THE SAME SONG, BUT A BETTER TUNE

AUDI R8 V10

BEN BARRY

AUDI R8 V10

Model Audi R8 V10 Performance

Engine 5204cc V10, dohc, 40v

Max power 456kW @ 8000-8250rpm

Max torque 580Nm @ 6500rpm

Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch

Weight 1635kg

0-100km/h 3.1sec (claimed)

Economy 12.3L/100km (estimated)

Price $395,000 (estimated)

On sale Q2

AUDI HAS freshened the R8 V10 for 2019, headlined by a more powerful version of the atmo 5.2-litre V10. The standard variant is tweaked to 419kW and 550Nm, increases of 22kW and 10Nm. The top-spec Performance (formerly Plus) weíre driving boasts new titanium valvetrain parts which add seven kilowatts and 20Nm for totals of 456kW and 580Nm.

That takes the R8 V10 Performance beyond the old Lamborghini Huracan, SantíAgata reasserting the hierarchy with the incoming 470kW Huracan Evo.

Flatten the accelerator in first and the all-wheel drive claws at the pit exit Spainís Ascari circuit, the V10 rips round past 8000rpm, and the shift into second thwacks like youíre playing pinball. The increase in performance isnít all that noticeable, but this remains visceral acceleration that requires some acclimatisation for the driver.

The appeal of this V10 stretches way beyond performance alone Ė itís the crispness of response, how the engine soars like a horror-movie soundtrack at the scary bit, and the all-consuming fury of the last grand or so to 8250rpm, as the rev counter strobes red.

The turbocharged McLaren 570S and 600LT, while quicker and lighter, canít get anywhere close to the excitement of the R8ís more powerful ten-pot.

Springs and dampers arenít changed, but the R8ís chassis has received some attention, and there are more distinct transitions between drive modes.

Test cars featured a new optional front anti-roll bar made of carbonfibre and aluminium, which saves two kilograms. Theyíre also fitted with sticky Michelin Cup 2 tyres.

The R8 gathers speed rampantly through long corners before settling into mild understeer. Itís a slightly frenetic feeling, but itís safe and secure, and off-throttle the R8 becomes far more playful Ė composed under braking and quick to turn like only a mid- or rear-engined car can. You have to watch the pendulum effect from that big hunk of V10, but it gives the R8 adjustability and a multi-dimensional character, free from any clumsy intervention in the impressive ESC Sport setting.

Retuned standard steering has a more measured, confidence-inspiring rate and weight through faster corners, but the tweaked Dynamic set-up blows through chicanes like a glove slap to both cheeks.

The refreshed R8 features a flatter, wider grille bordered from above by three slits (which recall the Ur Quattro), and from below by a wider front splitter to give the R8 a meaner look. There are two new colours (Kemora Grey, Ascari Blue), new 19-inch alloys (20s for the V10 Performance), a more upswept rear diffuser, and gloss-black detailing on the standard model, replaced by matte titanium on the Performance.

The updated R8 remains a supercar like no other, a paradoxical mix of high-tech infotainment and old-school V10 engine; of Lamborghini genes and sensible-shoes usability; of searing performance at Ė in this rarefied segment Ė a relatively affordable price.

With Audi rumoured to axe the R8 after this second generation, or re-imagine it as an all-electric or plug-in hybrid, this is probably our last chance to marvel at 10 cylinders screaming to an incendiary 8250rpm. Letís enjoy it while we still can.

BEN BARRY

PLUS

White-hot V10; usability; refinement; traction; turn-in; playfulness

MINUS

Could be more tactile; Oz may not get Cup 2 tyres; brake pedal a little fuzzy

Coming attractions

The new metal weíre driving next issue

1 MAZDA 3

Brings a slick and sexy new expression of Kodo design language, premium-feeling interior and tech-tacular SkyActiv-X 2.0-litre engine. We donít drive the new 3 until next issue, but its longer, wider design looks the goods, and we canít wait to try the SkyActiv engine, which promises diesel-like efficiency, more grunt and lower emissions.

2 PORSCHE 911 992

The revised platform creates space for a forthcoming hybrid and also delivers a wider front track, while both engines are revised for higher outputs. A slick, more tech-rich interior also features. Based on our ride-along (Wheels, December), we can expect sharper turn-in, increased grip, more punch; in fact, a bit more of everything that makes the 911 experience so uplifting and unique.

3 SUZUKI JIMNY

The unashamedly basic Jimny meets modernity at last, with hilldescent control, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and, vitally, six airbags. The Jimnyís crazed fanbase will appreciate all the new gear, particularly if it still lobs with a sub-$30K price for the auto. Initial drive impressions suggest itís still as proudly primitive as ever.