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Audi R8 V10 Plus: living with a banana-yellow supercar

CAR logo CAR 06/07/2017 CARMagazine

Audi R8 V10 Plus: living with a banana-yellow supercar: The R8 was rarely left in the office carpark...

The R8 was rarely left in the office carpark...
© Bauer Media 2017

 CAR’s Audi R8 Coupe V10 Plus

 We live with one for half a year 


 The ultimate everyday supercar?

Diary notes: pictures from my iPhone

Lasers set to stun

Not many supercars have laser radiation warning stickers under their bonnets. An optional extra rather than standard equipment, adding laser diodes to the LED headlights makes the high-beam setting even more dazzling, but costs a hefty £3000 or so.

I’ve since driven another R8 without the lasers and the regular lights can’t throw the beam quite as far down the road, or as brightly, but are still mighty powerful – I’m not sure it’s an option box I’d tick.

They can be a little tardy to automatically switch between high and low beam, too, and I frequently felt the need to use manual switching for fear of accidentally dazzling oncoming traffic. 

How many supercars carry radiation warnings? How many supercars carry radiation warnings?

Mix ’n’ match instruments

When the R8 arrived its digital dials were in ‘Classic’ layout (above) – one big rev counter, one big speedo, and a scrolling info display in the middle. Delve into the menus and sub-menus, though, and it’s possible to switch it to ‘Sport’ mode (below), with a large tacho bang in the middle and the speed a digital readout in its centre.

Not only does the Sport layout feel a bit racier, it helps act as a gearshift indicator, the needle illuminating green, amber and red segments as it approaches the red line, and flashing red before it headbutts the limiter – that’s welcome, because in the R8, manual mode really does mean manual, and it doesn’t upshift automatically if you’ve chosen to DIY.

Tyre pressures – higher or lower?

When the R8 was delivered, it was on ever-so-slightly higher pressures than the recommended figures on the sticker by the driver’s door, and I dropped them accordingly. But the car felt keener to turn in and better balanced on the higher pressures.

When we later had the red Audi R8 V10 on test (see Month 5 update further down the page), its identical Continentals were also set with the higher settings and it too seemed to enjoy an ever-so-slightly nicer handling balance as a result. 

Busy behind the wheel

There’s a lot going on behind the wheel in a modern supercar.

All is not as it appears 

It's not until you get up close that you realise the vents in the upper sideblades behind the side windows aren’t actually real...

Not all of the R8's many vents are real... Not all of the R8's many vents are real...

Month 7 running an Audi R8 V10 Plus: public reaction

Bear with me, for I am about to expound a theory. I reckon supercars are fundamentally a force for good in the world; that they cancel out their carbon footprint by making people grin, giggle, even sometimes get a bit emotional as they travel.

They’re designed with the utmost love and care, they rarely die a premature death in a scrapyard, and their purpose in life is to be shared with people, not to be locked away in air-conditioned garages. 

As a temporary supercar owner, I feel it’s somehow my duty to share the R8’s superpowers with anybody who’s interested.

No struck-up conversation at a petrol station has been ignored (top three stock answers: ‘602bhp’, ‘£132,000’ and ‘not that bad, actually, about 20mpg’), no proffered smartphone to take a souvenir snap of someone with the car, or request to let their kids sit in the driver’s seat, has been denied. 

And I’ve tried to give rides to as many of my friends, neighbours and colleagues as possible. The worst possible crime in this job must surely be to become blasé, to fall immune to the magic. Seeing people’s juvenile excitement as they experience it for the first time is one way to make sure you don’t. 

‘Um… how do you get in?’ The door handles are covertly recessed below the shoulder line. ‘It’s low, isn’t it!’ It is. ‘Whoooahaha!’ – uniform reaction to the V10’s over-theatrical flare of revs on start-up. ‘It’s actually really comfortable isn’t it?’ It really is, in terms of ride quality at least – try a long motorway journey in those seats and you might feel otherwise.

‘Will it be alright over that speed bump?’ I’m yet to meet one it can’t manage. ‘Hahahahahaaa…’ – more than a few passengers have intermittently burst into fits of giggles; which, come to think of it, is more or less what I did the first time I drove a supercar.

