The R8 V10's heart is located amidships and gets two more cylinders, an extra liter of displacement, and a whopping 105 more horsepower over its V8-powered doppelganger. This is the same V10 engine that powers the R8 LMS GT3 race car. Nice!
The R8 V10 is the world's first application of full-LED lighting arrays. The daytime running lights, turn signals, and low- and high-beam headlamps are all 100 percent LED, as well as the tail light arrays.
The first leg of our testing was a road course that took us through some winding Sonoma County backroads. The R8 performed admirably. Even its R-Tronic sequential automated manual transmission--which we've previously taken issue with--was quite well behaved.
Audi's magnetic ride suspension has two modes, Comfort and Sport, which change the firmness of the dampening for different situations. Comfort mode was still quite firmly damped, but Sport could be downright tooth-rattling over potholes.
Although not equipped here, the R8 5.2 FSI quattro is optionally available with a ceramic brake system with disks that are especially light--their combined weight is 19.84 pounds less than the weight of equivalent steel disks. Less unsprung weight means faster acceleration, shorter stops, and nimbler handling.
On the track, we were blown away by the R8's almost endless grip. You'd think that 525 horsepower would make for an awesome burnout, but launching the supercar was drama- and wheelspin-free. The R8 V10 is also equipped with a launch control program, but we were unable to test it.
The R8 handled corners quite neutrally, with a goes-where-you-point-it attitude.
The V10 engine has plenty of horsepower, but the 390 pound-feet of torque are what really put a smile on our faces. The R8 rocketed out of corners and there was plenty of grunt, even if you found yourself a gear or two too high.
However, I think I prefer the look of its cousin, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, which uses an all-wheel drive system based on quattro and powered by a V10 engine, albeit a more powerful one--552 horsepower and 398 pound-feet.