From £86,290
A V10 in an Audi R8 shows too much of a good thing can be wonderful

Our Verdict

Audi R8 V8

It may not have a posh badge, but when it comes to what really matters the R8 has what it takes to hold its head high among supercar rivals

Andrew Frankel Autocar
4 February 2009

What is it?

This is the Audi R8 5.2 V10 FSI - baldly, an Audi R8 with a 5.2-litre V10 motor under the engine cover. More specifically it’s the quickest and most expensive production Audi ever, the first capable of a sub-4sec 0-62mph time and a car that was scheduled to carry a six figure price tag until Mr Darling’s VAT cut.

Comparisons between the Audi R8 V10 and the Lamborghini LP560-4 are inevitable, not least because, internally, the engines are identical, right down to their uneven 54 and 90deg firing intervals. But different intakes and exhausts means the Audi is restricted to a mere 517bhp, the better-breathing Lambo manages 552bhp.

Still, in a car weighing just 1635kg (only 60kg more than a V8 R8 despite a considerably higher spec, this still leads to an impressive 316bhp per tonne power to weight ratio for the Audi R8 V10, superior even to that of a 911 Turbo, the car which in terms of price and pitch it probably most closely resembles.

Interestingly, while the Audi R8 V10 has received a great deal of attention in certain areas because of its 100bhp-plus power gain – its springs are 20 per cent stiffer at the front and 22 per cent stiffer at the rear, it has a thicker rear roll bar and a fresh set of suspension bushes – in others it’s barely been touched.

Whether you specify steel or carbon ceramic brakes they’ll be the same that you find on a Audi R8 V8, the tyres are no different and even the body has needed no further stiffening to cope with the performance potential.

The six-speed manual and semi-automatic gearboxes have been left untouched, with just a raised final drive ratio to accommodate a top speed that rises from 187mph to 196mph.

Visually you’ll spot an Audi R8 V10 by its badging, intricate ten-spoke 19in wheels, wider sills, enlarged air intakes and different exhausts while, inside you’ll need to spot the now-standard Nappa leather or the little ‘V10’ badge on the tacho.

The Audi R8 V10 is also the first production car to have wholly LED lighting front and rear. But if this all sounds a bit too forensic, the presence of a fairly enormous V10 under the transparent engine cover is something of a giveaway too.

What’s it like?

Expect the Audi R8 V10 to be to the standard R8 what a 911 Turbo is to a standard 911 and you’re going to be disappointed. While the turbo Porsche is and always has been an entirely different proposition to its normally aspirated sister, a V10 R8 is really rather similar to a V8 R8, just with all measurable performance points re-established on a higher level.

And were the eight-pot Audi R8 less than one of our very favourite cars of any description, this might come as something of a let down. In the event it’s like being given not just the keys to the chocolate factory but the deeds as well.

All the superficially mundane qualities that in fact make the Audi R8 so special – it’s ride and refinement, the functionality of its interior and ease of use – have survived the transition intact.

Perhaps more than any other supercar, when you think of an Audi R8 you think not just how great it is to drive, but how much greater even than that it must be to own and live with day by day. And the V10 shows you can have all of this, complete with truly epic performance not to mention a howling V10 soundtrack and an 8700rpm rev-limit.

No, it’s not quite so unhinged as the Lamborghini LP560 (and for that blame its extra 225kg as much as any power deficit), but the gap is narrower than the £40,000 price gulf between them would suggest.

Best of all Audi has stuck to its decision never to allow more than 35 per cent of available torque be delivered through the front wheels so it effectively feels more rear-wheel drive than ever, while its ultra-long wheelbase and dazzlingly well-controlled suspension with magnetic adaptive damping means its handling is as benign as ever.

Should I buy one?

Many people, some of us included, predicted that the Audi R8 V10 would prove a step too far. The V8 car never felt lacking in performance and had such a delicious feel that it seem inevitable that whatever the V10 brought in extra performance would be more than offset by what it lost in balance and delicacy.

This appears not to be the case, and by pricing the Audi R8 V10 so close to the R8 V8 (once you’ve added the Nappa leather, sat-nav, carbon side panels, LED lights and magnetic ride there’s less than ten grand in it), it has produced an even more desirable and better-value version of one of our favourite cars of the 21st century.

