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Driving the Audi R8 and R8 plus

By LEE PANG SENG | 20 January 2017


Audi's experience in building fast cars dates back to the Auto Union days, in particular the 3.0-litre V12 Type-D race car in 1939 that delivers 485hp and a top speed of 330kph.

It was, however, its Quattro engineering that was introduced in 1981 to world rallying that laid the groundwork for the four-ring logo to be widely recognised and established in the world of motor sport.

That engineering spawned exciting road cars that held their own against fancied rivals and which are continued to this day; the second-generation Audi R8 quattro is seen as the flagship of the sports car family today.

Interior


While it may share similar technology and drivetrain with the Lamborghini Huracán by virtue of them being in the same family group, Audi has developed the R8 Coupé to be a sports car in its own right.

Audi has two versions to expand its appeal, the R8 and R8 plus; the former has a 5.2-litre V10 normally aspirated engine that delivers 540PS at 8,000rpm and 540Nm at 6,500rpm while the latter boasts higher outputs of 610PS at 8,250rpm and 560Nm at 6,500rpm.

Dimensionally, the R8 appears to sit on a slightly longer wheelbase of 2,650mm (against 2,620mm for the Huracán) and is generally wider and taller but slightly shorter in body length.

Another interesting note is that the R8 plus appears to be heavier too by about 110kg with a kerb weight of 1,660kg.

The R8 plus engine.
The R8 plus engine.


Yet in performance, the R8 plus is only marginally slower in the 0-100kph runs at 3.3 seconds against the Huracan (LP610)’s 3.2 seconds, though the top speed is similar at 330kph.

We had a taste of the R8 plus as part of the Audi driving experience at its dedicated centre near Ingolstadt. This is a huge area with a 2.2km circuit, a 30,000-sq m dynamic driving area and an off-road handling course.

Our instructor was Rahel Frey, who is employed to race for Audi (she has participated in Malaysian endurance events with the Audi team, partnering Alex Yoong among others) and conducts such driving experiences in between events.

Her take was to be smooth in handling the steering wheel, especially in correcting the car when it gets out of line, and to brake hard before a tight corner. A good driving position with the arms and legs bent was also another area she emphasised on to achieve good movement for the former and good feel of the leg pedals and the best fulcrum to apply the brakes effectively.

READ MORE: Ingolstadt, Audi's own
R8plus-rear2


Our first routine was on the dynamic driving area that was kept continuously wet, starting with testing out the anti-lock braking system (ABS) followed by the slalom course.

In the first routine, the idea was to be gentle on the steering wheel when braking hard and avoiding an obstacle.

We probably did more than 10 runs, initially over-correcting the car as the rear appeared to come out during the brake-and-avoid manoeuvre, and getting the car fully stopped with minimal drama with each successive run.

We also realised that the R8 plus’ ABS (with 365mm ventilated discs in front and 356mm ventilated discs at the rear) gave us a much shorter braking distance, compared to a lower ranked German vehicle that we did similar manoeuvres with.

R8plus-driver3


For the slalom runs, the theory was the same; minimal steering movement through before entering a loop that you could understeer or oversteer depending on the speed and angle you drive the R8 plus through before a second slalom section.

We had a timed run later and set the second best time in the low 36-second bracket (no prize for the effort) but the best time set among the seven Malaysian media dipped below 36 seconds; he was however penalised three seconds for hitting a cone.

The track run gave us a better scope of comparison against the Huracán; we were allocated four R8 plus to follow Rahel, each taking turns after two laps to go to the back of the group, which means we have eight laps per session.

There were four driving modes for the seven-speed automatic transmission system; Comfort, Auto, Dynamic or Race.

R8plus-meters2


For the dry 2.2km track with two very sharp curves and several others with varying degree of camber and tightness, we found the Dynamic mode the best. It heeled and toed its way down the gears when we entered the tight curves and the engine was turning at the right revolutions to give us that oomph to accelerate hard to the next corner.

With Auto mode, we had to work at the accelerator pedal harder to gain the same pace and found it too much work. Following Rahel’s lines through the corner was easier said than done and we had our share of understeer and oversteer, depending on the respective corner.

The R8 plus felt more planted with its quattro permanent four-wheel drive (against the Huracán two-wheel drive we drove in Taiwan) apportioning torque and power to the respective wheel as per the traction demand. When the third session started, it began to rain and that gave us another perspective to the R8 plus’ dynamic performance qualities.

R8plus-boot1


Although Rahel suggested we tried Auto or even Comfort mode, which we did but again dislike for having to do too much pedal work, opting again for Dynamic.

We were, however, easier on the accelerator as we did not want to catch the rear too often when exiting a corner by putting too much torque down on the wet road surface.

Generally, the pace was slightly slower and there was none of the tyre squeals as we understeered through some of the tight bends earlier.

R8plus-side1


The main thing was that the R8 plus was very much in control and pretty forgiving when we made mistakes through our exuberance; it warned us quite early as to what it would do and we could try and correct by easing off the accelerator, braking sooner or correcting the steering gently.

While we were barrelling around the circuit, Audi was conducting another session with new Audi car owners at the dynamic driving area that we were at in the morning; it went on rain or shine, just like ours.

Our session also included taking to the off-road course as passengers in the new Q7 quattro, covering uneven terrain, a water trough, 60% banks, level ladder, steep 55% hill climbs and descents, among the many features.

Perhaps the sobering note for Malaysian Audi fans with moolah is that the 540PS R8 and not the 610PS R8 plus would be brought in.

Then again, we understand that special orders would be entertained.

Audi R8 V10 plus

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