Is the new Audi R8 ‘just’ a Lamborghini Huracán with a different bodykit? crankandpiston.com went to find out on the international launch in Portugal
|602bhp @ 8250rpm
|413lb ft @ 6500rpm
|TBC ($208,166 in Europe)
I’m at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão, Portugal, and everything is very motorsport-y. The racetrack is the launch venue for the second generation Audi R8, and Audi has done some serious redecoration in the paddock. Parked on a custom dais is the 2000 Le Mans-winning Audi R8 prototype from which the road car acquired its name, and opposite it is the latest R8 LMS, which was developed alongside the new road car and shares 50 percent of its components. A screen has been set up outside showing Audi’s greatest Le Mans, Grand Prix and rally moments on a rolling loop, and stalwart Audi works driver Marco Werner is bimbling about in his race suit offering passenger rides in the LMS. I think Audi is trying to tell us something.
“No other car with the four rings is so close to racing,” proclaims the PR man. “Yadda yadda car racing DNA, blah blah Auto Union Silver Arrows,” he continues, “Blah blah Nuvolari, Rosemeyer, Nürburgring.” The message is not subtle.
But here’s a thing. The R8 shares its platform and engine with the Lamborghini Huracán, a car built to sit at the very extreme end of the performance spectrum. Everything in the Huracán is set to hardcore, because that’s what Lamborghini owners want. But that’s not what Audi owners want. They want an element of comfort with their performance. So is there a danger that, despite its motorsport pedigree, the new R8 could be viewed as a Huracán: light, and be compromised in its performance by the need for comfort.
What of the looks?
Today should give us a good idea. Before arriving at the Portimão circuit we collect a beautiful blue R8 V10 Plus from Faro Airport, in which we will drive to the track. It’s an hour’s journey of motorways and scintillating mountain roads.
The car looks the part. It is, in a lot of ways, an evolution of the original R8, which launched in 2006. But much is different. The largely aluminium structure has been enhanced with considerable chunks of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic on the transmission tunnel, B-pillar and rear bulkhead, and plenty of other clever engineering tweaks drop the weight. As a result, the V10 Plus weighs just 1555kg without the driver. Over the structure is a body very reminiscent of the original design, but resculpted for 2015 with sharper, tauter lines and the trademark sideblades cleaved in two by the car’s shoulders. The Plus model is notable for its fixed carbon rear wing, and various other carbon bits, as well as 19-inch forged alloys (or 20s if you pay a bit more).
What updates are there on the inside?
The interior is driver-focused and very motorsport influenced, most obviously on the steering wheel, which has all the major buttons mounted on it, including the drive mode selector and a big red start/stop button. The instrument binnacle houses the car’s only screen. It displays both instrumentation and all the infotainment content, and is controlled both from the wheel and a dial on the centre console.
Behind the cockpit sits the powerplant, looking resplendent under glass. It’s an updated version of the naturally-aspirated 5.2-litre V10, and in the Plus model pushes out 602bhp – the same as the Huracán, making it the most powerful production Audi ever. The standard V10 model has 533bhp, but there’s no V8 model in this generation.
What’s performance like?
First up is a jaunt along the Portuguese motorway, and it’s immediately clear that the comfort aspect is well catered for. The optional magnetic dampers give a supple ride, not just for a low-slung sports car, but in general. The idea of a long journey in any Lamborghini fills me with dread – it’d be like spending a full day on a rollercoaster – but four or five hours in an R8 holds no concerns at all. The seats are firm but not hard, and the car has enough features to keep driver and passenger entertained.
The approach to Portimão is very different – tight, twisting mountain roads that rise and fall in squiggles across the countryside, dotted with long hairpins and bumpy surfaces. Switch the car from Comfort to Dynamic and the exhaust flaps open up behind, filing the car’s voice to a rasping bellow. The dampers tighten, the throttle sharpens and the electro-mechanical steering quickens. As does the whole machine in fact; hot damn, can the R8 move when it wants to. With the gearstick pushed over the manual mode, the dual-clutch S tronic transmission banishes memories of the original car’s robotised manual forever, with super-slick changes via wheel-mounted paddles. The R8 feels superbly poised even when pushed really hard; the balance leans slightly towards understeer if you overestimate the remarkable grip levels from the Pirelli P Zeros, making for far fewer hairy moments. The magnetic suspension with which our test car is equipped performs superbly, rebounding onto the road despite bit bumps mid-corner.
At the track, the good news is confirmed. The R8 is thrilling to hustle, with pin-sharp accuracy, great feel through the wheel and a balance that encourages you to explore the limits of grip without fear of smashing through the scenery when you find it. Our time on track is limited to just a few laps, but the R8 is so confidence inspiring that by the end I’m diving into corners late on the fantastic carbon ceramic brakes, hanging the rear out just a fraction thanks to lenient stability control, and marvelling at the revised differential that sends torque wherever it’s needed to haul the car out of the apex. It’s not just fast, it feels fast, and it’s tremendous fun to ring every horse before hitting the 8700rpm redline.
So, is the new R8 V10 Plus ‘just’ another Huracán?
How does the new R8 compare to the Huracán? Well, this author hasn’t driven the Lamborghini yet, so I can’t tell you. What I can say though is that on its own merits, the new R8 V10 Plus is a brilliant sports car, a true supercar. Audi has moved its game on from the first R8 to create a superbly poised, balanced and powerful machine with plenty of edge when it’s wanted and all the comfort you’d expect when it isn’t. Audi customers should be very happy indeed.
|R8 V10 Plus
|5204cc / V10
|602bhp @ 8250rpm
|413lb ft @ 6500rpm
|Seven-speed S tronic twin clutch / all-wheel drive, mechanical differential lock / traction control
|19in front and rear
|245/35 R19 (front) / 295/35 R19 (rear) / Pirelli P Zero
|TBC ($208,166 in Europe)