Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro arrives in the Middle East

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The V10’s 386 kW and 530 N.m of torque are enough to rocket the R8 V10 towards the horizon at, well, any speed you wish really. You can do zero to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, 200 km/h in 12 seconds or simply hang-on for dear life before reaching the R8’s claimed top speed of 316 km/h. However, making our way out of town and filtering through early morning traffic, we weren’t about to test any of the above figures – just yet. Instead we had time to ‘aclimatise’ to the new R8 V10, taking in the quality interior trim and finish thereof, now synonymous throughout the Audi range.

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Inside, there is not much to distinguish the V10 R8 from its smaller V8 sibling, apart from a ‘V10′ logo, red rings around the dials and another on top of the gear lever. Early morning rush hour traffic is typically no place for a supercar, but for us it highlighted the genuine all-round capability of the R8. With full leather trim, climate control, electronically adjustable heated sports seats, cruise control and a host of other features, the R8 sports an interior familiar to ‘lesser’ Audi’s in the current line-up. But Audi have some of the best interiors in the business and the R8 is a supercar which we would happily strap ourselves into for a long haul journey or use as a daily drive if desired.
Exterior changes to the new R8 V10 are subtle. Flared side-blades, extended sills, a larger rear diffuser, standard LED headlamps (an industry first), 10-spoke 19-inch wheels exclusive to the V10, polished black front and rear air vents, more chrome for the front grille, and oval exhaust tips, help to distinguish the bigger V10 from its smaller V8 sibling.

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As we began to leave the city behind and traffic started to clear, we had our first chance to ’step on the gas’. Beginning with a mechanical whine, quickly drowned out by a rising cacophony from the 90-degree 10-cylinder engine, we found ourselves at autobahn speeds without so much as a down shift from the R-tronic gearbox. Somewhat uneventful really, apart from the impressive rate of speed – that is until we pressed the ’sport’ button. Immediately we were greeted by super-quick shifts from the 6-speed auto, which gave the feeling of a more aggressive throttle response when compared to the normal mode that responds somewhat jerkily and reluctantly to impatient throttle orders. As a result, we would stay in sport mode for the remainder of our journey, rewarded by blips of the throttle on every down shift, which we imagine can only be likened to the automotive equivalent of heroin.

Climbing up into the hills for our first sampling of the Audi R8 V10’s handling, nothing but smooth tarmac, sunshine and glorious sweeps lay ahead. Dropping a gear in the R-tronic box let out an intoxicating bark from the engine before we were rocketed towards the first corner. The steering responds as if wired to our brain as we turn into the first bend, the 235/35/R19 tyres wrapped around the front wheels seem to be connected to an invisible scalectrix track and the 295/30 section rear tyres wait for our command to dig in and deliver the 530 N.m of available torque. Thanks to Audi Magnetic Ride, the electromagnetic dampers can be stiffened within milliseconds at the press of a button to provide sharper handling. From our initial impressions, the car seemed to handle the uneven public roads better with the more compliant ride of the standard suspension setting, with the sportier setting better left for trackday use.

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The R8’s mid-engined layout means the V10 power plant sits behind the rear seats but in front of the rear axle, keeping the major masses near the centre of the Audi Space Frame chassis and providing near-perfect weight distribution for agile handling – which is partly why racing cars use the same configuration. When accelerating hard from mid-corner, we detected a slight tendency toward under-steer but this is a characteristic best explored on the racetrack to discover the extent to which it does, or doesn’t, play a role in the V10 R8’s handling.

Flooring the accelerator teleported us to the next corner where the 380 mm front and 356 mm rear discs scrubbed off our speed at a reassuring rate, initially a bit snatchy but the steel discs warmed to the task with each successive corner. Optional on the new Audi R8 5.2 FSI are ceramic brake discs. The discs are made of a composite material containing high-strength carbon fibres and abrasion-resistant silicon carbide. These are especially light: their combined weight is nine kilograms less than their steel equivalent – meaning quicker steering response as less inertia is at play on the wheels. The ceramic brakes can easily cope with the harsher requirements of racing, won’t corrode, and have a typical service life of 300 000 kilometers. The ceramic discs are distinguishable from the standard steel discs by their charcoal gray calipers, emblazoned with the inscription “Audi ceramic”.

Once over the mountain we had a chance to discover the full extent of the 5,2-litre engine’s power. Burying the accelerator pedal releases a wave of power, which doesn’t seem to end as the revs climb unabated in every successive gear. Put another way, we can now relate to the phrase “Beam me up Scotty!”. Even at high-speed, however, the R8 feels planted on the road with the suspension and steering never feeling anything other than responsive and confidence-inspiring. In fact, the R8 has achieved a synergy that other supercar makers will find hard to beat for the price (starting at R1.95 million). Yes, it may not be the fastest, the most powerful, or the lightest in its league. But with a luxurious interior, agile handling, more than enough proverbial bite to match its bark and at half the price of its bigger Lamborghini cousin, the Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro is attractive in more ways than one and a more than capable gentleman’s supercar.