Smartphones ahoy: a typical reaction to our Audi R8 V10 Plus Smartphones ahoy: a typical reaction to our Audi R8 V10 Plus One of my favourite bits of car-based writing is Jean Lindamood’s ‘A Ferrari among Friends’, from Automobile magazine in 1988, in which she takes 49 friends, neighbours and relatives for a spin in a Testarossa. ‘It seemed a little odd that no-one had much to say inside the car,’ she wrote. ‘Basically, they laughed a lot and then said “Thank you”.’ 

Nearly 30 years on, the R8 seems to have a similar effect. My mum’s next-door neighbour couldn’t finish a sentence without it turning into peals of laughter, some usually urbane friends whooped like a one-person Jerry Springer audience, and a few went unusually quiet.

A journalist friend who writes about real things other than cars wrestled with a conscience in turmoil: ‘Dammit, I didn’t want to like it but I can’t help it.’ And another barely passed comment on the car. You can’t please everyone.

My mum has the last word. ‘It’s two cars in one, really, isn’t it? Because when you want it to be a fantastic sports car it is, but when you just want it to be comfortable it can be that too.’ Which sums it up quite nicely, really. She ought to do my job. ‘You will drive carefully, won’t you?’

By James Taylor

Logbook: Audi R8 V10 Plus

Engine 5204cc 40v V10, 602bhp @ 8250rpm, 413lb ft @ 6500rpm  

Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive  

Stats 3.2sec 0-62mph, 205mph, 287g/km CO2  

Price £132,715

As tested £149,645  

Miles this month 1534 

Total miles 6701  

Our mpg 21.0  

Official mpg 21.9 

Fuel this month £430.74  

Extra costs £0

Month 6 living with an Audi R8 V10 Plus: the loud engine start-up routine

Every morning is broken when you live near an Audi R8 owner, because the thing’s so loud on start-up.

Once it’s been through its warm-up cycle the V10 settles down to a quiet idle, but only after some window-rattling, curtain-twitching resonance.

Nothing’s likely to spoil the driver’s mood, though – except a yellow tyre pressure warning on the dash, betraying a slow leak.

Audi Peterborough couldn’t get us a Continental (‘We only do Pirellis, guv’) so the R8 went to Audi HQ for a new left rear boot.

By James Taylor

Logbook: Audi R8

Engine 5204cc 40v V10, 602bhp @ 8250rpm, 413lb ft @ 6500rpm  

Gearbox 7-speed twin-clutch, all-wheel drive  

Stats 3.2sec 0-62mph, 205mph, 287g/km CO2  

Price £132,715  

As tested £149,645  

Miles this month 1127  

Total 5167  

Our mpg 17.9  

Official mpg 21.9  

Fuel this month £363.94

Extra costs £211 (new tyre)

Month 5 living with an Audi R8: we compare our V10 Plus with a regular V10

Our Audi R8 V10 Plus long-termer (yellow) meets regular R8 V10 (red) Our Audi R8 V10 Plus long-termer (yellow) meets regular R8 V10 (red) Our long-term R8 is the all-singing, all-dancing V10 Plus version. Compared with the boggo R8 V10 it has a lengthy list of upgrades, including a 40kg weight reduction, XL pizza-sized ceramic brake discs in place of the regular steel ones, shorter gear ratios and a whole extra 69bhp (more than my first car had altogether), in exchange for a further £15k on the asking price. 

Worth it? There’s only one way to find out. So, in the interests of science and investigative automotive journalism there were briefly two Audi R8s here at CAR’s base, with our mustard long-termer joined by a strawberry jam base model minus the Plus niceties. And funnily enough, I liked the red one better.

If you find yourself craving more power than the base R8’s 533bhp, you’re very greedy indeed. It’s still ridiculously fast. If you ever find the space to use full throttle, it piles on speed so quickly you expect glowing white lines to appear in front of the windscreen like the Millennium Falcon entering hyperspace.

Just as you’ll only need the extra power if you regularly visit a track (and how many R8 owners will?), the standard car’s wavy-shaped steel discs are better suited to day-to-day driving than the Plus’s ceramics, which are Hulk-powerful but similarly grabby, and difficult to modulate smoothly when cold.

