Haven’t we seen the new Audi R8 often enough?
Yes, but always in R8 V10 Plus trim, so far. This is the ‘base’ R8 V10. It has 540bhp instead of 610bhp, and slightly different gear ratios.
Also, the version we tested went without any fancy driving options. No adaptive dampers, no variable steering, no ceramic brakes. So it evicts the Plus’s bewildering array of setup modes in favour of a simpler one-push button. And the standard car also has a slightly softer suspension set-up than the Plus.
Take those away and does the result feel impoverished?
Absolutely not. This is still a stonking car. Possibly, in Britain, a more satisfying one.
For a start, the engine. It’s still the sharp, howling, magnificent naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10. It’s wired to your synapses, responding with utter precision and instant effect. And a celestial rev limit of 8,700rpm.
But although it has almost the same mid-rev torque, it doesn’t hone in on the red-line with quite the violence of the V10 Plus. It doesn’t have that step-change at 6,500 – the delivery is more even.
Even so, it’s still rabidly fast. It just gives you slightly longer to listen to the magnificent crescendo before you have to shift up. Outside a racetrack, it’s hard to imagine anywhere in southern England where the difference between the V10’s performance and the V10 Plus’s would be anything other than either academic (if unused) or irresponsible (if often used).
And the simpler chassis without all that electronic adaption?
On British roads, it’s just fine. You get a real sense of what’s happening, without the interference of active steering. It’s quick-witted but not unstable.
The steering is alive, fielding you information about a suspicion of initial understeer, then unweighting slightly as you feed in the power and get the engine and Quattro drive on your side, biting the road and flinging you ahead. Actually, there is still some adaption, as the centre diff gets more lively and rear-biased in the sport mode.
Can I have a manual box?
No, the old V8 and non-Plus V10 had one, but it’s now gone the way of the typewriter. I’m a little sad, even if the new S-Tronic twin-clutch is attentive and smooth. In other words it does a better job than I would, but I still want to do it myself.
It gets all the leathery lushness of the Plus version, though the seats aren’t so racy unless you tick an option box. All Audi’s MMI goodness, including the Virtual Cockpit TFT instrument pod, is present and correct.
Outside there are 19-inch wheels and Audi’s terrific adaptive LED headlights. You don’t need to go plundering the options list. Which is just as well for a nudge under £120,000, or close to Porsche 911 Turbo money.
This car is an event, though, and justifies its price.