The Audi R8 is back! Nine years after the introduction of the first Audi R8, Audi has launched the second generation R8. We tested the brand new Audi R8 V10 and V10 Plus on the race track and some incredible mountain roads in Portugal. Our verdict? Keep reading and find out!

The new R8 is available in two different versions both equipped with a V10 engine. The V8 will not make a comeback in this generation R8, although an E-tron version has been confirmed and an entry-level version is on the cards with a turbocharged engine.

Both the Audi R8 V10 and V10 Plus come with a 5.2-litre V10 engine with quattro all-wheel drive and S-tronic gearbox. The V10 delivers 540 hp and 540 Nm of torque while the V10 Plus pushes out 610 hp and 560 Nm of torque. The sprint from 0-100 km/h can be done in 3.5 and 3.2 seconds respectively. The V10 Plus can sprint from 0-200 km/h in a noteworthy 9.9 seconds. The Audi R8 V10 tops out at 320 km/h while the V10 Plus has a top speed of 330 km/h.

The weight of the new Audi R8 V10 Plus has dropped to 1454 kg mainly due to the new Audi Space Frame. The handling of the new Audi R8 V10 Plus is redefined by a new quattro setup with variable torque distribution. Besides the four driving modes also found on other performance Audis – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual – a new performance mode on the Audi R8 V10 Plus allows you to choose between three pre-defined settings for ideal grip on dry roads, wet roads and snow.

On the outside, the Audi R8 is still very recognizable as a R8. At first sight in Geneva it looked almost like a facelift. But in reality the R8 is wider, lower and has a more aggressive appearance. In V10 Plus spec, the large rear wing adds to the visual appearance.

The contrast with the exterior couldn’t be bigger inside. The interior is completely new and apart from the seating position in the mid-engined sports car, nothing looks like the old R8. The new driver oriented cockpit features Audi Virtual Cockpit with a large display replacing the dials. The center console is clean and only features the MMI controller, gear lever and climate control.

Luggage wise you can fit a cabin size trolley suitcase and one small bag in the front of the car. Meanwhile, the drive select and start/stop button has been moved to the steering wheel. In the V10 Plus, two more buttons are added to the wheel that allow you to enable the performance mode and switch the exhaust flaps from standard to sport.

Red and Blue Audi R8 V10 Plus

Talking about the exhaust, the V10 delivers an incredible sound. The high revving naturally aspirated V10 is a dying breed and Audi deserves credits for launching the new R8 with this phenomenal sounding V10.

The Audi R8 V10, R8 LMS and R8 E-tron have been developed at the same time and you can tell the road car has a lot of racing elements from the R8 LMS that already participated in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring in May. But at the same time, the R8 V10 includes a lot of convenience features including Google Maps navigation, climate control, laserlights and Bang & Olufsen sound.

So what is it like to drive? The first thing you notice behind the wheel of the 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus is the new driver oriented cockpit that runs around the driver. It is cool and convenient to have all controls within reach and the virtual cockpit in the line of sight. At the same time there is also a drawback for taller people like me (1.9 m) as the legroom is a bit limited and together with the mid engine setup, it not ideal for long journeys. There are different seats available and the electric seat with adjustable side supports has our preference.

Ara Blue Audi R8 V10 Plus Rear

Press the start button and the V10 comes to life with a full bodied vroom. We drove the first few kilometers in comfort mode which shifts up quickly to the highest possible gear but still has quite a stiff ride. Switching to dynamic tightens the suspension, changes the shift behavior and possibly most importantly, changes the quattro setup.

The variable torque distribution allows a lot more torque to be distributed to the rear wheels and you can clearly feel this accelerating out of corners. It doesn’t come close to a real rear-wheel drive car but the bias is clearly a lot more rearward and with ESP off it allows for some entertaining drifts.

We then switched to yet another mode: Performance mode DRY. This sets the car up for grip and speed rather than drifts. Swinging from corner to corner we really enjoyed our time behind the wheel. The brakes, which proved to be a soft spot on other Audis, hold up perfectly, although the assistance systems sometimes pre-load the brakes when you approach a corner a bit quick which feels quite odd.

Did I already mention the sound? As I drive through small villages and canyons in the hills along the Algarve the V10 echoes and cries like no other. Lift off the throttle and you will be treated to a set of pops and bangs.

On our journey we passed California, a town so small it is not even on Google Maps but the photo made a great souvenir. After three hours of uninterrupted driving time over deserted roads between Portimao and Faro I arrived at the airport with a sweaty back and grin that will stay for a while.

Performance wise, the Audi R8 V10 Plus is very predictable, the high revving V10 delivers the power and torque very linearly up to the red line at 8750 rpm. This makes the ride a bit less dramatic than in some of the turbocharged competitors but the naturally aspirated sound makes more than up for it.

Audi R8 V10 Plus interior

A major improvement over the old R8 is the new seven speed double clutch gearbox. Gear changes are smoother and happen in the blink of an eye. But the paddles behind the steering wheel are the same as those on the SQ5 and other sporty Audis which is a bit of a let down. They are made from plastic and the position could also be better.

A real design flaw is the two aluminium strips behind the steering wheel on the dashboard that reflect directly in the line of sight in bright sunlight. We have no idea what their purpose is but I used a piece of black duct tape to cover them and get rid of the annoying reflection.

On the race track, the R8 V10 holds up very well, it is well balanced and the different driving modes are very versatile and give you a choice of a quick (in performance mode) or playful lap (in dynamic). We also did a few laps in the dark and had a chance to test the laser lights; a nice gimmick which illuminates the road up to 600 meters ahead with a bright white LED light.

In the build up world, the use is fairly limited (it only works when no other cars and pedestrians that can be blinded are in sight) and its more of a gadget than a must have feature for me. On the track we change the view on the virtual cockpit display to show a large rev counter in the middle and additional information on the left and right of it.

The ability to adjust the screen to show the info you need whether it is a large navigation map, performance statistics or old school view with two dials is very cool. The menu structure is a bit confusing though and the controls are not as intuitive as other systems. I hope Audi is able to overcome this in future generations.

Conclusion

The Audi R8 returns with a great high revving V10 engine. The new gearbox is a huge step up from previous generations. The new quattro setup makes the 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus very versatile and caters for a broad range of driving styles and top performance under all conditions. The hard suspension makes the R8 V10 Plus less comfortable than some of its competitors like the AMG GT or McLaren 650S however.

I particularly enjoyed the interior of the new Audi R8. It features clean design and a driver focused virtual cockpit. The start/stop and sound buttons on the steering wheel are cool elements. Sadly the mid-engine setup and wide and high center console result in very limited space for tall people.

Driving the Audi R8 V10 in all different driving modes we can easily conclude that it packs a lot of Lamborghini inside. The seating position might be a bit uncomfortable and it may have a few flaws but when you step out of the car your ears will be tingling with happiness and you will be smiling for the rest of the day. The sound and the more aggressive looks also guarantee no lack of attention for the new Audi R8 V10 Plus.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Performance
8.5
Handling
8.5
Design
8
Interior
8
Sound
10
Fun
8.5
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