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First drive: Audi R8 to blast in from $355k

Looking GR8: The exterior design changes may seem subtle to some, but the changes under the skin of the new Audi R8 are huge.

Second-generation Audi R8 supercar to start with lofty pricing structure


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16 Feb 2016

AUDI’s second-generation R8 will sprint into Australian showrooms with a starting price $95,000 higher than the 2007 original, owing to a global decision to discontinue the entry level V8 variant.

The new R8 is produced only in V10 and V10 Plus specification with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, both of which Audi Australia confirms will be available from May priced at $354,900 and $389,900 respectively.

A 4.2-litre V8 and six-speed manual transmission helped permit a $259,900 entry ticket to R8 ownership eight years ago. However the 5.2-litre V10 that followed in 2010 cost $366,000 when equipped with a single-clutch automatic transmission – $11,100 higher than this new model with a more powerful version of the same engine.

Audi Australia product planning manager Matthew Dale said that while some R8 buyers were drawn to the pricing of the V8, the introduction of the V10 shifted the sales split in its favour and helped boost overall R8 sales to a total 425 units since October 2007.

Despite a more expensive range, Mr Dale said he forecasts a further increase in sales with the new R8. He also said the supercar will not be supply constrained thanks to output from a new purpose-designed facility – which also builds the 50 per cent-related R8 LMS racecar – in Heilbronn, Germany, not far from the factory that built the previous model.

“Our best year for R8 was just over 100 (units) so that figure or potentially better than that (is the target) given it’s a new car with more technology, greater performance, its price point and its specification,” Mr Dale said at an R8 drive event in Sydney this week.

“We do have quite a few current paid deposits – it would be well over 10 – and the order bank is up to 50 or 60 cars at the moment.”

Mr Dale says the new R8 has been positioned above the $294,610 Mercedes-AMG GT S but below the $366,100 Porsche 911 Turbo and $378,900 Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2.

“While a 911 customer might cross-shop an R8, or a Huracan customer might cross-shop an R8, within our group we certainly see Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini as the hierarchy,” Mr Dale added.

“(But) in terms of the price positioning of the new car, it is the most competitive the R8 has ever been in Australia.”

The R8 V10 is equipped as standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, eight-piston front/four-piston rear ventilated and perforated disc brakes, Audi Magnetic Ride, bi-modal exhaust, adjustable rear spoiler, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, LED headlights with dynamic indicators, automatic high-beam assist, keyless auto-entry, leather seats with heating, climate control, satellite navigation, and digital radio with 16-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio.

The R8 V10 Plus adds 20-inch alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, fixed sports suspension, carbon-fibre fixed spoiler/diffuser/side blades, sports seats and Alcantara roof headlining, in addition to higher engine outputs and additional Drive Select modes.

Although the 5.2-litre V10 has been carried over, it has been upgraded with idle-stop and cylinder shutdown technology, plus a combination of port and direct injection.

The R8 V10 delivers 397kW of power at 8250rpm and 540Nm of torque at 6500rpm, while the R8 V10 Plus produces 449kW and 560Nm at the same engine speeds.

The flagship version is the fastest production Audi ever produced, which, compared with the entry level model, drops the claimed 0-100km/h from 3.5 seconds to 3.2s. It also increases combined-cycle fuel consumption from 11.4 litres per 100 kilometres to 12.3L/100km.

By comparison, the fastest version of the previous R8, the $440,000 limited-edition LMX, produced 419kW/540Nm, claimed 0-100km/h in 3.4s and 12.9L/100km combined.

Shorter in terms of both length and height, but wider, the body of the new R8 is also claimed to be 40 per cent stiffer than the previous model thanks to the use of stronger and lighter materials tallying 79 per cent aluminium and 13 per cent carbon-fibre.

A new all-wheel drive system utilises an electro-hydraulic multi-place clutch that can place 100 per cent of drive to each axle where required, replacing the previous viscous coupling that fixed drive at 60 per cent rearwards.

It works with Audi Drive Select modes – comfort, auto and dynamic – in addition to the more sophisticated wet, snow and dry performance modes included in the V10 Plus to change steering, throttle, stability control and drive distribution.

Audi AG, in conjunction with Audi Australia, flew 14 left-hand drive R8 V10 Plus models to Australia for customer preview days, the Bathurst 24-hour event and media drives at Sydney Motorsport Park, attended by GoAuto this week.

Under searing local sun, the new R8 looks rather different to the old one. The front LED headlights – laser headlights are a $7700 option – get vertical bezels that slice into the vertical fins of the lower air intake, where the previous model played with horizontal front cues. The side blade is now split in two, the door handles hidden, while the rear haunches are more prominent.

The biggest step-up is inside, however. The 12.3-inch TFT screen in front of the driver follows the Audi TT as the only digital element for the driver. The dashboard is minimalist but high-quality, with climate controls that are meant to evoke jet engines hanging off the wings of an aircraft. The driving position is spot-on and the small steering wheel holds the start button, exhaust on/off switch and Drive Select scroll wheel.

A wet-corner exercise demonstrated the versatility of the new all-wheel drive system and its software. In ‘dynamic’ and ‘dry’ mode, which partially deactivates the stability control, the V10 Plus is able to perform sizeable four-wheel drifts in the wet. It feels lively and controllable compared with the standard modes that quickly curb enthusiasm.

A wet motorkhana exercise likewise demonstrated need for caution and respect in a 1630kg supercar with 449kW of power.

In straight-line acceleration, the new R8 feels fast, but not as brisk as its performance claims indicate. Achieving the claim requires using launch control that holds revs high before dumping the first of the two clutches, however Audi preferred us to lift off the brake and flatten the accelerator.

In this situation the R8 needs to build revs before it feels fast, and the best we could manage on a 30-degree-plus summer’s day was a Vbox-verified 4.3s 0-100km/h with two people on board. It shrills inspiringly to its 8700rpm cut-out and the shifts between gears can be brutal.

Circuit laps best demonstrated the new R8’s new-found abilities.

Where the previous model had blunt turn-in compared with other mid-engined sportscars such as the Porsche Cayman and Ferrari 458 Italia, and could feel heavy on its feet, the latest Audi feels light and agile. Weight distribution is 42 per cent front/58 per cent rear, and a diffuser places 40kg of downforce on the forward axle at speed so the nose doesn’t wander in corners.

The old R8 could become snappy when pushed past its limits, however the new V10 Plus sits flat at the front-end while only ever hinting at potential understeer. It then smoothly and progressively allows the driver to tighten its line via the throttle. It feels brilliantly balanced, though even in ‘dynamic’ mode the stability control system is working hard. The steering is firmly weighted and feels as tight as the R8’s now-stiffer body.

More time is required on the road to see if promising on-track dynamics translate on the road, however what’s already clear is that the new R8 will challenge the 911 Turbo and Huracan on more than just pricing.

2016 Audi R8 pricing*
V10 (a)$354,900
V10 Plus (a)$389,900
*Excludes on-road costs

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