What is it?
The lighter, faster, more focused and coupe-only V10 Plus sits at the top of the new 2013 Audi R8 range. There’s no ‘Plus’ badging, but it’s easy to spot one thanks to its carbonfibre splitter, door-mirror shells, side-blades and rear diffuser. It can also be had in a unique Sepang Blue satin paint finish, while gloss black wheels are standard. It costs £127,575.
The R8 Plus’s 5.2-litre engine develops an extra 24bhp and 7lb ft to raise power and torque to 542bhp and 398lb ft over the standard V10. The motor feels creamy smooth yet has a wonderful sense of crazy ferocity as you work towards the 8000rpm red line, the quattro four-wheel-drive digging in hard. With Sport mode engaged it sounds magnificent, hollering and whooping under hard acceleration, then popping and gargling as you brake and downshift. With the seven-speed S-tronic twin-clutch gearbox tested here, 0-62mph takes just 3.5sec (a tenth quicker than the regular V10 R8) while the top speed is 197mph.
The V10 Plus gets carbon-ceramic brakes, which contribute 12kg to a total weight saving of 50kg over the 1620kg regular V10 coupe, other savings coming from more extensive use of carbonfibre in the body and lighter seats.
What's it like to drive?
Stephan Reil, the boss of quattro GmbH, describes the V10 Plus as being halfway between the standard V10 and the old limited-edition R8 GT. It certainly feels more focused than the boggo V10, not least because there are no switchable magnetic dampers. Instead you get fixed-rate items that are slightly firmer than the regular adaptive system on its Sport setting, but a little softer than the passive set-up on the old GT.
Low-speed ride suffers a little, as you’d expect, but it’s far from sharp-edged; up the pace, however, and the benefits are immediately noticeable. The Plus feels more planted on the road and finds more bite on turn-in. Body control is tight and precise, and it copes with compressions and bumps in a no-nonsense manner without being deflected from your chosen trajectory. The steering is beautifully judged; quick-witted enough to enhance the sense of agility, but not so hyper-alert as to make the car nervous on turn-in.
The S-tronic transmission is brilliantly responsive, with clean, punchy shifts that are a world away from the clumsy old R-tronic ’box. The paddle-shifters are a bit stubby for my liking, but otherwise there’s nothing but good things to say. The V10 Plus can be had with the manual ’box, but it’s a mark of how integral the S-tronic feels to the Plus package that a stick-shift is likely to diminish the overall experience rather than add to it.
How does it compare?
At nearly £130,000, the Audi sits between the 542bhp, £74,480 Nissan GT-R and 552bhp, £155,280 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 (which is also a close relative), serving up the excitement of the latter with the usability of the former. All R8s are great, but this V10 Plus is something truly special.
Anything else I need to know?
The rest of the R8 range has had a mid-lift boost. The revised model can be identified by its reshaped front grille, all-LED headlights and, at the rear, new directional-sweep LED indicators that treat those behind to a unique light show. The wheels – 18-inchers on the V8 models, 19s on the V10s – are of a different design, and available in a choice of finishes.