Porsche 911 2016 review
It’s a turbo Porsche but not as we know it. Send your thank you letters to environmental groups.
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When a brand like Audi decides that it's time to bring out a supercar, you know things are getting serious.
There had been rumblings that the four rings were after a slice of Porsche's action and rightly felt they were entitled to it. Audi's motorsport heritage was a pretty good one and, with the benefit of hindsight, its assault on the Le Mans series, endurance and GT3 racing has given it a global profile DTM, the German touring car series, could only dream of doing.
Almost a decade ago, the V8-powered R8 landed after a few concepts previewed the brand's intentions, along with the purchase of that little-known Italian supercar company, Automobili Lamborghini. Finally, after a long, successful and illustrious run that included a promotion from V8 to V10 power, the new Audi R8 has reached Australia.
The only problem that Audi had is that the fifteen cars that arrived here a couple of weeks ago were left-hand drive, complete with German registration. Being the industrious bunch they are, the local arm restricted the R8's running to racetracks like Bathurst and Sydney's Eastern Creek. Never mind, we went along anyway.
The new Audi R8 is exclusively V10-powered, borrowing heavily from subsidiary Lamborghini. The 5.2-litre unit is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission driving all four wheels. The R8 will be available in two specifications – plain old R8 ($354,900) and R8 V10 Plus ($389,900).
The Performance modes ensure that whether you're in Snow, Wet or Dry, you'll be having bags of controllable fun
The car is all-new from the ground up, as long as you don't count cousin Huracan in your reckoning. There's even a brand new factory to build the car around what Audi calls its "multi-material space frame."
The standard R8 produces 397kW and 540Nm while the Plus adds 20Nm and has a grand total of 449kW (or 610bhp for the pre-metric folk). Both figures arrive at a glorious 8250rpm for power and 6500rpm for torque. No forced induction, just good old-fashioned natural aspiration and lots and lots of revs.
Ever so sadly for us, only the Plus was on hand on a hot, Sydney day. The day was split into two – first there was to be some short, sharp demonstration runs with the Audi Driving Experience team led by Steve Pizzati. The team took us through a few exercises to demonstrate the new Performance driving modes available in the Plus, the performance of the gigantic carbon brakes and the pure, unalloyed joy of unleashing all those horses on a skidpan motorkhana circuit.
The Plus Performance driving modes are accessible via a steering wheel mounted switch, one of four on the upper model. In addition to the usual Audi Drive Select, the Performance modes ensure that whether you're in Snow, Wet or Dry, you'll be having bags of controllable fun.
In these Performance modes, the leash is loosened on the traction and stability control systems, which given the latitude afforded by the standard Dynamic mode, means you'll have to stay awake. For the extra cash outlay, these extra modes are worth the price of admission, particularly when coupled with the mighty carbon ceramic brakes and the Plus' 20-inch wheels.
In the second half of the day, we were out on track. You'll read about how you have to wrestle these sorts of cars to behave themselves, how driving them fast requires the bravery of our boys on the front line, blah blah blah. It's all poppycock.
Yes, you have to be aware of what you're doing and pay attention, but as we blasted around Eastern Creek's final turn, we were well able to enjoy the effects of the dual-zone climate control, consider the comfort of the leather-trimmed seats and maybe even flick between the choice of driver information offered in the newest iteration of Audi's excellent all-digital dashboard.
A helmet-protecting hairnet may even have been adjusted as the R8 powered to around 240km/h before a prudent pace car loomed large checking our speed – turn one at Eastern Creek is a notorious accident zone. During passenger rides, speeds of 280km/h-plus were easily attained.
The ride is taut but impressive, much like its predecessor.
Normal people like you and I, particularly (and preferably) in the confines of a racetrack can enjoy the serious performance on offer with huge margins of safety. With the electro-nannies on, you really just have to remember to brake early enough to avoid spearing into the dust.
Obviously, to match the kind of performance of one of the supremely talented instructors isn't easy but that's all about skill and balance, not how brave you are or how good a lion-tamer you are. The R8, like its Huracan cousin, is incredibly user-friendly and needs huge provocation – or two inches of water – before it bites back.
Audi R8 is a lot of fun on the track. The acceleration and braking is, of course, immense. In Dynamic mode there's still plenty of movement and fun to be had, particularly under braking.
As with the previous model, there's a modicum of understeer, but it's not as pronounced in the new. The revised electronic (rather than mechanical) quattro system is able to wipe it out with the ability to shuffle power 100 percent front to rear. It's a huge step up and brings the car into line with the more obvious choices of supercar.
The ride is taut but impressive, much like its predecessor, but the steering and overall handling are a big leap forward. Which, when you think about it is impressive – the old R8 was no slouch.
The reason for the leap is the phenomenally stiff chassis – the car feels much more together, with huge chunks of carbon fibre supplementing the strength of aluminium used throughout the chassis.
What does it all mean? Track performance is one thing but on the road it's going to be something else. The puzzle is yet to be completed (we'll have to wait for right-hand drive example to arrive, sometime mid-year) to try it out on the road, but the signs are good. Actually, they are spectacular.
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