The Audi R8 V10 Performance is a roaring supercar that engages and thrills in equal measure. Rear-wheel-drive fun beats Quattro safety.
The Audi R8 V10 is somewhat of a legend in its lifetime. The classic shape, supercar performance, minimalist interior and celebrated engine roar made this car much loved by all sportscar fans.
We took it on a Shakespearean tour of Stratford, staying at the wonderful Arden Hotel opposite the amazing Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and ending our trip at the celebrated and venerable Great Fosters hotel in Surrey.
The first thing that strikes you is the sleek profile. The elongated roof slopes down to eye-catching chunky haunches. The fluted waist and large side vents highlight the orchid-style forged 19" aluminium wheels. The front is sharp and menacing and the LED headlights notch nicely into the bonnet. A light crystal Ara blue paintwork shows off the lines. The design perfectly balances the supercar look, attracting admiration rather than envy.
The Audi R8 V10 Performance RWD is a naturally aspirated 5.2 litre V10 with rear-wheel drive, accelerating from 0-62 mph (100 kph) in 3.7 secs reaching a top speed of 204 mph. It weighs just 1.59 tonnes. Delivering 419 kW (570 PS) or 562 bhp. This is the same engine as in the Lamborghini Huracan, developed for the Performante.
A discreet V10 badge informs all that this petite, perfectly formed "bijou" houses a monstrosity of an engine. Or should I say a mechanical marvel, a feat of exceptional engineering. Yes, the V10 engine is obscene, loud, proud and immensely powerful. The twin rear exhausts are humongous, like bass tubas poking out, with a rich roaring sound to match. 10 slicing cylinders pump out massive raw power for such a light car. The rear is still the best bit on the Audi R8, broad, with ample room to contain that beast of a V10.
The interior is still an example of purity and simplicity of design. Hardly changed over the years but still ahead of the game with solid knobs that include mini digital displays in the centre. R8 sports seats hold you tight in the turns and black Nappa leather throughout imparts a feeling of luxury. The main centre control dial is a joystick that also receives text with a flourish from your finger.
So why rear-wheel-drive over the Quattro? Four-wheel drive, that’s the whole point of the Audi R8 … Quattro, right? Why would you remove the biggest safety feature on the R8? The one thing that makes it stick to the road like superglue. Because RWD is more insane, beautiful and thrilling.
It does seem like Audi has ditched the four-wheel drive for only one reason, to make it more dangerous and therefore more fun. I imagine the designers/engineers begging the executives to let them bring this car out. Or maybe it was the other way around?
The rear-wheel drive is more engaging than the Quattro which does it all for you, though you do lose some performance in exchange, particularly in wet conditions. Let's face it technology does take a lot of fun out of the drive and RWD brings that back in spades.
Greatly assisted by the low, flat body shape and petite body size, you can use the road better than almost any other car in this power category.
Also, why make it less powerful than the Audi R8 Quattro? My son answered that - perhaps they want you to survive the RWD experience. The Audi R8 Quattro can do 0-62 mph in 3.1 seconds, but hands up those that prefer RWD. Let's face it, it adds an extra frisson.
There are no turbos to spoil the sound of that V10 engine, it's naturally aspirated so less to go wrong over the years. Just turning it on without touching the pedal still sounds like you're a boy racer stamping the accelerator down. The roar on the V10 is magnificent. I grinned like an idiot every time I pushed the starter button on the steering wheel.
Best of all though is how razor-sharp the steering is. It is phenomenally precise and granular to a hair-splitting degree. Point that wheel into the corner and the front turns like the flick of a knife, overwhelming power surging from the back. Shocking how abruptly it turns. On a dime? More like a pin. However, if you power that throttle down, it will understeer a tad, the effect of such power in rear-wheel drive.
There's a sports setting that will partly reduce the ESP function, allowing you to drift in control. I'll let you know more when I next get this on track, which should not be too long.
A flawless dual-clutch 7-speed S Tronic gearbox keeps the car shifting effortlessly in automatic, it changes in around 0.02 of a second. Both clutches are continuously engaged so gears are simply changed by switching clutches. No person in the world can change gears faster, but switch to the paddles if you want to keep those revs high and enjoy full control. It shifts up too quickly to preserve petrol in normal mode, but the performance mode is very satisfying.
There are no adaptive dampers as in the Quattro, but the suspension is perfectly tuned to hold the road and keep bumps light. The suspension is smooth enough but the focus is on keeping those wheels on the ground. It takes the speed humps amazingly well delivering a smooth ride. It is supremely comfortable touring long distances.
Though sadly this is to be the penultimate Audi R8, with a limited GT edition of only 333 released as a last goodbye. Well, if VW continues with the development of carbon-free fuel…these engines may make a comeback.
What a fantastic tribute to the last R8 V10, to offer up RWD, just for the purists. It warms the cockles on my heart to think this was done, not for the money, but as a glorious swan song, a gift to Audi fanatics the world over. This is Audi turning the fun up to 11, or V10.
I love the Audi R8 Performance RWD. It is masterful on roads, compact and powerful so you can fully enjoy even the narrowest lanes, where a larger supercar would struggle. The V10 engine is magnificent both for sheer acceleration and throaty cacophony. The rear-wheel drive provides the quintessential supercar experience and the car's agility is mind-blowing. But most of all it must be judged in terms of driving pleasure and fun, so ten out of ten. V10.