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.

Out of every possible curve--and there are so many possibilities in southern Spain--the P Zeros hook up hot and sweet, letting the tail slither just a little bit out but not threatening life and limb. The 15/85 torque split is shared from the base V8 car, ESP can go partially or all the way off, and Audi's version of the miraculous Delphi magnetorheologic dampers, called Audi Magnetic Ride, are standard with the V10. Audi estimates lateral acceleration at 1.2g and I was feeling about that much a lot of the time.

It's a shame that Audi hasn't yet been able to afford a dedicated version of the dual-clutch S tronic as the optional tranny here instead of the challenged R tronic single-clutch Graziano 'box. Given this, the only thing I'd do to improve the R8 V10 would be to save $9,100 right off the bat and stick with the standard six-speed manual. I mean, the R tronic doesn't even have a clear Park setting. While in the Manual setting Audi does resolve the involuntary upshifts at redline and kickdowns while passing hard by including a Sport button, but that's just plugging holes. Nonetheless, leave it in Sport and everything's fine for hot forward motion.

Audi Quattro builds all R8s at the Neckarsulm factory and has a reported annual capacity of 5,500 units. In a hint that we ain't seen nothing yet, Audi says that by the end of this R8 Generation 1 in 2013 the V10 will have accounted for somewhere north of 35 percent of the total run, and that the hardtop/roadster split will hit 50/50. All to be taken with grains of salt; whereas they initially were sure that 70 percent of us worldwide would be wanting our R8 with R tronic, it turns out now that 70 percent actually stick with the outstanding short-throw manual gated shifter.

When (and apparently all of a sudden, if) the R8 V10 arrives in North America at the start of 2010, it'll start in the U.S. at around $165,000. At that price, anyone choosing the Lambo (starting at $198k base) is a crazy bastard and I'm buying him a drink.

2009 Audi R8 5.2 FSI
* Layout
Longitudinal mid-engine, all-wheel drive

* Engine
5.2-liter V10, dohc, 40-valve, FSI direct injection

* Transmission
Six-speed manual; optional six-speed R tronic automatic
* Suspension
Double wishbone geometry front and rear, Audi Magnetic Ride magnetorheologic dampers

* Brakes
Cross-drilled, internally vented steel rotors; eight-piston aluminum fixed calipers (f), four piston calipers (r); optional ceramic rotors
* Wheels and Tires
Ten-spoke Y-pattern forged alloys, 8.5x19 (f), 11x19 (r)Pirelli P Zero, 235/35 (f), 305/30 (r)

* Dimensions
Length/Width/Height (in.):
174.6/76.0/49.3
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
Curb Weight: 3,583 lb.

* Performance
Peak Power: 518 hp @ 8000 rpm
Peak Torque: 391 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.7 sec.ec.
Top Speed: 196 mph

Price Tag
142,400

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