What is it?
The lighter, faster, more focused and coupe-only V10 Plus sits at the top of the revised 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. See it compete in our 2013 Car of the Year contest here.
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.
The R8 has always been refreshingly understated, but in the V10 Plus this subtlety belies an assured confidence that makes it a unique, desirable car. It’s truly accomplished in every respect: a fully formed, perfectly rounded car that’s effortless to use, yet one that can give you moments of true inspiration when you extend it. Stable and communicative, beautifully measured, stonkingly quick, yet cool and calm for maximum confidence, it’s a cerebral, grown-up take on the supercar.
How does it compare?
So high is our regard for the V10 Plus that we confidently pitched it against the McLaren 12C and Ferrari 458 for a group test in summer 2013. We knew it couldn’t compete for sheer bravado, but we wanted to look beyond the showmanship, instead exploring their relative abilities as real-world supercars. The R8 could match the McLaren and Ferrari’s point-to-point pace on challenging moorland roads, and was by far the most accomplished car to live with despite costing barely half the money.
Anything else I need to know?
The R8 Plus arrived at same time as a facelift for the rest of the R8 range. Revised models can be identified by their 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.