Both cars, red and yellow, are fitted with the superb optional adaptive magnetic ride dampers and identical 19in wheels and tyres, but the Plus’s stiffer spring settings give it a marginally less supple ride. Both cars, though, have excellent ride quality not just for a supercar but full stop, and extraordinarily malleable handling on slippery winter roads.

Subjectively, I prefer the regular R8’s cleaner lines, with a pop-up aerofoil that lays flush with the bodywork at low speeds in place of the Plus’s more brazen fixed rear wing.

And although the standard seats look a little plain, especially in Tesco-suit grey, I find them slightly comfier than the more heavily bolstered optional upgrades in our car, which I always feel like I’m sitting on rather than in.

So it’s more comfortable, just as fast in the real world, and doesn’t do an emergency stop every time you touch the brake pedal.

As much as the hardcore driving enthusiast in me wants to tell you that you need the marginally sharper-feeling Plus, the R8 isn’t really a hardcore kind of supercar anyway. Spellbinding as the Plus is, the regular V10 coupe is all the R8 you need. 

Or is it? Our R8 has also crossed paths with an R8 Spyder passing through for a review (below, CAR magazine, December 2016), and I reckon the open car is an even more evocative experience.

Its open-air cabin puts you all the more in touch with that epic V10 (which sounds something like two Group B Quattros having a heated argument), and the rest of your senses with the world around you.

The usual objection to convertibles, that the folded roof takes up rear boot space, doesn’t apply here, as the coupe has no rear boot. And the current R8’s chassis is so stiff that at ordinary driving speeds you won’t miss the lighter, slightly more rigid coupé’s extra nimbleness. (Incidentally, the Spyder’s currently only available in non-Plus 533bhp spec.) 

So I’d take the softer, slower version of the R8, if possible as a convertible. Did I really just say that?

By James Taylor

Coupe or Spider? We test both Audi R8 bodystyles Coupe or Spider? We test both Audi R8 bodystyles

Logbook: Audi R8 V10 Plus

Engine 5204cc 40v V10, 602bhp @ 8250rpm, 413lb ft @ 6500rpm

Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel drive  

Stats 3.2sec 0-62mph, 205mph, 287g/km CO2  

Price £132,715

As tested £149,645  

Miles this month 970  

Total miles 4040

Our mpg 23.7

Official mpg 21.9

Fuel this month £230  

Extra costs £0

Diary update: can a car have too many driving modes?

I still haven’t quite got used to the magnetic field of attention a high-vis yellow supercar generates. Whenever I return to it in a carpark there’s a circle of spectators around it, and cars driving ahead on the motorway sometimes swerve around alarmingly in their lane as their drivers train their eyes on the R8 in the mirror.

The R8 is as easy to drive as an A3 around town, but I sometimes wish it could temporarily turn into one to foil the pointing cameraphones and hot hatches spoiling for a race. In particular it seems to be catnip for other Audi drivers; everywhere I go there’s invariably an A4 TDI glued to the R8’s spoiler, as if on a towbar.

Maybe Audi can work on an invisibility mode in the Drive Select menu for the next update.

Speaking of which, the Drive Select switch on the steering wheel has occasionally stopped doing any actual selecting. You can still scroll through the different driving modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual) if you delve into the MMI system’s sub-menus, but the shortcut switch doesn’t always respond.

We’ve had another R8 in on test recently (more on which soon), which had a similarly intermittent mode switch.

It’s hardly an issue, although it is a bit annoying when a colleague has left the car in rorty Dynamic mode (defaults to loudest exhaust, heaviest steering, firmest suspension, perkiest throttle map and raciest gearbox settings) and you just want to drive home quietly in Comfort mode.

The contrast between driving modes is quite marked, and the way the R8 can change from a genuinely refined cruiser in Comfort mode to a livewire supercar in Performance mode (an extra switch unique to the Plus model) is one of its strengths.

And a weakness in some ways; the number of parameters that the different settings adjust is quite dizzying, and to show the R8 in its best light, you feel as if you need to spend some time tweaking them to find the best compromise.

