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The new Audi R8 stays true to its supercar roots

2016-07-07 07:52

Sean Parker

AUDI R8 ARRIVES IN SA: Audi's menacing second-generation R8 was launched at Kyalami race track. Image: Sean Parker/ Wheels24

Khayalami - It caused a stir when it was first launched locally in 2007. Its futuristic design and side 'blades' may probably age better than Google shares. 

Audi, arguably the most conservative German premium brand, blew our minds when the R8 arrived in South Africa.

Welcome return

It had all the right ingredients of a thoroughbred supercar: mid-engined (V8 and then a V10), manual gearbox (with an H-gate). Some may scoff at the four-wheel drive system but all fast Audis send power to all four wheels. Audi made its name with its legendary Group B Rally car, the Quattro. 

Fast forward 10 years and Ingostadt is keen to exploit the South African appetite for German performance cars.  

In fact the launch of the second-generation R8 coincides with Audi Sport: a moniker that gobbles up Quattro GMBH and houses the automaker's R8 and RS models.

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A track weapon

Has the R8 gone soft? Or, has it become a very fast road car instead of a track weapon? The only way to find out was by lapping the new 5.2-litre V10 supercar at the even newer Kyalami race track. 

Second-gen Audi R8 lands in SA: Prices, details & pics!

As I'm writing, I can still hear the V10 engine howling all the way to 8700r/min. I can hear the savage down changes from its seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) and feel the kick against my spine as the mid-engined aluminium rocket ship reaches over 200km/h down the main straight. 

It's an intoxicating experience-ferrying the V10 Plus around the smooth asphalt. The R8 debuts the firm's performance steering wheel, which houses the starter button, driver select button, loud exhaust setting button and a performance button - all standard on the V10 Plus. 

Gallery: 2016 Audi R8

The performance button removes traction control and hikes up throttle response and steering input to illegal levels. 

Audi's decision to retain the V10 in its purest form, which produces 449kW/560Nm, must be lauded. In the era of turbocharging, supercharging and battery assist, the R8 sends a middle finger emoji to its rivals. 

A claimed 0-100km/h time of 3.2 seconds is given for the V10 Plus (the quickest accelerating Audi yet), while the lower powered model (394kW/540Nm) dispatches the sprint in 3.5 seconds. 0 to 200km/h is reached in 9.9 seconds. 

Top speed for the V10 is 320km/h and the V10 Plus maxes out at 330km/h.  

Watch: Onboard Audi R8 V10 Plus at Kyalami

The V10 Plus certainly feels monstrously fast, carving my way around Kyalami it was evident that the R8 is at home on a race track. 

The 4.42m long and 1.94m wide V10 Plus, rides on 20" (optional) wheels with wider rubber at the rear (305/30) compared to 245/30 at the front.  

The short-wheel base, low driving position and DSG 'box contribute to an intoxicating drive that means going all-out at Kyalami is no-brainer. 

The gearbox is arguably one of the best dual-clutch systems in the business, more superior to systems in Mercedes-AMG and BMW M cars. 

Its rapid gear changes can be executed manually via paddle-shifts or the computer will gladly do it for you. My co-driver opted to not use the paddles and it felt as urgent (probably quicker). 

Watch: Inside the new V10 Plus

Admittedly I caught myself hitting the rev-limiter a few times as the V10 screamed close to 9000r/min. The instant throttle response and boom of the V10 is a cocktail that should be experienced an infinite number of times.

Steering is direct and with 40% more torsional rigidity over its predecessor, the slight bit of understeer on turn-in is eradicated by the four-wheel drive system. 

At times, the electro-mechanical power steering system can feel a bit light. I think this definitely plays into the fact that it will be mostly driven on the road and needs to be relatively easy to drive.

Not that it's a difficult car to drive, given its tech, it's actually quite easy and unlike 80s supercars it's not as intimidating. 

Audi says they can install dynamic steering, which adapts its steering gear ratio to the vehicle’s driving speed.

