The sleeping beast

The Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro (better known as the R8 V10) waits for us trackside at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
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Safety first

After a quick lead/follow session, where we tailed trained racing instructors around the raceway to familiarize ourselves with the course, we were set loose with Audi's new halo car.
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More, more, more

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!
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Breathe easier

The R8's trademark sideblades receive an outward flare to make room for larger air intakes for the heavy-breathing V10.
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Full LED headlamps

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.
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Quattro all-wheel drive

The R8 V10 wouldn't be a high-performance Audi without the automaker's trademark quattro all-wheel drive system.
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Details

There are all sorts of neat design details to be found in the R8's design, such as this aluminum fuel filler cap with a machined R8 logo.
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New MMI

The R8's MMI interface has been improved since we last saw it, however it still pales in comparison to the new generation of MMI in Audi's S4.
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Road testing

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.
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Magnetic ride suspension

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.
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Ceramic brakes

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.
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Track time

After our ride in the country, it was time to don our helmets and take the R8 V10 for a spin on the track, where we could safely test the car's limits.
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Quattro grip

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.
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Torque monster

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.
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...and good looks, to boot

On top of its superb performance, both on and off of the track, the R8 is also quite a looker.
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However...

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.

Check out the Gallardo in action.
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