By Leon Poultney Last updated
The original Audi R8 arrived on the scene in 2007 with a point to prove. The German marque wanted to demonstrate it had the engineering prowess to take on the mighty Porsche 911, Nissan's hermetically-crafted GT-R, and the best of Aston Martin.
It's safe to say, the R8 made a statement. It proved that you could own a supercar without worrying that it's going to explode on a daily basis, without compromising on interior niceties and without spending an absolute fortune.
The latest version has arrived and it remains the 'everyday supercar' but it's received a raft of styling updates, a revised V10 engine and some of the most brilliant in-car technology that has been seen in recent years. An enticing package but with the trend for electrification, autonomous driving and hybrid performance showing no signs of abating, is there really room for a bellowing V10 in 2015?
T3 spent a week with one to find out.
Styled for speed... and posing
There's only one word you need when describing the new R8 and that's 'angular'. The new bodywork features sharp air inlets, carbon fibre aero blades and striking front lamps that harness laser technology to ensure the road is fully lit, without dazzling every other road user.
It's low, wide and ultra-aggressive, while the Vegas Yellow paint job that adorned the glorious aluminium shell did very little to deflect attention. If you want to make a statement, the R8 is absolutely perfect but covertly arriving at your destination is out of the question.
Let's be honest, not many shrinking violets purchase bright yellow supercars and at least with the R8, you can get in and out of the easily accessible cabin without making a complete tit of yourself. Oh, and there's a bit of space under the bonnet for a couple of weekend bags.
Built to perform
The option of a V8 engine has now been ditched in favour of an enormous V10, which comes in two states of tune. It is the same 5.2-litre V10 that's used in the Lamborghini Huracan and it develops either 533bhp in the standard model or an eye-melting 602bhp in the V10 Plus model.
We drove the Plus and it's safe to say it's quick... stupidly quick. The 0-62mph dash is completed in 3.2-seconds and the R8 will accelerate to 205.1mph to be extremely precise. It sounds ferocious and feels equally as savage given that the automatic gearbox has been tuned to deliver a solid thump in the kidneys on the upshifts in the racier settings.
But because this is an Audi, it can also be programmed to cruise around the streets like an A3. Stick it in comfort mode and the gear changes are barely noticeable, the engine note is hushed and the suspension is as forgiving as any modern hot hatch.
At home on track
Audi's successful Le Mans racers have inspired the steering wheel of the new R8. It's festooned with buttons and dials that adjust the way the car performs. A drive select function switches the car between comfort and dynamic mode, while a tempting button that's painted with a chequered flag readies the car for race mode.
The Audi representative who delivered the car told me specifically not to press this button on the road. So I did. Instantly.
It unleashes full power from the engine, allows the gearbox to hit maximum revs before swapping cogs and sets he suspension up for the race circuit.
Better still, this button is surrounding by a neat dial, which allows the driver to select the appropriate traction control settings for the weather conditions. It's a nice touch and one that makes every trip to the shops feel like a lap of Le Mans.
The car is an absolute blast but thanks to the Quattro all-wheel-drive system, it doesn't feel like you're dicing with death every time you fancy stretching its legs.
A tech treat
The R8's interior really is a splendid place to while away the hours. Not only is it designed and finished beautifully, it also features the marque's excellent Virtual Cockpit.
I had a few reservations about the system when it was first launched in the Audi TT earlier this year, namely because having all the information in the driver's binnacle can make life rather dull for a passenger.
But the R8 is geared up to envelope the driver in a cocoon of dials, buttons and displays and because of this the all-digital Virtual Cockpit system fits perfectly in these supercar surroundings.
Drivers can flip from navigation to a G-force meter at the press of a button, while the system allows for almost unlimited personalisation. Need a lap timer while navigating to the nearest Center Parcs? Fear not, Virtual Cockpit has it covered.
As for your passenger, who cares? The noise of the V10 engine will drown out any complaints from that side of the car.
Driving an R8 in today's congested society is both utterly joyful and deeply saddening. There's barely a stretch of road in the UK that isn't littered with speed cameras, variable speed limits and road works.
In fact, I had to drive a good 50 miles from my home on the south coast to find somewhere suitable to even begin to experience what this machine can do. It's too good for any normal road.
To add insult to injury, the digital readouts said I was achieving 11.9mpg, so that 100-mile trip for a quick blast along a B-road didn't come cheap. You need very deep pockets to run one of these things and unless you live in the back of beyond or have regular access to a clear race circuit, the R8 will merely be a very expensive commuting tool.
When placed next to next-generation sports cars like the Honda NSX and the upcoming Ford GT, the massive V10 feels like a relic from a bygone era. It's sneered at by fellow road users doing their bit for the ice caps in 1.0-litre petrol cars or hybrid saloons.
But Audi knows that planet-loving supercar buyers do exist, which is why it will unveils the all-electric R8 e-tron next year.
It uses twin electric motors on the rear axle and a powerful lithium-ion battery to ensure it rockets from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds. Expect a good 280-miles from a single battery charge, too.
But my word that engine note will be missed.
Model: Audi R8 V10 Plus
Price: From £134,500
Engine: 5.2-litre V10 petrol
Top speed: 205mph
Official economy: 23.0mpg