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However, it's the little things, like the 50:50 weight distribution, aluminium double wishbone suspension and Audi's magnetic ride (electronically controlled shock absorbers which are optional) which come together to form a formidable package. 

Tipping the scales at 1555kg (unladen), the R8 felt lithe when I was behind the wheel. This is largely due to the Space Frame which is made of 79% aluminium and 13% carbon-fibred reinforced polymer (CFRP). 

The ceramic brakes on the V10 Plus were superb and put in a performance similar to that of Iceland at EURO 2016. 

One thing I wasn't worried about is how efficient the R8 is, but Audi claims the new car is 13% more frugal than the previous model.

How did it do this? Banting...no I'm kidding it's called cylinder on demand, and it's a system that shuts off a solitary bank of cylinders under low load conditions.

Walk around the R8 V10 Plus

There's also a special coasting mode and stop/start technology for anybody buying an R8 with a green cap on. 

Audi's laser lights debut in the new car as well - a hand-me-down from the LMP1 car. It's where motorsport tech literally filters its way into production models. 

It'll cut through darkness and emit light up to 600m further than the standard LED headlights. 

Inside, the R8 of course uses the digital virtual cockpit, with has a 31cm screen ahead of the driver which houses all the important information.

There are three views: the one I had on all day was the performance view which displays the rev counter centrally, and other indicators and gauges such as torque, power, oil temperature, tyre temperature, g-forces and a lap timer.  

Drivers can individually configure the gauges around the speedometer and rev counter according to their application. 

Where is it built?

The R8 is manufactured in a specially constructed production facility known as the “Audi Böllinger Höfe” in Heilbronn, Germany.

It takes about 500 workers to hand-built the carbon-fibre, aluminium R. In fact at some points along the production line, it spends 40 minutes being meticulously put together. 

Only 30 cars are crafted each day. 


Having only driven it on the track, I can attest to the fact that it is a proper supercar.

I'll wax lyrical about that engine forever: because it's that good. Yes, you can't brag about having 1000Nm of torque but the R8 stands out (along with its Lamborghini Huracan cousin) as one of the greats.

It combines bold looks, a quality cabin and a V10 engine to stamp its authority in the supercar game.

When Audi launched the first generation R8, the V10 engine option pushed into the supercar league. With the new car, the firm's motorsport knowledge has been channelled into the second-generation to make it stand out. 

In fact we'll see an even faster version of the R8 in the future, claims the automaker. 

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How much will it set you back? 

R8 V10: R2 630 500
R8 V10 Plus: R2 970 000

Audi SA is hoping to sell close to 50 units before the end of 2016 and most pre-orders (70% in fact) have been for the V10 Plus derivative. 

A glance at some of the standard kit available: 

R8 V10:

  • 19“ 5-V-spoke design wheels
  • Bluetooth interface
  • MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch
  • Audi Virtual cockpit
  • Bang & Olufsen Sound system
  • Deluxe automatic air-conditioning with sun sensor
  • Fine Nappa leather for R8 Sport seats
  • Seat heating
  • Seat belt monitoring

R8 V10 Plus:

  • Ceramic brakes
  • Exhaust system with tail pipe trims in gloss black
  • Inlays in carbon
  • Leather package
  • Rear wing
  • RS sports suspension
  • 19“ 5-twin-spoke design wheels
  • MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch
  • Bang & Olufsen Sound system

More RS models on the way

Audi will continue with its gung-ho approach with the RS brand as it launches four new models in 2017: these include the R8 Spyder, TT RS, RS3 sedan and the RS5 Coupe.

'Halo dealers'

13 dealers around the country have been handpicked to house Audi Sport 'centres'.

Eight are in Gauteng, which, according to Audi research occupies 60% of the performance car market (including BMW M and Mercedes-AMG). Two in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape and one in the Eastern Cape have also been handpicked. 

Here, fans of the RS moniker can swoon over the cars and chat to salesmen who have undergone extensive training with their product. In fact Audi has even made the salesmen obtain a racing track licence. Talk about investing in one's employees. 


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