Audi R8 V10
A true Teutonic supercar
* Get your eyes ready to roll because I'm about to heap some breathless praise on another German sports car that many choose to hate on principle, mostly because lunks like me keep heaping breathless praise on it. I unabashedly love and admire the Audi R8 but I've always thought (and so have several Audi engineers and divisional bosses who foolishly confide in me) that the "824-46" 4.2-liter V8 is a little too normal for this spaceship, even though when the company originally started deliveries in the first half of 2007 it was the right engine.

Back then it was still too soon to blatantly take the V10 engine Audi had created for the Lamborghini Gallardo because Lambo needed to have exclusive dibs on the V10 image for a little while longer. That, and Audi obviously wanted FSI direct injection on any engine it lumped into the R8 anyway and the earlier 5.0-liter didn't satisfy that requirement.

But this newer 5.2-liter FSI, intelligently launched first with 552 hp in the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 in mid-2008 (out of sheer respect for the reborn Italian brand), could work perfectly. And it damned well does.

Today I'm awash in the V10's horsepower, set as it is at 518 at 8000 rpm, whereas before I had no choice beyond 414 hp at 7800 rpm. Torque has leapt forth as well from the 317 lb-ft between 4500 and 6000 rpm to now 391 lb-ft peaking at 6500 rpm but essentially flat from 3900 rpm. And the V10 R8 quotes a curb weight of 3,583 pounds versus the base V8 at 3,450, so each horse from the V10 is lugging just 6.9 pounds instead of the individual V8 horse lugging 8.3 pounds. The stage, she is set.

The added intensity is foreshadowed in a few aesthetic touches, though it's fleshed out only by driving through venues like bold hills and fearful plateaus during a tepid southern Spanish winter. The R8 V10 possesses basically every visual differentiation I saw when I drove the experimental R8 V12 TDI Le Mans last year (that diesel R8 dream is currently dead). There are two lacquered black slats in the fore and aft breathing holes instead of three in matte black, a sassy chromed grille, wider sideblades that add one inch to the car's width for greater air gulping for the V10, new wheelbase-length side skirts, and standard 19-inch wheels with low-profile P Zero treads.

Special new bits include the specific 19-inch Y-theme forged alloy wheels (8.5 inches wide front and 11 inches in back) and the full LED lighting system, this latter a world first. Ceramic compound 15-inch brake discs are still a costly option and that makes me whine, but the standard 15-inch steel discs with eight-piston calipers up front are outstanding so far as I could tell in stopping the V10's third-testicle momentum. Dials inside change accordingly, of course, and the speedo, tach, and R tronic gearshift knob have a sporty red ring detail-y touch.

Versus the original V8 trim, driving the V10 I really feel an Ingolstadt personality shift and it's to my liking. (If you've ever visited exciting Ingolstadt, you know what I mean.) To repeat, Audi has gotten itself officially into the supercar big leagues and the years of huge investment in endurance racing are finally directly influencing the street lineup. Just as it's sort of tough finding anything to slam about the Lamborghini, I am almost at a loss for complaints when I drive the Audi in this more substantial package. First off, the V10 gleefully revs to a seriously full-throated 8700 rpm instead of the V8's leashed 8250. Top speed increases to 196 mph and the zero-to-60 time improves to 3.7 seconds. The double-bigmouth oval exhaust replaces the V8's double-double stacks and the sound is massive but not screaming even at highest revs.

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