Audi bumps into Lamborghini - the R8 V10 [review]


Even when the Audi R8 was being launched, speculation was rife that a V10 was waiting in the wings but would Audi dare blur the lines that separate Lamborghini from Audi? Well the R8 V10 is here and the fear that the R8 V10 would hurt Lamborghini sales were unfounded.

These two cars though tenuously linked back at the drawing board are like chalk and cheese when it comes to to the overall drive experience despite using the same basic engine. For the fans of the R8 V8, the V10 provides more of the same. When 420 bhp and 301 km/h is not enough then you will need the 525 bhp 5.2-litre V10 that tops out at an interstellar 316 km/h.

But is that all there is to distinguish between these two cars? Well visually there is precious little save for the V10 badging along its flanks but the drive experience is notably different. The overriding characteristic is the overwhelming performance of the V10 engine. The massive shove it provides at all speeds is quite nearly overwhelming posting a 3.9 second dash to 100 km/h. However this 0.7 second advantage barely describes how potent this engine is at any speed. Instant surge is available at a mere prod of the throttle and while the driver grins, the passenger turns a slightly paler shade of white.

Over normal roads the extra power makes the R8 V10 an even greater road warrior as it slices through slower traffic with complete disdain. The low seating position is always a disadvantage driving in city traffic with such exotic cars but the R8 is by a good margin the best of the mid-engine lot when it comes to user friendliness in terms of outward visibility. The ride and handling characteristics are similar to the V8 thanks to the program settings of the ferromagnetic dampers in the Audi Magnetic Ride system, always balancing admirable ride qualities with iron-fisted body control.

However on the track the V10 proves to be an altogether wilder drive, easily upsetting the prodigious grip afforded by those sticky Pirelli P-Zeros thanks to the extra 105 bhp at the end of the throttle travel. Suddenly where one felt like a hero using most or all of the throttle on the V8, one immediately realizes that restraint is the better part of valour when pushing this V10 through the tight corners.

One always arrives with at a huge speed and needs to stomp harder on the brakes which turn out to be well up to the task whether ceramic or steel. Of course the steel ones grumble a bit more but managed to hold up well and they do offer better progression in town travel compared to the super effective ceramic ones should you not punt the car around the track much.

Powering out of corners demands more skill and sensitivity from the driver. On the challenging and demanding Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point) in the Napa valley of California putting the R8 V10 into concrete walls is a real possibility. So one has to learn a new right foot position called part throttle. No more full on and full off application, some corners demand progressive application even with the sophisticated stability control systems helping out.

While in the V8 one would be deluded into believing that he had conquered the R8, the V10 offers no such fantasy. The V10 is beast that needs more familiarization and respect as its 525 bhp has pushed its current performance/handling envelop as far as it is safe to go. Corners that used to allow full throttle coming out in the V8 can now only be taken at part throttle. The end of straights come up in a huge rush and one is constantly considering whether to slow down a bit more rather than try to brake a little later because of the much higher terminal speeds.

The corollary of this is a faster lap but a lap where circumspect is the order of the day at almost every straight and corner. One has to think harder and respect more. With more laps the limits could be further exploited and precious seconds shaved off the lap times but one never leaves with the impression he has broken this V10 stallion.

car: AUDI R8 V10

Engine: 5204 cc, FSI, Normal Aspirated
Cylinder layout: V10, 40-valves, Twin Cam per bank
Max Power: 525 bhp at 8000 rpm
Max Torque: 530 Nm at 6500 rpm
Transmission: 6-Speed R-Tronic
Top Speed: 316 km/h
0-100km/h: 3.9 seconds

Features: Audi Magnetic Ride Stsyem featuring ferromagnetic dampers, Audi Aluminium Space Frame construction, R-Tronic automated 6-speed manual with Launch Control, Quattro all wheel drive.


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