Blat, crackle and pop: the all-new Audi R8

With the all-new Audi R8 now powered exclusively by Lamborghini's V10 from the Huracan, we couldn't resist taking it out for a spin.

Damien Reid November 15, 2015

If there’s been a defining sportscar of the Noughties, it has to be the Audi R8. It arrived in the Middle East back in 2008 after its global reveal in 2007 and instantly became a benchmark sportscar of its generation.

The R8 was voted the 2008 Autocar Middle East Car Of The Year by a panel of judges who spent a full week testing more than 50 candidates on road, track and literally under the spotlight in the studio, which still ranks today as the most definitive consumer road test ever undertaken in the Middle East. And it was a clear winner.

Its combination of Italian-rivalling supercar looks mixed with German functionality wrapped around Audi’s proven 4.2-litre V8 that was potent enough to be quick but not developed so far to the point of being unreliable. It really was, and remains, the everyday supercar.

Fast-forward to 2015 and we have its successor, the all-new R8, and while it looks familiar, it’s a completely new beast, with the biggest change being that the V8 has been ditched in favour of the Lamborghini-derived 5.2-litre V10 in regular and Plus guises.

That bit concerns me. I’m hoping that by being exclusively Lambo V10-powered, Audi hasn’t chased horsepower figures and marketing hyperbole over good old-fashioned ease of driving and reliability.

Only time will tell on the reliability part but as far as driving is concerned, rest assured it’s even better from behind the wheel, as the only concern I had with the earlier version was its limited headroom and now, thankfully, the new R8 doesn’t feel anywhere near as claustrophobic inside. So, what was my only gripe back in 2008 has been dispersed. Tick one.

Of course the original R8 did come with the V10 eventually, so it’s not completely unchartered waters and there’s already many years of on-road feedback from customers which went into the development of this Phase 2 car.

The other key point with the old R8 was its aluminium construction which, given it’s an Audi USP right across the range, is no surprise to find is continued on this car with a similar moncoque, although by using carbon fibre-reinforced plastics in key places it’s increased its overall rigidity by a noticeable 40 per cent and reduces weight by 15 per cent.

In this class, it's still the best all-rounder.

The regular V10 develops 532bhp but the car we hid the keys from other eager hands at the launch was the V10 Plus with its 601bhp, 328kmh top end and 3.2 second claim from zero to 100kmh.

It sounds better and with its wisps of carbon fibre trim over the normal V10, looks a bit meaner too, so apologies for not being able to tell you what the cooking version of the new R8 was like. Because this one is better.

Again, being an Audi, it’s all-wheel drive so the power goes through a seven-speed dual clutch box with no manual option, and on to the quattro system that no longer has a viscous coupling to divert power but instead uses a multi-plate clutch which can divert all power to either end if needed.

Our test involved a decadently long stretch of Portuguese B road with its twists and turns that led us from the airport, eventually to the Portimao race track in sunny Algarve.

And from there it was track time until midnight, which gave us plenty of time to check out its revolutionary new laserbeam LED headlights that I wish I could describe in detail here but to put it simply are better, much, much better. Trust me.

The fact that we could thrash around on a mostly unlit race track in the middle of the countryside with only the regular lights fitted answers any concerns, they not only look much further ahead but look into corners and auto dip with incredible precision should anything come the other way (mercifully not on a race track).

Specs

  • Engine: 5.2-litre V10
  • Transmission: 7-speed auto
  • Power: 601bhp @ 8,250rpm
  • Torque: 560Nm @ 6,500rpm
  • 0-100kmh: 3.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 328kmh
  • Price: TBA

With a giant 10-cylinder engine behind your head, visibility is exceptionally good and the interior is as you’d expect in any upmarket Audi that also includes the new digital instrument panel being phased in across the range.

Even with the ESP on, it allows for a little squiggle when you push the gas on corner exit though the car is engineered for mild understeer on turn in but it’s a thoroughly engaging drive to punt quickly through hills aided by that goosebump-inducing blat, crackle and pop you get from the V10 sitting in your rear view mirror.

In this class I’d say it’s still the best all-rounder as it’s probably more driveable around town than the Porsche 911 and the Aston Martin Vantage is feeling its age but we’ll have to wait and see what McLaren delivers with its rivaling 540C and 570S.

The sad news is that we’ll have to wait some time before the R8 gets here, maybe even as much as nine or 10 months given the build chain and supply to other markets, so with that, Audi Middle East hasn’t given any indication of prices but you can guess roughly that it will be around the AED750,000 mark.