First Drive Review: 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Mike Monticello of Road & Track
Marbella, Spain — To say Audi's R8 is a very special car is an understatement. Not only does it possess Hollywood-level look-at-me styling, incredible handling and top-notch workmanship, but it does all this while asking for few, if any, concessions from its driver and passenger. That's unlike most exotic sports cars, which are any combination of hard to get in and out of, difficult to see out of, are so low the air dam nearly scrapes on Botts dots...or they're just hard to drive.
But...we've always felt the R8 could use more power than the 420 bhp provided by its 4.2-liter V-8. Luckily for Audi, giving the R8 more oomph was as easy as dropping in the direct-injected 5.2-liter V-10 from the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, itself a variant of the FSI V-10s Audi designed for the S6 and S8 sports sedans in late 2006. The main differences between the Gallardo and R8 engines lie in engine mapping and intake and exhaust tuning that account for the R8's 525 bhp (DIN) and 391 lb.-ft. of torque (making it the most powerful Audi production car ever), compared to the Lamborghini's stronger 552 bhp and 398 lb.-ft.
Despite sharing an engine with the raucous Lambo, the R8 V-10 still drives (and sounds) like an R8, albeit one with a lot more power — think sophisticated German, not flamboyant Italian. Whether you're slamming through the stainless-steel gates of the standard-issue 6-speed manual transmission or paddle-clicking through the optional R tronic gearbox's six ratios, the R8's explosive V-10 makes beautiful, neck-wrenching high-pitched power all the way to its 8700-rpm redline (200 rpm higher than the Gallardo's). Although glorious-sounding from the outside, the V-10 — as with the V-8 version — is more muted than you'd expect inside the cockpit. Audi claims 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 196 mph (versus our as-tested 0-60 mph in 4.3 sec. and 187 mph top speed for the 4.2-liter R8 V-8). As the V-10 weighs only 68 lb. more than the V-8, Audi officials estimate that U.S.-spec R8 V-10s should tip the scales at a curb weight just 100 lb. more than the V-8 car.
To increase the performance quotient of the R8 V-10 even further, the car's standard magnetorheological adaptive suspension system was made firmer. Audi says its engineers put in 4970 miles on the North Loop of the Nürburgring to tune the R8 V-10's suspension. The result is a handling balance very similar to the V-8 model's, meaning a slight amount of understeer when driven hard, but the chassis has been made more responsive to drop-throttle, although still without fear of snap oversteer. Due to the R8 V-10's extra power and the Quattro all-wheel-drive system's 15/85 front/rear torque bias, you will have to deal with oversteer on corner exit if you drive the car hard with ESP switched off...which is fine by us.
Only two annoying aspects of the R8 V-10 exist: The first is that the carbon-ceramic brakes, which might not even be offered in the U.S., are a touch grabby, although immensely powerful. The second is that if you overlap throttle and brake even slightly, power is temporarily cut — a problem for left-foot brakers.
Styling changes include a switch from three to two horizontal grille slats at the front and from four to two slats at the rear, said areas now painted high-gloss black. The sideblade air intakes are also larger, the quad exhausts have been replaced by twin oval tips (behind which still reside four pipes), the rocker panels are more aggressive and the car sports new Y-spoke 19-in. alloy wheels.
Although the Audi R8 V-10 will be hitting German dealers about the time you read this, we won't see cars in the U.S. until late this year. Expect the V-10 version to cost about $45,000 more than the V-8 model, which puts it at around $158,000. That's a much more exotic price, for sure, but in return the R8 V-10 now dishes out true supercar performance.