First Drive: Audi R8

What is it?

In today’s age of saving fuel, turbo charging, adding lithium ion batteries, downsizing and being kinder to the environment, this orange rocket you see on these pages comes as a relief and for me defines what a modern day supercar should be. Sure saving fuel and being kinder to the environment is important. But we are talking performance cars here, which are rare and saving the world should be left to smaller family cars with hybrid or electric technology. Hail the Audi R8, a car thanks to its stonking 5.2 litre V10 naturally aspirated lump, feels as analogue and as unadulterated as they come. It makes you feel alive and the adrenaline rushes through your veins with the same ferocity as the V10 revs to its near 9000rpm redline. But other than the drama this second generation R8 has loads to live up to. The old car despite its age is still really good and the new one has to be exceptional to topple that. To achieve the same Audi has gone to great lengths and more.

The moment you lay eyes on the new R8, it just looks more balanced and menacing. It has unmistakable R8 styling cues, with the familiar rounded wheelarches, heavily raked windscreen, bold shoulder line and aerodynamic profile. But the new car has sharper edges especially at the front and it looks more dynamic even when standing still. Elements like the slim headlights with LED lighting, the signature Audi hexagonal grille and the dynamic turn indicators just add to the overall appeal. Unlike the old car which only has aluminium in its construction, the new R8 uses the combination of aluminium and carbon-fibre, which makes it lighter by 50kg. than the old V10 Plus. The chassis is around 40 per cent stiffer than the old car too, which should help its ride and handling prowess.

How is it on the inside?

The new R8’s cabin is an extreme exercise of minimalism and is 100 percent focused on the driver. Like in the Audi TT, a 12.3-inch TFT ‘Virtual Cockpit’ replaces the dials and can be configured in a variety of ways. All information, including the navigation map, is now directly in front of the driver, on an ultra-high-quality TFT display that renders almost every other in-car screen obsolete. One trick sees a huge map digitally dismiss the tacho and speedometer to the outer corners of the screen. If this wasn’t enough then the complex Formula1 car like steering will surely make the driver feel even more special. Although some might argue there are way too many buttons on the steering but they all make sense and once use to, the driver doesn’t have to take his eyes off the road to change important settings. A large red button brings the monstrous V10 to life, another lets you switch the exhaust noise from sane to insane and the Drive Select lets you toggle through driving modes. But my favourite one is the ‘hooligan’ button, marked with a chequered flag that turns everything up to maximum on which you will read more later in the review.

The rest of the dashboard is uncluttered and Audi has even eliminated the central display in the process. The ultra-clean interior looks futuristic and purposeful without any distraction. Co-drivers may complain about the lack of a central screen, but when you have the V10 concerto and loads of G-forces to entertain you, then you shouldn’t really be cribbing.

Thanks to the low dashboard, large windows and thin A-pillar, the view upfront is fantastic and there is impressive amount of space in this two-seater. The nicely crafted seats are snug and well bolstered, and keep you in place even when you drive hard. The only downside is that the backrest angle is fixed and for me it was too reclined and uncomfortable over long stints. Though the boot space upfront is limited, it’s still one of the most practical supercars and there is decent room behind the seats for extra luggage too.

How does it drive?

Now onto the section this car was built for. Nestling right behind your ears is the state of the art 5.2-litre direct injection V10 motor. It produces a bonkers 602bhp, and that’s 60 more horses than the old V10+ and exactly the same as the mighty Lamborghini Huracan. First thing that hits you, as soon as you floor the throttle pedal is the way this motor spins. Revs don’t just climb but rather the engine just goes completely berserk as if Audi has forgotten to install the flywheel. Through the first few gears, you’re looking more at the sky than the road up ahead, as your neck works in vain to counter the force. In fact, the R8’s throttle response is so immediate that your neck feels more like an overcooked piece of meat struggling to retain its shape.

Configure the Drive Select to Dynamic and things get even more insane. Performance is now in proper supercar territory, and the car changes the way it responds to throttle inputs. The seven-speed, twin-clutch gearbox is lightning-quick with its shifts and you can use it in manual mode, gears shifting up only when you pull the right paddle. Then there is that ‘Hooligan’ button denoted by a chequered flag on the steering wheel activates the launch control and disables the ESC.

[“source -cncb”]