Due to carbon-aluminium platform, R8 plus has an unladen weight (excluding driver) of 1,555kg

Due to carbon-aluminium platform, R8 plus has an unladen weight (excluding driver) of 1,555kg

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It might have a 449kW (610PS) V10 engine but without its lightweight hybrid platform, the Audi R8 V10 plus wouldn't have such devastating performance. How devastating? Top speed is 330km/h (205mph) and zero to 100km/h takes just 3.2 seconds. 

CFRP-aluminium platform

The multi-material Audi Space Frame (ASF) weighs only 200 kilograms (440.9 lb) and the car's unladen weight is 1,555kg (3,428.2 lb). Components constructed from carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) form the B pillars, the central tunnel and the barrier between passenger compartment and engine bay. Then there is the front section of the vehicle, the roof arches and the rear section. These form a framework made from cast aluminium nodes and profiles. 

Audi claims that the second generation R8's body shell is around 15 per cent lighter than that of its predecessor with torsional rigidity improved by 40 per cent. I tried parking at an angle across an especially steep slope to see if the doors still lined up when opened and closed. They did, perfectly. Lifting the bonnet or the glass engine viewing hatch and then shutting each also saw them latching precisely at the first attempt. I'm not sure how you open either if the battery fails, though, as each pops ajar via an electric switch.

You do need to be gentle when pressing the enormous bonnet of an R8 shut as like all the exterior panels, it is aluminium. As an optional extra (or as standard for the V10 plus), Audi also offers attached parts made from clear-coated carbon fibre. The press car, being the most powerful version, therefore had a carbon front splitter, diffuser and  the 'side blades'. There's also a diffuser in the underbody, which is said to produce downforce on the rear axle at higher speeds.

Is the 5,204cc V10 an Audi or Lamborghini engine?

With options, the R8 V10 plus can cost as much as £150,000; a lot for an Audi. When you learn how fast it is, and how surprisingly easy it is to live with an only car, this monster starts to look worthy of the lease payments. Yet it's the thundering bellows which come from the 5.2-litre engine and its special exhaust system which really sell this supercar.

That burbling-wailing ten-cylinder engine is a work of art and Audi knows that. Why else would the V10 be on display to the world through a glass canopy? The 90° direct injection V10 has dry sump lubrication and, naturally, 40 valves. Mounted longitudinally, the 5.2-litre unit produces 560Nm of torque at 6,500Nm and its maximum power at 8,250rpm. Is it a Lamborghini engine, or is it two Audi straight fives? There are conflicting stories about this but either way, it sounds utterly glorious and the insanely high engine speeds needed for total power and torque do suggest an Italian exotic heritage.

Lamborghini had the MSS platform before the latest R8

Audi doesn't mention this, but it could certainly be said that the R8's mid-engined platform also comes from a Lamborghini. The ASF architecture, known within the Volkswagen Group as MSS, was first used by the Huracán, introduced in early 2014. That was almost two years ahead of the first deliveries of the current R8.

Lamborghini notes that its own car's hybrid chassis consists partly of aluminium. The front and rear sections, with the axle mounts, are made almost entirely from this alloy, and carbon fibre parts produced using the RTM process (Resin Transfer Moulding). These are concentrated around the occupant cell, where they form part of the floor and sills, the centre tunnel, the rear bulkhead and the B-pillars. The x-shaped brace in the engine bay (the R8 has one too) is also made from CFRP. Stainless steel fasteners connect the aluminium and carbon-fibre components.

Manufacturing

The Lamborghini Huracán is put together at the Italian company's base in Sant'Agata Bolognese, while the R8 is made by Audi Sport GmbH at Audi Böllinger Höfe. This is a specialist operation in Neckarsulm, separate from the far larger Audi factory in the same northern Baden-Württemberg city. Production commenced during the fourth quarter of 2015, which means a mild styling makeover will likely come in 2020 and a third generation model in 2023.

So there's the manufacturing story, but what is it like to have an R8 plus in your life for a week? Sensational. First of all, it's all about the ceremony of the start-up. From cold, the starter motor is programmed to give the engine a few cranks before there is the thundering of the 10 cylinders firing. Those churns sound fantastic, like an old-school Ferrari. Or Lamborghini. It then idles very loudly before the software quietens things down after about a minute.

Does it use much fuel? Well, I might not have been driving like an old lady on her way to church, which could explain an average of 11.1mpg and a best of 17.4mpg over about 600 miles. The official Combined number is 22.9mpg and the CO2 average is 287g/km thanks in part to stop-start. 

S tronic

There are no transmission choices with the R8 and R8 plus. A DL800 S tronic gearbox is standard and this has seven ratios as well as the obligatory steering wheel paddles. The DCT will very occasionally give out a thump between ratios at low speeds. That's almost not worth mentioning as this is by far the best dual clutch gearbox I have experienced in a Volkswagen Group model.

We all know why so many supercars are owned by people who can afford them, and who then go and drive something like a Range Rover most of the time: a lack of practicality. Yet in the R8, the sills aren't too broad, the doors open wide and are light, and you sort of slide in but it's not too tricky to do that or extricate yourself with dignity. There was still a fair bit of travel behind me after pulling on a manual forwards and aft seat adjustment handle. I'm 178cm tall, but a 6'2" passenger had no problem being comfortable. 

Inside - Virtual Cockpit

The Virtual Cockpit virtual instrumentation display is more than a gimmick and I'm pleased to see it turning up across the company's model range. Press a button on the steering wheel to change from small circular rev counter on the left and speedo on the right with a landscape format map in between, to big virtual dials and a smaller topography. Or scroll to other information about the car's systems. A heads up display would be even better from a safety point of view. 

The level of comfort is the most surprising thing about the R8. Even in Dynamic, the firmest of four settings, the ride is firm, stable and never too hard. The old shape RS TT was by comparison unacceptable so Audi is clearly listening to media and customer feedback, while diabolical road surfaces are a sad fact of life in Britain.

How to describe the steering other than to say it is close to perfection? And performance is…phenomenal. But never frightening. You can drive this car day to day. It's got lots of room for you and a passenger, there is a handy and commodious space behind the seats and a big nylon bag into which you can throw things such as an umbrella, water bottles and so on. 

As with a Porsche 911 or 718, the front boot will take a wheeled hand luggage case too. If it's heavy, before you drop that in, be careful not to squash what looks like the kind of fabric bag which rechargeable cars' leads come in. Curious, I unzipped it. Can you guess? The dreaded puncture repair kit. 

The R8 plus is one of the most enjoyable cars I have been incredibly luckily enough to try out in 2016 and noting the lack of a spare tyre feels a bit mean, but I had to find one fault, didn't I? 

What's next for the R8?

The R8 Spyder V10 had its world premiere at the New York auto show in March 2016. Unlike the R8 Coupe V10, there is as yet no higher-power plus variant of the open car.

There will be further derivatives, including an e-tron electric version to replace the old-shape model, small scale production of which ceased two months ago. There might even be a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain and a conventional V8 TDI.

As was the case with manual transmission, minimal demand for the first generation V8 cars means they were not and won't be replaced. However, a turbocharged five-cylinder or possibly a turbocharged V6 engine should become available as the effective replacement for the 4.2-litre V8.