Older siblings get all the attention – just ask the new Audi R8 V10.
There’s a lower-spec version, of course (you're looking at it) but the Plus has hogged the attention, what with being generally leaner, faster and meaner. Which is fair enough.
But since Audi kyboshed the 4.2-litre V8 version (boo) and the manual gearbox (booooo), the base R8 V10 is suddenly the cheapest R8, which makes it important. (That is, until a rumoured 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 version arrives, but given it’s still unconfirmed, that could be twaddle.)
Just like the Plus, the base R8 V10 is effectively all-new. The engine’s had a reheat to unleash more power, while Audi’s revamped the entire chassis and gearbox, and fitted entirely new steering, interior and quattro systems.
But despite all that, the engine is still firmly the star of the show. It’s such a big part of the R8’s personality that a V6 version would be a totally different car.
Audi’s taken the V10 out of the old PCOTY-winning Plus and bumped compression from 12.5 to 12.7:1, installed a dual-injection system (using both port and direct), redesigned the inlet runners and tweaked the valve timing, unleashing 449kW in the new Plus. Torque is also up 540 to 560Nm, while the engine itself revs 20 per cent faster than before. The base R8 V10 which we’re driving here gets a lower tune of 397kW and 540Nm.
Meanwhile the engine uses 13 per cent less fuel thanks to new start-stop, coasting and cylinder on-demand features. A new electromechanical steering unit surely helps, too, replacing the old car’s hydraulic set-up.
At 1595kg, the base R8 V10 is 40kg heavier than the new Plus and weighs the same as the old Plus. Much of the saving has come from material changes in the chassis – if Audi made the new R8’s chassis using the old car’s aluminium, it would be 32kg heavier.
The R8 V10 will do 3.5 seconds to 100km/h with launch control. Hardly tardy, and yet the Plus is still 0.3sec quicker, and will do 0-200km/h in 9.9 seconds. The Plus’ll hit 330km/h while the R8 V10 will do 320km/h.
Subtle styling differences continue to set the cars apart, including some bits and pieces in the interior, but you still get the TFT instrument cluster in the lower-spec R8 V10, as well as the cool air-con dials from the TT.
The differences are also subtle in the driving. Due in no small part to the revvy, snarling, roaring and deliciously linear V10 wedged immediately aft of your spine, the R8 gets a big, fat tick for theatre and sheer entertainment factor – beyond any doubt, the driving experience of both cars is dominated by the donk. And it’s genuinely one of the best-sounding engines on sale today.
The R8 V10 has plenty of power, surely enough to frighten any passenger who’s never been in a fast car before. But driving it and the Plus back-to-back, the R8 V10 can be felt to lack the Plus’s explosive final 10 per cent. It’s telling the R8 V10 makes peak power at 7800rpm and the Plus, 8250rpm.
That’s really it, though. The R8 V10 scores the same new quattro system, able to split torque 100 per cent front or rear, imbuing the R8 with a talented, multi-dimensional chassis on track and strong traction. But want to hang the arse out post-apex? Sure. The R8 will do its best rear-drive impression before neatly tucking you back into shape.
More time on track reveals the R8 V10, both base and Plus, worships a handling philosophy centred on stability and grip, rather than one of extroverted chassis playfulness. Not a bad thing at all – it means you can carry huge speed through corners and it'll remain planted.
On the road the R8 V10 is awesomely fast, well-damped and rows through its seven gears with that crisp and responsive twin-clutch gearbox; exploring that spine-tingling redline will have you sweating about passing a cop over the next crest.
Perhaps, though, right on the limit, the R8 V10 doesn’t seem to have the final 10 per cent chassis talent you might find in a product from Stuttgart or Maranello. Still, it’s a stunning car. It ticks the boxes for noise, theatre, looks and stuck-to-the-road grip. And it’s a big improvement on the previous car, if only in that you could sanely drive it daily.
Audi Australia says the car is arriving in around June. Price? A sharp (by supercar standards) $354,900, undercutting the V10 Plus by $35,000.
4 out of 5 stars
Engine: 5204cc V10, DOHC, 40v
Power: 397kW @ 7800rpm
Torque: 540Nm @ 6500rpm
0-100km/h: 3.5sec (claimed)