Don’t be fooled by the familiar looks of the new Audi R8. It might, even by the acknowledgement of Audi head of research and development Ulrich Hackenberg, appear a lot like a facelifted version of the first-generation model launched in 2006. But the truth is that everything about the second-generation model has changed in one way or the other.
That even includes the philosophy behind how Audi will position the launch line-up to reflect a more performance-led approach this time around, offering the R8 exclusively with a heavily revised version of its naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 in combination with a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox from the start of UK sales.
If there is one statistic that immediately sums up the advances made to Ingolstadt’s four-wheel-drive performance flagship, it is the deeply impressive 0-62mph time claimed for the new top-of-the-line R8 V10 Plus: 3.2sec. That’s 0.3sec faster than its predecessor and it makes this the fastest-accelerating road car that Audi has placed into series production.
The top speed has also improved, by 8mph, aided in part by a new aerodynamic package that allows the mid-engined coupé to generate 130kg of downforce at its new maximum of 205mph.
The addition of contemporary fuel-saving functions for the first time, including automatic stop-start and a coasting function that idles the engine on extended periods of trailing throttle, is claimed to bring about a double-digit improvement in economy.
We will know a lot more when we actually get to drive the new coupé later in the year, but for now, after a day riding shotgun in a prototype around the Ascari circuit in Spain, it is safe to conclude that the new R8 moves the game along, not only in pure performance terms but also in terms of its on-the-limit dynamics.