Beautiful things are rarely affordable, especially in the automotive world. Fine craftsmanship, high-quality materials and bold, beautiful design comes at a cost, particularly when combined with performance that competes with the best on the market. But somehow, with the Audi R8 V10 plus, the German carmaker has created one of the most spectacularly beautiful cars ever made, fitted it with an obstreperous, powerful engine, and made it available to the public at a cost that is so reasonable that it’s foolish not to consider it if you’re planning a move into the supercar-ownership club.
When Audi launched the R8 concept in 2006, it joined the handful of other German carmakers going head-to-head with the Italians. The R8’s exterior appearance has changed little since then; the low slung, rounded profile has shrunk slightly over the years, with a more aggressive profile and much more carbon fibre, but the overall shape remains largely unchanged. And that’s because it is the ultimate expression of the contemporary supercar, with an aerodynamic shell, wide air intakes and a slightly androgynous appearance that extends its appeal to a broader audience than many of its competitors.
But, whatever it resembles on the outside, R8 is a brute under the bonnet. A big glass window over the engine mount, which takes up the rear third of the car, allows onlookers to gaze in at the monster 5.2-litre V10 and coo — it’s like window-shopping for petrolheads. The V10 can hold its own against many other more well-established (and more expensive) supercar players, with a top speed of 317 kph and a standstill-to-100-kph time of 3.5 seconds. That’s fast, whichever way you look at it. And you will love to look at it.
In matte Sepang blue paint with gloss black 19-inch alloy wheels, it is one of the most attractive cars I have ever seen. There are huge carbon-fibre panels on either side, behind the air vents, and lots more around its shapely behind. Narrow LED headlights cut a fine figure at night, making the R8 look like a stealthy predator in the dark.
Inside, it’s all about simplicity. The test drive model I’m in has a crimson Nappa leather interior, with diamond stitching across the seats and roof. Shocking colour aside, the interior layout is of the same high standards as many of the marque’s luxury saloons, forgoing the typical minimalism of some supercars in favour of a more refined environment. There’s a powerful Bang and Olufsen sound system, but there is no Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones or other devices, and I couldn’t find any ports for wired connectivity other than two SD card slots. It’s one of several rather retro touches that include a manually-operated handbrake and an ignition that fires up with an actual key. But everything that happens before the moment you turn that key becomes a distant memory when the engine erupts into life.
The V10 roar is thrilling; immensely more satisfying than the V8 version of the R8, which has a lot more engine whine in low gears. But it’s best to avoid them whenever possible; it’s when this aesthetically wonderful power horse is galloping along at a reasonable pace that the responsiveness and power become apparent, bolting from a steady cruise to a frantic final furlong in the time it takes to extend the muscles in your right tibialis anterior (or press down with your right foot).
The handling is hard and the steering reassuringly heavy, but with a bit of getting used to, the Audi R8 V10 plus could definitely fill the role of everyday car. There are no alternative handling or damper settings — the only thing you can change about the drive is the Sport function for the engine performance, which has no noticeable effect on suspension or handling, it simply turns the already perfectly powerful V10 into a rampaging monster that strains to go faster and further.
High performance comes at a cost, but relatively speaking, the R8 V10 plus offers infinitely more value than other cars in its class (and looks to boot). With an interior environment that makes commuting as comfortable as a luxury saloon,
the R8 is the Clark Kent of supercars.
NUTS & BOLTS
Engine: 5.2-litre V10
Power: 550 bhp
Torque: 540 Nm (@ 6,000 rpm)
0–100 kph: 3.5 secs
Top speed: 317 kph
Fuel consumption: 12.9 l/100 km
CO2 emissions: 299 g/km
Origin: Ingolstadt, Germany
Price: from AED 595,000 (US $162,000) in the UAE