However before the 2016 R8 arrives, it is an opportune moment for one last run in the original scene-changing car, as it moves to become purely a highly desirable pre-owned purchase.
Scene-changing is no over-dramatic title to hang on the Audi R8, as it is a car that when first launched at the Paris Motor Show in 2006 certainly redefined opinions of its manufacturer. Until then Audi was regarded as a maker of executive cars with a growing reputation, fast becoming a thorn in the side of the market leader BMW, but perhaps nothing more than that.
The brand of the four rings, however, also has a passion for motorsport, with successes in rallying over many years, in Touring Car racing, but most prominently in the Le Mans 24 Hours, which by 2006 it had won in six of seven years – and even the interloping Bentley, that won in 2003, was very closely related to the Audi R8 race car.
Yet still Audi was not regarded by the sporting fraternity as a true performance brand – until the arrival of the R8 road car. The name was deliberate – this was very much transferring the Le Mans successes (since extended to 13 wins in 16 attempts) to a road machine that with its 4.2-litre V8 engine of 414bhp, oh-so slippery shape and handling prowess to match, was quickly dubbed an ‘everyday supercar’.
That reputation was enhanced when, in 2009, the Audi R8 V10 arrived, with a 5.2-litre engine from sister brand Lamborghini’s Gallardo and putting out 525bhp. It could pass 62mph from rest in only 3.9 seconds and go on to 197mph. Open-topped Spyder variants followed, many R8s were raced in GT series around the world, and no-one questioned Audi’s performance credentials any more.
It is a reputation that has been sustained. Evidence of just how well regarded was the R8 was found in the facelift of 2012 – the exterior styling changes were minimal, the major mechanical upgrade a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission which when used with the equally new launch control shave another three tenths of a second from the acceleration time, as well as producing a highly evocative blip on manual downshifts when slowing for junctions and such like.
Today the Audi R8 remains as desirable as ever before – this road tester’s youngest offspring, when pleading for ‘something special’ as transport to her school prom, was more than happy to slip into an R8 Coupe V10 Plus in brilliant red, where just a few years earlier only a legendary name such as Aston Martin had been considered suitably by her elder brother. And when the professional photographer’s photos from said prom were studied, it was notable that one particular red car appeared more than any other…
Likewise, a colleague of the writer’s, who had recently bought himself a Jaguar XKR, insisted on a ride in the Audi, and throughout was critical of the ‘clinical’ German build, arguing that his big cat felt more special. But he had no answer to the sheer potency of the R8, pace that clearly left him impressed where he had promised himself not to be.
The R8 V10 Plus is the standard bearer of the current about-to-be-retired model line-up. Only offered in Coupe form, its mid-mounted 5.2-litre V10 powerplant puts out 542bhp, along with 398lbft of torque, channelled through a seven-speed S Tronic gearbox and into the quattro all-wheel drive system which is biased to the rear.
The Plus designation also adds some rather special touches to the styling – such as the carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) used on the front splitter, mirror housings, side blades and rear diffuser, and even in parts of the engine bay, which by the way is LED lit.
There are 19-inch double-spoke wheels, upgraded suspension, cross-drilled and vented ceramic brakes, and an interior in which black dominates, the bucket seats hold one firm and leave no illusion that this is no ordinary premium car.
But here’s the thing – the R8 can be. While the R8 V10 plus comes with a price tag north of £130,000, Group 50 insurance and that knocking-on-200mph pace, it can just as easily purr along at 30mph on the run to work in the morning, as it needs to be. The everyday supercar title is not lightly applied.
All of which places a challenge on the shoulders of the driver, especially if one lives, as the author does, in an area of mid Wales criss-crossed by roads just crying out to highlight the excellence of the R8 specification.
Thankfully one can enjoy the impeccable confidence-inducing handling and inch-perfect placeability of the Audi, at its zenith in the R8 V10 plus variant, without straying into licence-losing territory, an environment that this car will move into with hardly a second beat. The challenge is not to allow that to happen, and every buyer of an R8, especially in Plus form, would also be wise to invest in trackday membership in order to exploit the power to the full in suitably safe surroundings.
The Car Expert is not a site where superlatives are common but it is very hard not to slip into such a form with the R8 V10 plus. The writer is penning this just before heading for the south of France to drive the new car, which Audi insists is a major step forward over its predecessor – in at least one road tester’s opinion, it has big tyre tracks to fill…
Audi R8 Coupe V10 plus 5.2 FSI quattro S tronic
First sold: 2013
Insurance Group: 50E
Engine: 10-cyl 5204cc petrol
Power (bhp): 541
Torque (lbft): 398
0-62mph (sec): 3.5
Maximum speed (mph): 197
Combined cycle fuel economy (mpg): 21.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 299