WHEN heading out to drive a car with a bit going on, you pay attention to your footwear.
When it came to shoe choice to drive Audiís new R8 on local roads for the first time, I was stuck. Its V10 engine, bespoke seven-speed DSG, AWD configuration and animalscaring output all signal that the trackday slippers should come out to play. But itís an everyday supercar, Audi insisted, thereís no need for fancy footwear.
I went for the driving shoes. The new R8 V10 Plus comes with a mid-engined, naturally-aspirated V10 that makes 449kW at 8250rpm and 560Nm of torque at 6500rpm, an all-new quattro system that can vary its drive infinitely from front to back, and a set of monstrous carbon ceramic brakes. Itíll nail 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds and bend its digital speedo needle at 330km/h.
The R8ís largely alloy chassis has been dosed-up with CFRP parts, including the rear wall, centre tunnel and three-part B pillars. Despite the car shedding about 50kg, its chassis is said to be 40 per cent stiffer.
This is the first time the R8ís been unleashed on Aussie roads. Weíre in the Snowy Mountains, where long, sweeping, sweetly cambered thirdgear bends are bracketed by broken edges and deceptive tightening hairpins down long, steep traverses.
The R8 is a blood relative of the noisier, shoutier, more intense Huracan, but itís glaringly obvious the two Ė built in the same plant in Neckarsulm, Germany Ė serve different masters. The R8 isnít as loud as a Lambo or a Jag F-Type R, nor is it as track-focused as McLarenís 570S.
Those supercars have become more civilised, available at a much lower threshold to a wider audience.
The same can be said for the R8.
On the leash, itís civil, tractable and easy to live with. Click the steering wheel-mounted drive select dial to Comfort or Normal, and the supercar W element of the R8 simply evaporates into mist, replaced by something with the demeanour of a basic A4. No tyre roar, no engine noise intrusion, no shunting DSGÖ nothing. Itís uncanny.
Throw the R8 a Sport or Dynamic drive mode bone though, and it transforms from an uber-slick commuter into a street fighter with the soul of a GT3 racer.
The heavily-revised engine is a cracker, and a fitting finale to the atmo era. Torque delivery is linear and plentiful, and speed builds with the ease of a skydiver in freefall. It emits lovely noises via the standard sports exhaust, which can be made louder with the press of a button.
So stiff is the chassis, itís only when you look at the speedo do you realise just how brutally fast the R8 is. It doesnít fire its speed from a sniperís rifle; rather, it gradually opens the tap as far as you dare Ė and thereís always more if youíre game.
And. What. A. Chassis. Itís firmer than a Goulburn prison guard, yet as supple and feel-some as babyoiled tofu. You can feel each of the four wheels individually tracking the terrain via your fingertips and inner ear. The electric steering is terrific, too, though I expected more weight in Dynamic mode. Still, wired steering has never felt so good.
The wishbone-based suspension relies on one damper tune and spring rate, and Audi has nailed it. The R8 wonít spook the most timid pilot, yet it rewards the more adventurous.
Itís one of the most accomplished, refined and mature chassis tunes weíve seen in a long time.
Quibbles are few; the flimsy paddle shifters are outdone by those on a Golf GTI for feel and solidity, the fixed-back buckets are a compromise in at least one direction, and the digital dash is a frantic sea of messages, dials, panels and lists.
Tip it into a fast bend though, and all is forgiven. The R8 V10 Plus is the last of its kind, and deserves to be feted as one of the best engine/ chassis combos on the planet.
Sensational chassis; intense engine; cheaper than before
Missing a smidge of mongrel; aspects of interior underdone