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Fri 17 Jul 2009 04:00 AM

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Eight to the power of ten

The Audi R8 supercar gets even better and meaner with the introduction of a new V10 powered, lightning-quick engine.

Eight to the power of ten

The Audi R8 supercar gets even better and meaner with the introduction of a new V10 powered, lightning-quick engine.

The four-ringed brand edges ever closer to Lamborghini territory with the new V10-powered R8. It’s enough to turn the R8 from a V8 sports car/911 rival/posh-TT into a genuine supercar – thanks to a 5.2-litre V10 with a stout 518bhp. It’s the Gallardo rival Audi said it would never build. It’ll be capable of hitting 100kph in 3.9 seconds — the V8 car takes a yawn-inducing 4.6 seconds to achieve the same feat — with a top speed of 315kph (301kph in the lesser R8). It’s comfortably the most extreme road going vehicle ever to emerge from Audi’s sports division Quattro GmbH.

Even though the V10-powered R8 goes quicker, there’s not a lot different on the visual front. There are now two, not four, bars on the front and rear air vents either side of the registration plates and the V10 car is shod with new ten-spoke, Y-design alloy wheels and wide 295/30 boots at the rear. And if you miss those rims, you’ll need to spot the spoiler lip in high-gloss black and the chromed finish to the vanes on the trademark Audi grille. All 108 LEDs in the headlamps are standard-fit on the top-spec R8.

Contrary to the many rumours surrounding the V10 on the internet, the R8’s ten-cylinder engine — which shares its 5204cc capacity with the S8 super-saloon — relies on no forced induction steroids for its 391lb ft kick. It prefers high revs and FSI direct injection for more precise fuel metering, to the benefit of power and economy. The same dry-sump, 90 deg V10 will power the R8 GT3 racer. Peak torque doesn’t arrive until a high 6,500rpm while maximum power lands at a dizzying 8,000rpm.

Incredibly, for an Audi, the V10 keeps spinning until 8,700rpm. Audi claims this is an especially lightweight aluminium V10, the whole engine tipping in at 258kg — just 31kg more than the V8. Total kerb weight for the aluminium-bodied Audi R8 is 1,620kg. How trim is that? Well, the Lambo Gallardo 560-4 powered by essentially the same 5204cc engine weighs 210kg less.

Fitting the harder-hitting V10 is odds-on to transform the R8 from 911 botherer to full-on supercar slayer, we’d say. The V10 comes as standard with a six-speed manual ’box, but Audi expects many buyers to trade up to the R tronic automated manual. It’s controlled by rocker switchers on the steering wheel and switches cogs in less than 100ms. Show-offs can attempt to frazzle the clutch by using the launch control standard on all models. Unsurprisingly, the newest R8 packs Audi’s trademark Quattro system with rear-biased traction and the V10’s steering ‘has been sharpened’, whatever that means.

Even with the bigger lump slung amidships, the mid-engined coupe — and the much rumoured, but officially denied forthcoming roadster version — has a close-to-neutral 44-56 front rear weight distribution.

Audi’s magnetic ride is standard on the V10, which changes the viscosity of the dampers in milliseconds to change the rebound rate to cope with different road surfaces and driving conditions. It’s not the only bit of snazzy engineering on the maximum R8: ceramic brakes are optional and the space frame body-in-white is said to weigh just 210kg. It’s held together by 99 metres of welding seams, 782 rivets and 308 screws.

The R8 V10 is expected to carry a price tag somewhere around $150,000 — however, once a few options are ticked, that figure could easily get close to the $200K mark, not far off the price that Lamborghini asks for a Gallardo LP560-4.

Even in today’s eco-conscious and struggling economic times, it’s pleasing to know that there are still new supercars coming to stir the soul of hardened petrolheads.

Fact file

Price$150,000 (est)

Engine5.2 LITRE V10, 518BHP

TransmissionAutomatic

Fuel Economy18.6 miles/gallon

Performance3.9 sec 0-100kph 315kph

Weight1,620kg

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