Individual mode enables you to mix and match, and I think I’ve found the right mix for everyday driving: chassis in Comfort (the roads are pretty bumpy near CAR HQ), engine/gearbox in auto (saves fuel on the motorway, but perks up when you need it to), steering in its slightly heavier setting (it’s a bit overly light in Comfort, and feels inconsistent in Auto), and the exhaust in Auto – quiet for villages, and the full two-Quattros-duetting chorus on open roads.

I’ll keep tinkering, though…

By James Taylor 

Diary update: living with an Audi R8 supercar

The last Audi R8 was one of my favourite cars at launch a decade ago: it had that NSX-alike disruptive quality, by shaking our very notion of what a supercar could be. 

It wore a mainstream badge, like that innovative Honda did in 1989, yet drove like a junior Ferrari; it shared the user-friendliness of an A6 (well, maybe an RS6) and was utterly undaunting to drive - yet could turn on the charm when booting down your favourite back road.

It came out of nowhere and chipped away at the concept of the everyday supercar.

Now we've got to know 2017's Mk2 over the past few months, how does it compare? Well, our R8 V10 Plus is one helluva of a sports car, make no mistake. It's still a cinch to drive, yet flips into warpspeed at a prod of that lovingly crafted metal loud (and it is loud) pedal.

It's so much faster than the 414bhp original V8. Hardly surprising since it packs 602bhp. And that interior is comfier and better resolved than 2007's R8, with nearly as many comfort features as you'll find in a new A4, such as those trick configurable digital instruments.

And yet... There's some purity missing, somewhere. Is it that difficult second album? The lack of knock-out surprise inherent in a follow-up? Perhaps it's the less-is-more argument - 2007's original car could be thrashed to within an inch of its life, metallic manual gearlever clack-clacking through the open gate, V8 growling aggressively.

Our V10 Plus is just a different beast. Its price alone - ours totals £149,645 - isn't far off double the £76,725 original. It's pricier, faster, glitzier, more of everything... just maybe not quite as much pure-bred fun as the Mk1. Can you hurry up and give us the entry-level R8 please, Audi? 

By Tim Pollard

Month 4 with an Audi R8 V10 Plus: poky boot, perfect poise

The R8 continues to ace the everyday car brief, with the exception of one inconveniently sized chink in its armour: a shoebox-sized boot. While a 911, or even a McLaren or Ferrari 488, can pack a surprising amount of gear into their ‘frunks’, you’ll struggle to fit more than one (very) squashy bag in the R8. The price you pay for packaging an extra set of driveshafts, I suppose.

Arguably worth it for the Audi’s winter-beating traction, though. Out of slow corners the front tyres claw into the tarmac like a rock climber’s fingertips finding a handhold, and fill you with confidence on the sort of bumpy, slippery B-roads that would bring most other supercars out in a cold sweat.

At slower speeds it’s beginning to sound like a family of squirrels have moved into that boot. Sometimes it sounds like it might be the suspension bushes, sometimes maybe the intersection where the dashboard meets the windscreen, but something’s definitely getting squeaky when the going gets bumpy.

I spoke to another journalist recently who’s logged plenty of miles in another new R8 and they reported similar squeaks over speed bumps. While you’d probably forgive that in a harder-core supercar, the Audi’s premium standpoint and otherwise luxurious cabin make it harder to overlook.

Squeaking it might be, but our R8’s now no longer beeping as the curious case of the panicking parking sensor (see Month 2) is closed: turns out the number plate had come partially unstuck, just far enough to catch the sensor’s beam.

Warpspeed! Living with an Audi R8 Coupe V10 Plus © Bauer Media 2017 Warpspeed! Living with an Audi R8 Coupe V10 Plus

Logbook: Audi R8 V10 Plus

Engine 5204cc 40v V10, 602bhp @ 8250rpm, 413lb ft @ 6500rpm  

Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel drive  

Stats 3.2sec 0-62mph, 205mph, 287g/km CO2  

Price £132,715  

As tested £149,645 

Miles this month 750

Total miles 3070

Our mpg 20.5

Official mpg 21.9

Fuel this month £147.36

Extra costs £0

By James Taylor

Month 3 with an Audi R8: it never feels under the weather

Whatever your mood, no matter how tricky the conditions, seems the Audi R8 has it nailed... 

