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Audi R8 2013 review

EXPERT RATING
8

Would you believe me if I said the new Audi R8 supercar had something in common with a Toyota HiLux ute -- apart from having four wheels?

Well it does, kind of. Much like workhorses go on forever between new model updates, supercars also take an eternity before they get a makeover.

This mid-life update of the Audi R8 has just arrived -- almost six years after it went on sale. Which means it’ll be close to 12 years old by the time a new model replaces it. Even a Toyota HiLux only gets a 10-year run. Luckily the Audi R8 is the result of one of the better automotive acquisitions in the modern era.

It all started when German car maker Audi bought the Italian supercar firm in 1999. Audi’s first point of business was to develop an all-new model, the Gallardo, to help get the company back on its feet. That car, introduced in 2003, would become the best selling Lamborghini of all time and is still on sale today.

But more importantly it gave Audi the perfect ingredients for a thoroughbred supercar of its own. The R8 was born in 2007 and now we’re about to find out what Audi has done to make it better over the past seven years.

VALUE

That’s a relative term. With a starting price of $279,500 for the V8 model it could hardly be accused of being in the bargain basement. But it is cheaper than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (at $289,400 the most powerful, non-turbo all-wheel-drive 911) and much cheaper than the Lamborghini Gallardo with which the Audi shares its genes ($455,000).

But if you’re going to go this far you may as well buy the V10 version of the Audi R8 at $366,900, he says with indifference. Actually, let’s go the whole way: the new 5.2-litre all-wheel-drive R8 V10 Plus, at $408,200. It’s only money. But that premium price buys a car that’s 50kg lighter than the standard V10 and is 0.1 second faster to 100km/h (3.5 seconds). Could there ever be a better way to spend $42,000?

That money also buys a more powerful engine and carbon-ceramic brakes (as found on Formula One cars, presumably ones with better reliability than Mark Webber’s Red Bull machine, whose clutch mechanism failure led to another awful start at the Australian F1 Grand Prix last weekend, and whose push-to-pass system didn’t work for the first half of the race. Sorry, I digress).

TECHNOLOGY

Tiny magnetic particles in the suspension mean that, at the press of a button, the Audi R8 transforms from track weapon to kitty-cat. It’s a race car for the road that won’t break your back. But the big news is the new transmission. The Audi R8 originally had an old-school robotised manual. There was no clutch pedal (the car clutch engaged automatically) but it created a see-saw affect between gears.

The new gearbox is a dual-clutch arrangement. Translated: it has faster and more seamless changes, and it’s more economical thanks to having seven gears instead of six. Oh that’s right: fuel economy. Yes, the new model is 0.9L/100km more efficient. So you’ll save about $150 off your annual fuel bill on your new $408,200 supercar.

SAFETY

Airbags? Check. Brakes? Check. Superb road-holding? Read the next bit.

DRIVING

Audi bravely let journalists behind the wheel of all three models -- the V8, the V10 and the V10 Plus – on the Phillip Island race circuit earlier this week. The fastest Audi of all time on the fastest permanent race track in Australia. We have to say “permanent” because Mount Panorama Bathurst is quicker, but it’s a public road and a milk run most of the year.

The V8 felt okay on the recently resurfaced track. The gearbox is a definite improvement and it feels less sluggish than before. And then you drive the V10, and all of a sudden the V8 feels pedestrian. It’s amazing what two extra cylinders can do, but this is probably the best use of them yet.

The V10’s power is phenomenal, available from low revs and all the way up to what feels like infinity. The sounds are thrilling. The grip of the Pirelli tyres is superb (aided a little by the brand-new bitumen). It’s the closest responsiveness a car can get to a motorcycle. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, as I don’t have the guts to ride a high-powered motorcycle. But it’s what I’d imagine it to be like.

VERDICT

Forget the V8. If ever you’re in a position to treat yourself to an Audi R8, wait until you can afford the V10 -- or wash windscreens at traffic lights to save the difference. Otherwise you’re just driving around in a muscle shirt without the muscles.

Audi R8 V10 Plus
Price: $408,200
Engine: 5.2-litre V10
Power: 404kW/540Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch, all-wheel-drive
0 to 100km/h: 3.5 seconds
Economy: Who cares? Ok 12.9L/100km
Safety: Four airbags, no safety rating (too expensive to crash)
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km
Capped price servicing: No
Weight: 1570kg
Spare wheel: None

Pricing Guides

$161,810
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$118,690
Highest Price
$204,930

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Spyder 4.2 FSI Quattro 4.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $131,340 – 150,920 2013 Audi R8 2013 Spyder 4.2 FSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
Spyder 5.2 FSI Quattro 5.2L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $173,360 – 199,210 2013 Audi R8 2013 Spyder 5.2 FSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
Spyder 5.2 FSI Quattro Carbon 5.2L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $178,310 – 204,930 2013 Audi R8 2013 Spyder 5.2 FSI Quattro Carbon Pricing and Specs
4.2 FSI Quattro 4.2L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $125,620 – 144,430 2013 Audi R8 2013 4.2 FSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8