It was a classic case of sod’s law. Audi’s new supercar, the second-generation R8 V10+, was ready for launch. Britain in November is maybe not the best place to showcase a car with the kind of performance that includes a quoted top speed of 205 mph. So the invitation arrived: come to the South of France to try it.
Best laid plans, and all that. Now I am not expecting any sympathy for this, jetting off to drive such a lust-worthy motor abroad while you’re in wintry UK, but it all went a bit wrong from the start. Fog across southern England meant a five-hour flight delay and a change of airport before we could depart.
So instead of a sunny afternoon driving the new car – heroically described as “the fastest Audi production model ever” – it was nearly dusk by the time we landed. It meant that the first drive was in the dark.
Ah well, that gave us a good opportunity to try the re-born R8’s fantastic laser headlights. These are stunningly effective, giving maximum illumination for the prevailing road conditions, including lighting up the bends, beaming an unusually long way ahead on the straights, and automatically cutting areas of glare for oncoming drivers. Meanwhile all the fast driving in daylight could wait until tomorrow.
It’s a good job I heard the wake-up alarm the next morning. Torrential rain drumming against the windows nearly drowned it out. Oh great. We’re ready to drive a car with a 3.2 seconds sprint time from zero to 62 mph, and it’s bucketing it down at a rate than would alarm Noah. At least the car’s colour is pure sunshine. I grabbed the keys to a yellow one – it’s ‘Vegas Yellow’. Other colours include ‘Dynamite Red’.
Hey-ho, it’s now or whenever. But it’s just a bit galling to be pointing this 5.2 litre V10 supercar, with massive power and electrifying acceleration, towards roads awash with surface flood-water. It’s just as well that the R8’s electronic performance programme, selectable via a steering column button, includes a ‘Wet’ setting.
It works. For a car with 600 bhp and 412 lb ft of torque – and dashboard dials to tell you precisely how much of each you’re employing at any given moment – the ‘halo model ’ Audi feels supremely grippy and secure in frankly terrible driving conditions. Having ‘intelligent ‘ quattro four-wheel-drive certainly helps. So does the slickly-shifting dual clutch S tronic auto gearbox.
The car is sublime, fabulously quick, thrilling to drive and with an engine sound track that is pure petrolhead heaven. There’s even a steering column button that lets you amplify the engine’s raspy growl, when you’re in the mood.
So what’s different about the new R8, compared with the original car that has been around since 2007 and sold to 3,908 UK owners? It’s lower, wider and flatter, with a bit more visual muscle, enhanced performance from the V10 engine and a list of new features.
They include those laser headlights, dynamic sweeping rear indicators, capless refuelling, a carbon fibre bulkhead, the new performance mode that includes the ability to record lap times for track days, and ‘virtual cockpit’ instrumentation.
If money were no object, which sadly it is for most of us, I’d buy an Audi R8. It’s a useable supercar that you could happily live with on a daily basis. Sadly it’s in Lotto winner’s territory at £119,500 for the V10, and £134,500 for the V10+. Affording that would be as tough as trying to guarantee good weather in November.