2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus Review

Is the R8 still the object of your desire?
Imthishan Giado

2015 Audi R8 V10 Plus

Another blast from my past: the Audi R8 (in barnstorming V10 convertible guise) was the first official car I tested as a motoring journalist. Good start eh?

Unusually for the boys from Ingolstadt, the R8 left the house with a glaring flaw: a wretched single-clutch automated gearbox, donated from the Lamborghini Gallardo with which it shares nearly everything.

How bad is it? The wrenchingly abrupt gearchanges and hopeless Auto mode made the manual transmission the only real choice. But since nobody buys manuals anymore, customers bought the crap ‘box and put up with it to get those achingly gorgeous looks.

2015 Audi R8 V10 Plus

Now though, Audi has relented. At last, the R8 has a proper dual-clutch transmission built to handle its abundance of torque and power, matching a raft of updates that (purportedly) bring the R8 bang up to date.

Have they succeeded?

  • On the looks front, the R8 has aged remarkably well. Thanks to its stark Bauhaus geometric nature and lack of fashionable fecund scoops and slashes, the R8 still looks as fresh as the day it was launched, the all-LED headlamps remaining a menacing nocturnal signature.

2015 Audi R8 V10 Plus

  • Not so good news on the interior front. Don’t get me wrong – the quality is still above reproach. But after the radical new TT and the ultra-crisp new RS6 Avant, the R8’s cabin feels last generation-Audi. Fashion has moved on and even the extensive Exclusive options fitted to my test car, adding exquisite diamond-quilt seats and abundant red leather, can’t mask the whiff of 2008.
  • Nowhere does the R8 show its age more than in the tech package. Even a supercar today must allow the owner to hook up their phone instantly and begin playing their favourite tunes.
    Yet in the R8, the Bluetooth is telephone-only, there’s no touch screen for the main screen so you’re stuck with the fiddly rotating control. Most heinous of all – there’s not a single USB port to charge your phone. But you can forgive the last-gen feel if the R8’s brilliant to drive, right? Right? Right?

2015 Audi R8 V10 Plus

  • Sort of. Good things first: the DSG works as advertised, changes are slick (though as with all boxes of this ilk, there’s some hesitation at low speeds around town) and power comes in one creamy uninterrupted flow, no unexpected jerks to upset the car’s exquisite balance.
    The Plus model gets fixed dampers instead of the standard magnetic items, but the ride is no poorer and slightly more communicative. Power is up for the massive 5.2-litre V10 to 550bhp and 398lb ft of torque and top speed is near as makes no difference to 200mph. With a 0-100kph sprint of 3.5 seconds, this is a seriously fast car.
  • Trouble is, it just doesn’t feel that fast. Blame our vicious summer heat. Blame the new, tremendous turbo engine in the brilliant Audi RS6 Avant. Off the line, you’re still left revving hard to get into the upper rpm (unless you lean on launch control) while its RS6 cousin would leave it absolutely for dead. Even with a heavier estate body. 

2015 Audi R8 V10 Plus

  • Unless you leave it in Sport, it’s a bit boring. The old R8 was a brilliant steer, but this car feels significantly duller and leaden in its responses. Around town, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. Press Sport though, and it wakes up, the chassis shaking off its torpor and becoming eager to rotate, going from 4WD understeer to NSX-like rear-wheel balance in a heartbeat. In a world where our supercars are being driven by processors, the R8 is an immensely rewarding drive, a true dual-purpose machine that can schlep you to the office and then dominate on the racetrack. Or your favourite mountain road.
    As long as you press Sport.
  • The R8’s had a brilliant run, but it’s time for it to bow out gracefully. What a great car, one that cemented Audi’s status as a top-tier automaker. Not many cars look this good after eight years, but the R8’s done it, and it still has the drive to match.

But there’s no escaping the fact that the supercar game has moved on. The next Ferrari 458 will be turbocharged, the McLaren 650S is there already and the sister-under-skin Huracan is probably the last naturally-aspirated car we’ll see from Lamborghini. These atmo cars are a dying breed: pure handling balance, but increasingly unable to compete with the raw pace of blown supercars. Eventually, this V10 will inevitably give way to the RS6’s brilliant twin-turbo V8.

2014-Audi-R8-V10-Plus-13

On an existential level, it also feels like goodbye. The new crop of supercars are becoming easier to drive, but they’re gradually losing their soul, losing their challenging handling to less-skilled buyers who need to be protected, losing their awesome sound to the ravenous beast of regulations, and when they’re gone, future generation won’t know what it’s like to fear and simultaneously desire something so much it drives you mad.

I thought driving the R8 would make me nostalgic for when I began this fabulous job. No – it’s made me sad that one day everything must end.

The full R8 range reviewed on track

2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus – The Specs

Prices: AED580,000
Engine: 5.2-litre V10, 550bhp @ 8000rpm, 398lb ft @ 6500rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 3.5 seconds, Top speed 317kph
Transmission: seven-speed dual clutch, four-wheel drive
Weight: 1595kg

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