No wonder Audi thinks 70 per cent of R8 sales will now be V10s. There probably hasn’t been a worse time to sink a hundred grand into a supercar, but if there is one out there worthy of such a commitment, it’s hard to think of another more deserving than this.

Join the debate

Comments
10

5 February 2009

All sounds great, and looks like this is set to be a great car. Questions:

What happens to the 4.2 V8 engine now Audi isn't using it in the RS4 any more and the move in other S models is to a smaller supercharged capacity?

Also if the forthcoming RS5 uses an upgraded V8 with direct injection and 450 bhp as reported, will this be put in the R8 and narrow the performance gap?

How long before Audi puts the price up by £10k?

How daft does the £99k list price make Astons V12 at £140k look?

I've also read several posts on forums that suggest it should be remarkably easy to liberate all of those 552 horsepower from this engine and run it as god / Lamborghini intended...

5 February 2009

Given the pound's plunge against the Euro, I'm very impressed indeed that they've got it on sale at under 100k. Really hard to find any fault in it, to be honest ...

5 February 2009

I am someone who has an order in for the R8 V10 and I am delighted that it has come in under £100k. As someone has mentioned the Gallardo is about £150K and the Vantage V12 £140K. I think I am getting myself a bargin here and I cant wait.

5 February 2009

[quote custom]

I am someone who has an order in for the R8 V10 and I am delighted that it has come in under £100k. As someone has mentioned the Gallardo is about £150K and the Vantage V12 £140K. I think I am getting myself a bargin here and I cant wait.

[/quote]

Yes you lucky so and so...this is a supercar bargain. The Italians and Porsche better beware!

Suddenly a 911 Turbo now seems vulnerable.

5 February 2009

wow, autocar! i'm surprised to read such a positive review of an audi. i used to think you were over-critical of everything audi does, especially of the brilliant a4. it's nice to see my impression might have been wrong ;-)

6 February 2009

Not a fan of the brand at all but the R8 looks undeniably amazing and apparently the ride quality's not bad. Can it really be an Audi? :^)

8 February 2009

Have you tried out the 911 turbo ? It has better performance and massive more torque awseome overtaking power 2nd only to the veron. Good luck with the V10 but keep to the left when you see me comming !!!![quote manicm]

[quote custom]

I am someone who has an order in for the R8 V10 and I am delighted that it has come in under £100k. As someone has mentioned the Gallardo is about £150K and the Vantage V12 £140K. I think I am getting myself a bargin here and I cant wait.

[/quote]

Yes you lucky so and so...this is a supercar bargain. The Italians and Porsche better beware!

Suddenly a 911 Turbo now seems vulnerable.

[/quote]

Baldrick

8 February 2009

Have you tried out the 911 turbo ? It has better performance and massive more torque awseome overtaking power 2nd only to the veron. Good luck with the V10 but keep to the left when you see me comming !!!![quote manicm]

[quote custom]

I am someone who has an order in for the R8 V10 and I am delighted that it has come in under £100k. As someone has mentioned the Gallardo is about £150K and the Vantage V12 £140K. I think I am getting myself a bargin here and I cant wait.

[/quote]

Yes you lucky so and so...this is a supercar bargain. The Italians and Porsche better beware!

Suddenly a 911 Turbo now seems vulnerable.

[/quote]

Baldrick

9 February 2009

Should be an interesting battle, the 911 turbo is down by 45 bhp but up a not inconsiderable 110 Lb/ft on torque. Audi is only just 45 kg heavier.

Personally I'd take the R8 V10 on looks alone, and free up that hidden horsepower.

10 February 2009

I'm torn between the two. 911's have been my dream for years, but the R8 was tempting me even before the new V10.

Decisions decisions....

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer
  • Citroën C3
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Is the third gen Citroën C3 ‘fresh and different’ enough to take on its supermini rivals? We spend six months with one to find out
  • BMW X3
    First Drive
    15 October 2017
    A satisfying rework of the X3 that usefully improves its handling, cabin finish, space and connectivity to make this BMW a class front-runner again
  • Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
    First Drive
    13 October 2017
    Off-road estate is now bigger, more spacious and available with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, but is it enough to make its German rivals anxious?