This is a rather expensive way of working out your arm muscles, I thought. Slaloming rapidly through a section of the track, these arms of mine, which have been spoilt silly by EPS-ified 1.2-litre hatchbacks, are discovering some parts which were previously not known to exist. But what a fun way of working out! I am warming up and so is the Audi R8 V10 – the dismal, wet weather is threatening to play spoilsport, but what’s a bit of precipitation when you have quattro?
The setting is staggering. I am at a Communist-era airfield which has been converted into a performance driving centre. The area is called Gross Dolln and it is close to Berlin. What’s amazing is that there are lots of sections which still have remnants of the Cold War era. There are crumbling barracks for soldiers and underground bunkers. And the hospitality areas for the track are all housed inside aircraft hangars. Awesome. I would have remained transfixed and explored the area fully, but when there’s temptation in the form of a high-tech supercar with 525 bhp, I have to succumb to it.
And there’s no better way for both parties to warm up to each other than the slalom. My initial run is quick, but as the car gains confidence (and more importantly, the other way round), the speeds increase. What a fantastic thing to do, slaloming hard in a supercar versus, you guessed it, in a 1.2-litre hatchback. The R8 is a precision tool and it responds to your inputs perfectly – though it is extremely forgiving to all sorts of drivers, the right levels of inputs are rewarded handsomely. For instance, you realise the stupendous levels of grip the R8 and its rubber provide as you press the throttle pedal further and further at each successive run. Whup. Whup. Whup. Whup. The slalom pylons disappear in a blur and the right-handed curve at the exit can be taken at more speeds than you thought possible. The quick lateral flip-flop which the car goes through doesn’t unsettle it at all – thanks to a lower centre of gravity gained by the 90-degree V of the engine and a dry sump. The hydraulic rack-and-pinion power steering set-up is engineered to be much more forgiving; it is responsive, but not too hard on the forearms like in a Gallardo.
Both car and driver have now tasted blood and it is time to lay down some hot laps. Having driven the V8 version of the R8 back home, I was taken in by its easy nature. For a supercar, it has this benign nature that makes it a practical supercar (if there was one, this would be it) across all situations. It is comfortable yet fast – there are no compromises. In the hot V10 version, the performance gets that much more rabid without forsaking the inherent comfortable, livable and usable nature of the R8.
Essentially, the R8 V10 is like a domesticated housewife and hot mistress rolled into one. Mumbai is home, the track is the mistress’ parlour! And this is where the R8 V10 is able to express its unbridled energy. The 5204cc V10 develops 525 horses at a racecar-like 8000 revs and 54 kgm at 6500 rpm. Besides this, it’s pretty light too, as it features the Audi Space Frame that extensively uses aluminium. In fact the ASF is lighter than the V10 engine! The net effect is that it is damn quick on the straights, with a sub-4 second timing to the century mark and a claimed top speed of 316 kph. But more than straight-line acceleration, the R8 is also about straightening a bunch of corners at blistering speeds.
Like with the slalom, the more I push it at the turns, the more it eggs me on to push it a bit more. Revving it not just rewards you with a brilliant pace, but a terrific soundtrack as well – the sound emerging a few centimeters behind your head is strong without actually being intrusive. Anticipating the weight transfer before the curves helps you be a lot quicker. I did cook it at the turns one or two times, but the forgiving nature of the car allows you to regain control quicker. Since the throttle response is almost intuitive, making use of the right pedal perfectly makes all the difference. Smoothly shedding speed and then powering out shifts the weight to the rear and it allows you to be fast. The advantage of quattro, of course, is that there is a phenomenal level of grip which allows you to power out of the turn faster.
Under normal circumstances, quattro is biased 85 per cent towards the rear, but on demand, up to 30 per cent is transferred to the front. And a mechanical LSD also makes it even more surefooted. For better or for worse, ESP couldn’t be switched off in our test cars – or else there would have been more sideways action than anticipated.
The V10-engined R8 has been through 8,000 km of testing at the North Loop of the Nurburgring and the suspension has been finely honed there. The magnetic ride suspension is unbelievable. It adapts itself even before you can say the ‘a’ of adapt. It automatically uses its rocket scientist brain(s) to adjust damping forces instantly and matches your driving circumstances and your mood accordingly. However, if it short-circuits itself on Mumbai’s paver-blocked, international-class (sub-Saharan) roads, I won’t be surprised. How much can it adapt, the poor thing?
After all those hours of driving at Gross Dolln, the miracle is that the R8 V10 doesn’t leave you drained. You are still fresh because its insides are a good place to spend time in. It’s really a spectacular car that doesn’t demand too much of you. The performance is really blistering and it can make short work of a racing track like nothing else.
Just when I thought this about the car, it was time to take a spin in another R8. This too had the same V10, but it was a proper GT3 racer. No, not me, it was an Audi professional who piloted the R8 LMS. But by the time the two hot laps were done, I nearly forgot the awesome time I had the whole day in the road-going car! How perspectives change. Well, at least Nick’s driven it, so look for it elsewhere in the issue.
AUDI R8 V10 SPECIFICATIONS
Displacement: 5204cc, V10
Max power: 525 bhp@8000 rpm
Max torque: 54 kgm@ 6500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed R tronic
Type: Hydraulic rack and pinion with power assist
Turning radius: 5.9 m
F/R: Double wishbones
(F/R): Ventilated discs
ABS: Standard with ESP
F: 235/35 R19
R: 295/30 R19
L/W/H (mm): 4435/1929/1252
Wheelbase: 2650 mm
Track (F/R): 1638/1595 mm
Kerb weight: 1625 kg
0-100 kph: 3.9 secs
Top speed: 316 kph
Price: Rs 1.32 CRORE