Spoiler sport

Generously proportioned carbon-fibre rear wing is fixed in place as standard on the V10 Plus version. I prefer the cleaner, unspoiled (pun intended) styling on the standard R8, but I’ve been glad of the extra downforce through the Foxhole during my (completely imaginary) laps of the Nürburgring.

© CAR

A split-personality kinda car

Rocket-booster buttons sprouting from the wheel include Drive Select modes for suspension, throttle, steering and gearbox, from Comfort to Dynamic. Flag switch shortcuts straight to Performance, which also relaxes the stability control. In Comfort it feels like driving an A4; in Performance 
a GT3 car. The contrast in character is extraordinary.

Looks great when it’s dirty

The Bart Simpson-spec ‘Vegas Yellow’ paintwork is growing on me. All the more so for a smudge of wintry muck; a supercar is somehow cooler if it looks like it gets used properly, don’t you think? And winter is the Audi R8’s forte: few cars, super- or otherwise, are as confidence-inspiring on slimy roads.

Speed bumps? No problem

Our previous Lamborghini Huracan longtermer needed an on-board lifting system to avoid skinning its nose, but with a 25mm loftier ground clearance the R8 does fine without. Those carbon-ceramic brakes, standard on the V10 Plus, provide eye-opening (and eye-popping) stopping power, but are annoyingly grabby when cold.

Logbook: Audi R8 V10 Plus

Engine 5204cc 40v V10, 602bhp @ 8250rpm, 413lb ft @ 6500rpm  

Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel drive  

Stats 3.2sec 0-62mph, 205mph, 287g/km CO2  

Price £132,715  

As tested £149,645 

Miles this month 1054

Total miles 2320

Our mpg 15.2

Official mpg 21.9

Fuel this month £308.13

Extra costs £0

By James Taylor

Month 2 with an Audi R8: initial impressions

Audi R8 Coupe V10 Plus (2017) long-term test review © Bauer Media 2016 Audi R8 Coupe V10 Plus (2017) long-term test review One month in, running-in reins have been unshackled from our R8’s V10. Fast? Enough to make your neck and your face muscles hurt. Assuming you can actually find the space to use it.

The R8 does some of its most impressive work when you’re pootling, though. It’s as easy to drive as an A3, and similarly comfortable at a cruise. A couple of niggles so far: the dual-clutch gearbox is surprisingly jerky at low speeds in manual mode, and the front-left parking sensor keeps crying wolf. Bit unnerving when parking something 1.9m wide… 

Logbook: Audi R8 V10 Plus

Engine 5204cc 40v V10, 602bhp @ 8250rpm, 413lb ft @ 6500rpm  

Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel drive  

Stats 3.2sec 0-62mph, 205mph, 287g/km CO2  

Price £132,715  

As tested £149,645  

Miles this month 855  

Total miles 1266  

Our mpg 18.1  

Official mpg 21.9  

Fuel this month £269.37  

Extra costs £0

By James Taylor

Month 1 with an Audi R8: the introduction

‘Everyday supercar.’ A contradiction in terms, surely? Like diesel hot hatch or, ahem, our sister title Practical Classics. But if any car fits the supercar for every occasion brief, it’s the Audi R8; all-wheel drive for all weathers, windows you can see out of, and the plushest of cabins with seats an inviting crossbreed between racing buckets and overstuffed armchairs.

It even has a decent turning circle. If the R8 truly can be an everyday supercar, we’ll soon know, for this one really is going to be driven every day.

Perhaps concerned about the imminent withdrawal symptoms I’ll suffer when my season running the Radical SR1 comes to an end, the editor has compassionately placed the R8 under my care for its time with us. But it’ll spend many of its days based here at CAR HQ, so keeping its keys to myself is an unlikely dream.

© CAR There’s no longer such thing as a V8-engined R8, the latest generation driven solely by the same wondrous naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 as the closely related Lamborghini Huracan, with either 533bhp as standard or 602bhp in ‘V10 Plus’ trim.

