New R8 arrives Down Under
The wait is over - Audi's awesome new R8 V10 plus arrives in Australia.
9 June, 2016
At 10 metres tall, the fibreglass structure is unmistakable. Up close you can see every scale in detail, while the fins and tail have been expertly shaped. It has stood here since 1969, proudly putting Adaminaby on the map. It’s called the Big Trout and it’s perfectly placed, positioned right in the middle of some of Australia’s best trout fishing country.
A huge fish isn’t the only thing in Adaminaby currently getting attention, though. While we’re busy staring at the massive trout, a mini-van slows down to take a closer look at the smooth sculpture parked beside it. The driver notices the bright blue and carbon-fibre bodywork arranged before her, and stops the car. She hops out and as she saunters over, her eyes widen.
“Is that the new R8?” she says, incredulously. Why, yes. Yes it is.
The home of the Big Trout isn’t somewhere you’d expect an Audi R8 aficionado to reside, but it illustrates just how this supercar’s desirability knows no bounds. After a quick exploration of the cabin (and the obligatory selfie), the mini-van driver was on her way, and we headed back out onto the Snowy Mountains Highway, headed toward Talbingo.
The national launch for the second generation R8 takes in some of Australia’s best driving roads, with long, open straights, tight switchbacks and climbing sweepers. However, the Snowy Mountains also brings unpredictable weather, with fog, rain, sunshine and snow all being possible within a few hours. No matter, this extraordinarily capable supercar is backed up by an all new quattro system which is even quicker to react, and now can vary the torque split with up to 100 percent going to each axle if need be.
Under that clear engine cover, you’ll no longer find a V8, but rather a 5.2-litre V10 as standard. There are two versions, the R8 V10, producing 397kW/540Nm, and the R8 V10 plus, which ups its output to 449kW/560Nm. The sonorous 5.2-litre V10 has been given that power boost thanks to customer race teams, who had gathered so much data on how well the V10 held up under pressure, that Audi needed virtually no R&D on the engine.
But where the time has been spent is creating an all new chassis and interior. The passenger cell now combines aluminium and carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) which drops weight by 10kg but increases torsional rigidity by a massive 40 percent. Inside there’s the brilliant Virtual Cockpit instrumentation and the fabulous voice control system which understands natural English phrases. There’s enough storage for a few small bags or jackets behind the seats and under the bonnet is a luggage compartment that will easily swallow a small suitcase.
Let’s be honest, though – no-one buys an R8 for its storage. Which is why Audi brought us to brumby country. The roads are open, clear and almost devoid of traffic. With a few quick flicks of the left paddle, the car is ready for action. Right pedal? Meet carpet.
The V10 rockets off the line, hitting 100kmh in just 3.5 seconds, while the V10 plus cracks triple digits in a staggering 3.2 seconds. Yes, this is the fastest production Audi ever made.
The howling engine sings to the mountains that it’s in its happy place, and at 8250rpm you’ve hit peak power. Each pull of the right paddle is met with instantaneous response and the next ratio is slotted in quicker than you can blink. The acceleration is immense and relentless, but the brakes are more than up to the task, whether you have the standard steel discs or the V10 plus’ carbon-ceramics.
The R8 is like an onion – peel back the layers of luxury and you discover more and more ability. While travelling in convoy with a V10 plus in front and a V10 behind, we discovered that apart from the straight line acceleration, they both have cornering ability beyond mere mortal man.
The corners tighten, yet the quattro system sorts out the best split of torque, while the suspension crushes the tyres into the road. The pin-sharp steering is telling you exactly what’s going on underneath. Without even realising it, we're out the other side and the car is begging us to drive it even harder.
The chassis is so adept that you start to wonder if Audi has rewritten the laws of physics. This much grip shouldn't be possible. Clearly, though, it is.
Arriving in Talbingo, the red mist has disappeared. What hasn’t are all the qualities that made the original R8 great. The new car is still as simple to drive as a hatchback, and just about as comfortable, too. With a new S tronic seven-speed gearbox, it’s happy to tootle around the suburbs (or lope along a highway) with little effort. In Comfort mode, the magneto-rheological suspension smothers the worst of the bumps giving a remarkable ride.
Supercar ability, but passenger car accessibility. The combination of the two is a very rare thing in today’s world. It has been said that, “Compromise is a word found only in the vocabulary of those who have no will to fight.” Audi clearly hasn’t given up the fight, creating a machine with both dynamic prowess and daily usability.
To borrow an oft-used phrase, the new R8 proves you can have your trout and eat it, too.
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