It’s the 300 km/h plus supercar your grandma can drive to bingo.
It’s the 2010 Audi R8 V10 with stunning looks and jaw dropping performance to match.
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It’s been a while since I drove an Audi. In fact the last one was two years ago, an R8 with the 420 hp, 4.2-litre V8. It was outrageously fast and one of the greatest attention-getters I have even driven. I still remember try to shoot video but we had to keep changing locations because crowds kept forming in front of the camera. In fact, some followed us from one location to the next.
The R8 V10 is beyond fast. In fact, under full acceleration, objects on your peripheral vision start to blur. But it’s not alarming. Unlike say, a Viper, it’s a very supple car across the entire range of speeds from going to the grocery store to charging around the racetrack and finding the car capable of doing far more than the best you’ve got.
The 2010 R8 4.2 V6 gets to 100 km from rest in 4.6 seconds with a top speed of 300 km/h.
The 2010 R8 5.2 V10 does it in 3.9 seconds with an estimated top speed (if you are crazy enough to try it) of 316 km/h. It is one of a handful of cars in the world able to produce more than 100 hp per litre, 101 hp to be exact.
But a fuel sipper it ain’t at 19.1/11.6L/100 km city/highway highway in the manual and 16.5/11.2L/100 km city/highway with the automatic and that’s on premium, ultra premium if you can get it.
Audi is the first carmaker to offer direct fuel injection across the board. In the R8, the rear mounted V10 develops 525 hp and 391 lb/ft of torque. There’s a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed Rtronic sequential automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Of course, it has the latest version of Audi’s renowned quattro all-wheel-drive. Like the 4.2, the engine is slightly offset to allow the driveshaft to reach the front differential.
One reason the car can reach such speed so quickly is weight. Audi has thrown all its engineering towards aluminum space frames. In fact, the frame on the V10 weighs just 463 lb. The car comes in at 3,715 lb for the manual and 3,726 for the Rtronic.
On hand for the press introduction in California was two-time LeMans winner and all-round great guy Allan McNish. One reason he attended was to take journalists around the Infineon Raceway that was still warm from the Indycar race three days before.
People were told clearly McNish wasn’t conducting a sight seeing tour of the track with him as chauffer. A Jack Russell Terrier like man, all sinew and hubris, he described himself over dinner as being an aggressive person and he was surely that on the track. More than one journo stumbled out of the passenger seat ashen-faced.
But one thing he did was fascinating.
At full bore he took his hands off the steering wheel and held his arms aloft while standing on the brakes. Not only did the car stop in an unbelievable short distance, but it also stayed absolutely straight. The message here was Audi’s stability control is the real deal.
Also guesting at the launch of the R8 in Napa was James Lipton, the host of Inside the Actors’ Studio, who interviewed Audi America brass much the same as if they were Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts.
One of the things coming out of the interviews was the fact Audi designers are obsessed about “surfaces” meaning any part of the car that can be seen by the eye. More than being attractive, the surfaces must reflect quality and purity.
You see this on the louvered engine bay exhausts, the flared sideblades and the high gloss air inlet grilles.
Another thing that looked goofy at first were pictures of Audi employees with their noses in glass jars. It turns out they are sniffing specialists whose job it is to makes sure Audis have the right scents, for instance, the leathers.
Audi’s new mantra is also about what they call “new luxury.”
Their contention is that over-the-top “old luxury” has vanished. People who can afford the premium car no longer want to drive around in huge land yachts dripping in chrome. It’s bad optics in the post recession world.
But make no mistake, understated in an Audi doesn’t mean under contented especially when it comes to the R8 V10.
Standard on the V10 and optional in the V8 is the 465-watt Bang and Olufsen, 12-speaker ultra premium sound system acoustically mapped to the cabin.
Also standard on the V10, optional on the V8, is Audi’s front and rear parking system with rear, and front, camera.
The multi-way power seats come in a variety of leather grains. The driver information and navigation system (V10 standard, V8 optional) comes with everything you’d expect, but how about a built-in lap timer.
The V10 also boasts the world’s first LED headlights which Audi claims approaches nature light in luminosity. It is optional now on the V8.
Despite its prodigious performance, the V10 is as simple to drive as a family sedan.
It is fitted with a magnetic ride system with active damping that allows you to chose Normal for in-town driving or Sport for more spirited response.
While the V10 has quattro, the torque bias is split normally 85 per cent to the rear which is what you want in a sportscar, especially a mid-engined one. But even with this huge V10 behind your head, the weight distribution is 44 per cent to the front and 56 per cent to the rear for a near neutral footprint.
You benefit from this because kinetic weight is always moving around through braking, turning and accelerating. When the weight is “four-square” to begin with, you have a much more stable platform to work from.
The R8 V10 event also included the new S4 sedan and S5 cabrio. Refreshingly, Audi just gave me the keys and set me loose in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys with or without a route programmed into the nav system.
What beautiful country and no wonder why people want to live there. Tooling through little towns like Santa Rosa, the V10 was just as happy at 25 mph as it was at 65 mph on Highway 101.
However, the region also boasts some of the most challenging, winding roads you’ll find anywhere in the world. And being California, the pavement is like a billiard table. How does Arnold do it?
With the suspension on Sport and the paddles in play, the combination of driver aids like stability control and ABS coupled with the ability to point at any part of the road such is the sophistication of the steering, this car allows you to get into “the zone.”
You get this wonderful feeling of the car becoming a partner in the driving experience.
Pricing, well, you get what you pay for and in the V10 that’s quite a lot on both counts.
The V0 six-speed manual opens at $173,000 or $184,500 for the Rtron1ic, and after that, you can “individualize” your V10 to satisfy every whim, and you’ll have to wait a year for it to arrive.
But as the saying goes, some things are worth the wait and the 2010 Audi R8 V10 is definitely one.
(AUDI R8 V10 2010 AT A GLANCE)
BODY STYLE: Premium luxury sportscar.
DRIVE METHOD: mid-engine, all-wheel-drive.
ENGINE: 5.2-litre DOHC V10 (525 hp, 391 lb/ft).
FUEL ECONOMY: Six-speed manual 19.1/11.6L/100 km city/highway, six-speed automatic 16.5/11.2L/100 km city/highway, 13.8L/10.0L/100 km city/highway
PRICE: Manual, $173,000, automatic, $184,500.