Our R8 is the latter, £15k more than the standard model with carbon-ceramic brakes, fixed rear wing and a 40kg weight reduction to go with its extra 69bhp.

Since the standard V10 Plus Sport suspension is better suited to smooth European tarmac than Blighty’s blemishes, we’ve added variable Magnetic Ride dampers (£1600) and swapped the uncompromising buckets usually fitted to Plus models for regular sports seats, with pneumatic bolsters (£475).

We have splashed out on the sport exhaust (£1800), the better to appreciate that V10 to full effect, a larger 73-litre fuel tank (£100), and the £650 Driver Assistance Pack (cruise control and reversing camera – both, stingily, not standard), along with £3k’s worth of laser headlights (complete with a moderately concerning radiation warning sticker inside the boot).

We’ve deliberately avoided the feedback-blunting variable-rate Dynamic Steering option, and I rather wish we hadn’t specced Vegas Yellow paint (although R8 orders suggest many customers disagree). Together with a few other garnishes, that adds up to £149,645 – still cheaper than a Huracan.

If the 10-year-old me knew I’d one day be able to drive a bright yellow V10 supercar nearly every day I’d probably have spontaneously combusted with excitement. Can the R8 live up to a lifetime’s anticipation? So far I’m undecided.

When we ran a Lamborghini Huracan on the long-term fleet for six glorious months last year I fell completely under its spell, yet on first impressions I’m struggling to feel quite so passionate about the R8. Which is silly, because they’re essentially the same car, and if anything the R8’s set-up gives it more involving handling.

But I’m not convinced by the styling – there’s something oddly unbalanced about the thickening shoulder line dividing the side intakes, and I can’t get the notion out of my head that it looks like a supercar on its way to a fancy dress party wearing an Audi TT costume.

© CAR More fundamental than that though, there’s something a little aloof about its character; it feels almost too polished, somehow, not raw enough to be truly exciting. Does that mean I’m shallow and easily swayed by looks and charisma? Probably.

It’s early days, though. The R8’s arrived with only 112 miles on the clock, so self-imposed running-in reins are bridled to the V10, and the lengthiest journeys I’ve been able to take on so far have been traffic-jam-riddled motorway slogs. More thorough driving observations another time, then, but the R8 is clearly a multi-stringed bow.

Its ride comfort would shame many saloon cars (although it has an oddly springy gait at times in Comfort mode, like the subtly bouncy feel of a trampoline beneath your feet), for starters, and the seats likewise. There’s no trace of the symptoms of a condition every Monte Carlo-based chiropractor must be familiar with called ‘Lamborghini back.’

The V10 sounds serene on the move, although the theatrical, window-rattling burst of revs that accompanies every early morning cold start isn’t always appreciated by my housemates.

So, to recap the hypothesis: an R8 V10 can function as day-to-day transport. But if so, can it still thrill enough to be considered a supercar in its truest sense? We’ve got the next few months to valiantly endeavour to prove and/or disprove both points. It’s going to be fun finding out.

How we specified our Audi R8

Magnetic Ride dampers (£1600) Standard V10 Plus Sport suspension a little abrupt; continuously adapting adaptive dampers smooth things over 

Gloss carbon engine bay trim (£2950) Extravagant, yes, but one of the last great naturally aspirated engines needs showing off properly

Sound and Comfort Pack (£3450) Extra leather for seats, doors and dash, pneumatic bolsters and a 550W B&O hi-fi to outshout the V10

LED headlights with Laser Light (£3000)  Laser diodes bring more daylight on high beam. A supercar with lasers – nothing cooler, surely?

Audi R8 Coupe V10 Plus (2017) long-term test review © Bauer Media 2017 Audi R8 Coupe V10 Plus (2017) long-term test review

Logbook: Audi R8 Coupe V10 Plus

Engine 5204cc 40v V10, 602bhp @ 8250rpm, 413lb ft @ 6500rpm

Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel drive 

Stats 3.2sec 0-62mph, 205mph, 287g/km CO2 

Price £132,715 

As tested £149,645 

Miles this month 551 

Total miles 662 

Our mpg 26.7 

Official mpg 21.9 

Fuel this month £116.25 

Extra costs £0

By James Taylor

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