What is it?
When the original R8 was launched back in 2006 it was in the fortunate position of having nothing to live up to. Okay, it had to compete against the all-conquering Porsche 911, but it wasn’t expected to be quite on that level.
This was an Audi after all, and for all its quattro prowess, Ingolstadt usually produced effective but rather blunt instruments. Only there was nothing blunt about the R8; it was as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel.
Fast forward the best part of a decade and now the pressure is on for this all-new R8 to maintain form. Sadly, Audi has canned the V8 and manual gearbox option, saying uptake was too small, so the R8 is now V10 and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic only. Mind you, it’s already got a racing pedigree: the R8 LMS GT3 version has recently won the Nürburgring 24 Hours race.
That V10 comes in two power modes, both more forceful than before: 533bhp in the standard car, and 602bhp in this V10 Plus version we’re in today. Both are more efficient, too, thanks to dual injection and cylinder-on-demand (COD) technology.
The latter shuts down one bank of the engine under part-load by switching off the injectors and ignition. It then runs as a five-cylinder, swapping between banks of cylinders every 30sec or so to keep the catalytic converters up to working temperature. And all without you ever knowing – hopefully.
They’ve also improved the S tronic ’box to quicken the shift times, and Audi reckons there’s now next to no torque-drop between changes.
The ’box sends its output through two differentials: an electronically controlled multi-plate diff at the front – replacing the old model’s viscous coupling - and a conventional mechanical limited-slip diff at the rear. The system can now shove 100% of the torque to the front or rear depending on need, and is said to reduce turn-in understeer as well.
All these components are bolted to an aluminium space frame that’s 4kg lighter and 40% stiffer than before, mostly thanks to the inclusion of a full carbonfibre-composite rear bulkhead and central tunnel.
Some of the technology from Audi’s Le Mans programme has filtered its way into the R8. Not only do you get standard LED headlights, but you can order laser lights as well, which double the range of the main beams.
Like the TT, there’s a 12.3in Virtual Cockpit that replaces the traditional dials and infotainment screen. It’s highly configurable and puts information about the engine modes, driving data, sat-nav maps, phone and media menus, right in your line of sight.