MAINSTREAM carmakers donít have good form when it comes to supercars effortlessly progressing to a second generation. Witness the generation. Witness the Honda NSX, BMW M1 and even Nissanís mighty GT-R.
The second-gen Audi R8 benefits from being more Lamborghini than Audi underneath, and the performance is even better. The V10 Plus launches to 100km/h in 3.2sec and on to a top speed of 330km/h, making it 5km/h faster than the wedge-shaped Huracan.
Engineers say the mechanical package is 95 percent shared with the sleeker Italian, including the mid-mounted 5.2-litre V10 engine, basic suspension architecture and largely aluminium (79 percent) and carbonfibre (13 percent) chassis.
The body is completely new yet familiar, with sharper headlights and customisable side blades now split by a strip of body colour.
The Plus gets a DTM-inspired fixed rear wing while the regular model has a cleaner active wing that hides at less than 120km/h.
Yet itís not a head-turner like the Huracan or Ferrari 458.
Same with the way it drives.
Lay into it and the atmo V10 unleashes a satisfying bark in its most aggressive Dynamic mode, but doesnít leave you temporarily deaf. In Comfort itís less aurally enticing than an Audi SQ5 diesel.
No shortage of punch, although youíll need to work for it. The R8 relies on revs, the 449kW V10 Plus screaming to an 8700rpm redline.
In second, third or fourth gears itís a seriously useful device, always ready to react, something that happens quickly courtesy of that instant atmo throttle response. Even the regular 397kW version (torque drops from 560Nm to 540Nm) has plenty of pull, albeit without the manic top end of the Plus.
The brilliantly obedient and smooth seven-speed auto is nicely synced to the engine.
In its most docile shift mode, the R8 is positively relaxed and happily shifts into taller gears when cruising. Dial up a more aggressive mode and it drops down a couple of ratios and fullthrottle upshifts go from barely discernible to a solid whack. Only in that sporty setting does the R8 occasionally overcompensate on a downshift and deliver a less than elegant fumble-and-thud to full power.
The R8 deploys drive to the road courtesy of a new quattro system and clingy 20-inch Pirelli tyres. The steering is on the light side but is devoid of kickback and thereís enough meaningful weight to keep you informed.
Ride quality is similarly compliant enough to relax into a cruise or deal with city imperfections, and you donít have to slow to a crawl to protect the low-slung nose.
On a blast around the Portimao track in Portugal, the carbon-ceramic brakes display some typical low-speed scratchiness but bring a solid yet malleable pedal feel. During some night punishment, the 380mm front discs glow orange and ultimately emit wafts of smoke, without losing pedal pressure or stopping performance.
Inside, the R8 has a sense of practicality. Headroom is good by supercar standards, and the 226-litre space behind the seats is claimed to accommodate a golf bag. Thereís also a 112-litre hole under the bonnet complete with power outlet.
Audi sees the R8 as an everyday alternative to the Italian supercar fare, albeit one that has rarity on its side. Itís more likely to compete with top-end 911s, and the $400K-plus price tag for the Plus should ensure exclusivity.
Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Audi R8 V10 Plus 5204cc V10 (90į), dohc, 40v 449kW @ 8250rpm 560Nm @ 6500rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1555kg 3.2sec (claimed) 12.3L/100km (EU) $400,000 (estimated) 2nd quarter 2016
Priced to frighten; badge lacks supercar cachet; sound in Comfort Pace and throttle response; all-paw traction; practical, comfy cabin
Use the free viewa app to scan this page and watch the R8 on track in the darkness
Despite Lambo componentry there are no Raging Bull badges, even on the engine. Intake and exhaust systems are unique to each brand, as is suspension tune and throttle response.
Latest active safety systems such as auto braking and lane departure warning are nowhere to be seen, but the R8 does get a Griswold-like collection of LEDs front, rear and inside.
The R8 picks up the TTís virtual cockpit design, meaning no central touchscreen and a minimalist dash dominated by carbonfibre-laced vents and a trio of control knobs.
AUDI may have dropped the V8-powered version of the R8 but still plans an entry-level model.
Wheels understands a new turbo V6 being jointly developed with Porsche is the frontrunner to power a sub-$300K model.
The all-electric eTron version is unlikely to make it to Australia because there are no plans to build it in righthand drive. And a diesel?
ďNo, definitely not,Ē was the stern response from one engineer, who said it wouldnít suit the R8ís supercar character.
BRILLIANT V10 sound matched by ludicrous acceleration and Batmobile-like styling makes for one seriously desirable supercar, let down only by some plasticky interior elements and an equally head-turning price tag.
PHENOMENAL all-wheel drive traction (0-100km/h in 3.1sec), mighty 3.8-litre flat-six twinturbo, carbon-ceramic brakes and masterful roadholding come with all the practicalities of Porscheís regular 911. But $78K more than a standard Turbo? Ouch.