights, the twinkly diodes now more than a mere styling feature.
The MSN Cars verdict
As fast as a 911 Turbo and just as viable as an everyday steer, the R8 V10 leaves the Porsche standing in the charisma stakes. It's much more than a cut-price Lamborghini Gallardo too, the R8 going its own way by offering the perfect compromise between Porsche's clinical efficiency and the fantasy world of Lamborghini and Ferrari.
Rating - Audi R8 V10 Performance*****Ride and handling*****Interior****Safety****Price***Practicality**Fuel economy*MSN Cars verdict*****
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