Hang Ten [COTY2016] : Audi R8 V10 Driven [review]

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Ignore the pretend-Plus wing for a moment, because even the Plain Vanilla R8 V10 delivers a big bang

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Singapore - R8 V10 owners attract a lot of flak from well-intentioned friends, who probably think they’re doing their Audi-owning pals a favour by suggesting used Lamborghinis instead. After all, early examples of the Gallardo are available for about three-hundred grand these days if you’re hankering after the badge and aren’t picky about spec and colour... and that’s presumably before any negotiation. This sort of sentiment isn’t surprising considering how much the R8 V10 costs, but what will come as some surprise is how well the R8 actually performs. In this price bracket, it takes a lot of commitment to spring for a new R8 over many other lightly-used pre-owned exotica in the market, but then life’s far too short to make safe choices, especially since the R8 serves up as engaging a drive as its peers.

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There’s a reason why the R8 is referred to as the ‘thinking man’s sportscar’. Note, we don’t use the word ‘supercar’ because it takes much more to be admitted into the exotic pantheon than a price-tag and performance figures. However, of the many contenders who aren’t quite of the exotic calibre, the R8 is probably the closest to admission. Well, that’s assuming this sort of label appeals to you, of course, because it shouldn’t in the quest for an entertaining car.

It certainly shouldn’t matter for the Audi, because the R8 is a stonking drive in both the hard-edge Plus model, and this ‘regular’ variant. If you’re even considering the R8 to begin with, it probably means you’ve decided to place a higher priority on the drive over the badge.

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Technically, the R8 and the Huracan share the same multi-material Audi Space Frame that blends aluminium with CFRP, but having driven hard the two variants of the Huracan and R8 on both road and track (no Huracan Performante then, but that’s in a higher price bracket), all I have to say is the R8 holds its own admirably well against the Lambo, and we’re talking dynamically and emotionally, and not just bang-for-buck… because it’s not exactly a budget proposition versus its peers of a similar OMV.

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We’d have preferred a less cluttered steering wheel, but that’s the first thing you see when you slide into the car, as four satellite buttons let you toggle between drive programmes, sports exhaust (why would you ever turn this off?) and start/stop. The execution on a Ferrari is a lot more elegant, but I guess the R8’s gives you that ‘motorsports’ ambience that might appeal to some. Other than that, the cabin is tight, focused and uncluttered – with a nicely legible Audi Virtual Cockpit display for the important info – since the drive is the only thing you should be concerned about.

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It’s certainly not as aggressive-looking as its turbo’d rival, the McLaren 570S, but the evolution of the R8 styling from the original remains evergreen and many will agree that ‘evergreen’ trumps ‘in the moment’ any day, since there are cars that look great at the concept stage, but look tired the moment they start hitting the road a few years later.

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Hit the nuclear trigger red starter on the steering wheel and the V10 erupts unapologetically into rumbly, boisterous life, which we can assure you never gets tired as an opening fanfare – this R8 is no wallflower content to play second fiddle to any of the other sportscar marques within the same group, but this hubris might just be where the problem lies, but that’s a story for another day. On the move, the steering responds naturally and instantly to inputs, but it doesn’t dart around nervously; it’s a finely-nuanced organic feel that we like, especially since not many brands offer the same any more. Even though this isn’t the full-furious V10 plus, it’s no softie pushover that will balk at a few corners – however, we’re sure it would take offence if you picked the highway route instead of the curvy, winding roads to your destination!

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Driver ergonomics are perfect (even for ahem, shorter drivers), as is visibility out when you’re going fast – pertinent traits for a sportscar. The driver’s seat can be adjusted to your heart’s content but more importantly, the level of snugness is just-so and doesn’t threaten to cut off one’s blood circulation. Driven in righteous fury, the R8 responds to your demands with fervent devotion, as it will give as good as it gets, all to the accompaniment of its spitting snarling soundtrack.

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The R8 tips the scales at just under 1.6-tonnes, but it never feels heavy-footed; if anything, it’s the heavy-foot of the driver that is the bigger concern, because great fun comes at great risk to one’s license, especially since the R8 is the sort of car you don’t ever want to take it easy in! The combination of the mid-engined chassis’ balance and agility, as well as the flexible, elastic-band engine delivery mated to the lightning quick shifts of the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission creates a package that goes as good as it looks. - PHOTOS: ZOTIQ VISUALS

Audi R8 V10
Engine: 5204cc, V10
Power/rpm: 540bhp/7800rpm
Torque/rpm: 540Nm/6500rpm
Transmission: 7spd S tronic DCT
0-100km/h: 3.5secs
Top speed: 320km/h
Fuel consumption: 11.4l/100km
CO2: 272g/km

This feature was first published in TopGear Singapore #59 (Feb'17)

David Khoo
Author: David Khoo
David is a big petrolhead who has been dabbling in the car trade since 2001 and currently oversees Top Gear Singapore. His stories often take an eclectic slant from the predictable, and he's able to craft a compelling read that lets you see the cars (often old!) in a new light.