Audi has launched the second generation of its flagship sports car, and while it’s the fastest production car it has ever made, it hasn’t lost the magic of the original.
At ten metres tall, the fibreglass structure is unmistakable. Up close you can see every scale in detail, while the fins and tail have been expertly shaped. It has stood here since 1969, proudly putting Adaminaby on the map. It’s called the Big Trout and it’s perfectly placed, right in the middle of some of Australia’s best trout fishing country.
- Price: $389,900
- Power: 449kW
- Torque: 580Nm
- 0-100kmh: 3.2 seconds
- Drive All-Wheel-Drive
A huge fish isn’t the only thing in Adaminaby currently getting attention. While we’re staring at the massive trout, a mini-van slows to take a closer look at the smooth sculpture parked beside it. The driver notices the bright blue and carbon-fibre bodywork, and stops the van. She hops out, and as she saunters over, her eyes widen.
“Is that the new R8?” she says, incredulously. Why, yes. Yes it is.
The home of the Big Trout isn’t somewhere you’d expect an Audi R8 aficionado to reside, but it illustrates just how this supercar’s desirability knows no bounds. After a quick exploration of the cabin (and the obligatory selfie), the mini-van driver was on her way, and we headed back out onto the Snowy Mountains Highway, headed toward Talbingo.
Local launch of the Audi R8 V10 plus
We’ve been invited to the local launch of the Audi R8 V10 plus, and it takes in some of Australia’s best driving roads, with long, open straights, tight switchbacks and climbing sweepers. However, the Snowy Mountains also brings unpredictable weather, with fog, rain, sunshine and snow all being possible within a few hours. We’re thankful, then, for the all-wheel-drive system that is even quicker to react than the previous R8. More importantly, it can vary the torque split, with up to 100 per cent going to each axle if need be.
Under a clear engine cover behind the cabin (it’s a mid-mounted motor) you’ll find a 5.2-litre V10, which produces a staggering 449kW and 560Nm. That sonorous V10 has been given a power boost over the previous R8’s engine thanks to customer race teams who had gathered so much data on how well the V10 held up under pressure, that Audi needed virtually no R&D on the engine.
Where the Huracán reaches understeer, the R8 supplies a seemingly endless amount of grip.
And so, where the time has been spent is creating an all-new chassis and interior. The passenger cell now combines aluminium and carbon-fibre reinforced polymer that drops weight by 10kg but increases torsional rigidity by a massive 40 per cent. Inside, there’s leather everywhere, a full-colour instrumentation screen and voice control system that understands natural English phrases. Behind the seats is enough storage for a few small bags and under the bonnet is a luggage compartment that will easily swallow a small suitcase.
Quick to react
Let’s be honest, though — no-one buys an R8 for its storage. Which is why Audi brought us to brumby country. The roads are open, clear and almost devoid of traffic. With a few quick flicks of the left paddle, the car is ready for action. Right pedal? Meet carpet.
The R8 rockets off from a standstill, hitting 100kmh in just 3.2 seconds. Keep the boot in and it will hit 200kmh in just under 10 seconds, and carry on till it hits its limit of 330kmh. Being fast is one thing, but being soulful is something else indeed.
Devoid of forced induction, the V10 has a distinctive personality, with a warbling howl that only comes from natural aspiration. It sings to the mountains that it’s in its happy place, and at 8,250rpm you’ve hit peak power. Each pull of the right paddle is met with instantaneous response; the next ratio is slotted in literally quicker than you can blink. The acceleration is immense and relentless, and thanks to the R8’s carbon-ceramic brakes, deceleration is just as ferocious.
This car is like an onion — peel back the layers of luxury and you discover more and more ability. Specifically, cornering ability.
On one downhill run, the turns tighten quickly, yet the electronic brain sorts out the best split of torque, sending power where needed, while the suspension crushes the tyres into the road. The pin-sharp steering tells you exactly what’s going on underneath. Without even realising it, we’re out the other side and the car is begging us to drive it even harder.
Despite this dynamic prowess, all the qualities that made the original R8 great are still evident. The new car is still as simple to drive as a hatchback. In Comfort mode the gearbox is smooth, the engine is quiet and the magneto-rheological suspension smothers the worst of the bumps giving a remarkable ride.
Inevitably, though, comparisons will be drawn between the R8 and the Lamborghini Huracán, and it’s easy to see why. The two share the same engine, the same gearbox, the same space-frame chassis, drive layout, instrumentation screen and a similar infotainment system. But the differences are more marked than you’d expect.
The Huracán is more flamboyant. It has more drama, more volume. It wears its heart on its sleeve. The Audi is more measured in its approach. It’s quieter, more comfortable and actually a bit quicker through corners.
Where the Huracán reaches understeer, the R8 supplies a seemingly endless amount of grip. Sure, there are limits, but the all-wheel-drive system diverts all the power to the rear when the front grip has run out, tucking the nose in and bringing the tail around. Because of this, the R8 is actually more playful.
Proof that Germans haven't lost their sporting passion
Inside, though, the Audi is comparatively austere. There’s none of the flair, with simple dials and buttons, versus the Lambo’s aircraft-style toggle switches. Put simply, Huracán is Italian and the R8 is German. The Audi R8 V10 plus proves the Germans haven’t lost their sporting passion, yet it’s been combined with everyday accessibility.
The combination of the two is a very rare thing in today’s world. It has been said that, “Compromise is a word found only in the vocabulary of those who have no will to fight.” Audi clearly hasn’t given up the fight, creating a machine with both dynamic prowess and daily driveability.
To borrow an oft-used phrase, the new R8 proves you can have your trout and eat it, too.