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Audi R8 V10 Plus: Like an R8 but better

The Audi R8 has undergone a midlife refresh and is in fine fettle. Has its sprucing made it better?

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In 2007 Audi released the R8 supercar. It was years in the making and much anticipated. Audi's high-performance form had been proven time and time again -- at first on the world's rally stages, then on the road with the S and RS (Renn Sport) line of cars. When 2012 rolled around Audi gave the R8 a mild face-lift and a bit more go.

Its face was given a new, brighter set of eyes, its rump got similar treatment -- its indicators are not the coolest on any ever as they don't flash, but flow along the bottom of the rear lights. It's awesome, trust me.

Audi has also fiddled with the engines -- there's a bit more power all around and new model. The new model is called the R8 V10 Plus. Plus, in Audi speak, means "more of everything." The V10 Plus gets 25 more horses than the standard V10, which brings the total to 550. It has harder suspension than the standard car, too, for better cornering and more "hard-core" handling. It'll hit 197 mph and get from zero to 62 mph in just 3.5 seconds. Which is no time at all.

Audi has, thoughtfully, put a launch control mode in the mix. Stick the gearbox in "sport," hit the ESP switch, hold one foot on the brake and the other on the gas, wait a second or two, and release the stoppers. You're forced back in your seat, pinned while the scenery turns into a blur around you.

Once you've had your acceleration fun, the Plus' standard carbon ceramic brakes will stop you pretty effectively. They're an option on the "lesser" R8s (if there is such a thing), but needed here.

Audi's Quattro system is there in full force, all four wheels are driven to ensure maximum grip at all times, though there's a power bias toward the rear. Word of warning: you can take corners much, much faster than you can in a RWD car. Just remember this if you get out of an R8 and into something else. You may land upside down.

The R8's exterior tweaks weren't really necessary -- it looked good before and only marginally better now. The interior, however, is where work needs to be done. It's looking a bit 2007. Supercars have long shelf lives, we know this, but with lesser Audis boasting more advanced tech and more up-to-date switchgear, the R8 may be accused of being a poor relation when it comes to interior aesthetics. It's still cool, mind.

The Plus only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox; it's smooth, works well in "manual" mode, and when the sport button is engaged makes some rather aggressive down changes. It can be a touch indecisive in town, though. Irritatingly, you can't get a manual in the Plus; it seems like a bit of a waste, like giving David Beckham a cricket ball to play with. He'd know what to do with it, but would be much more entertaining with the right kit.

No matter, because the Plus' party piece is its gratuitous 5.2-litre Lamborghini-derived V10. Its noise is intoxicating, especially with sport mode engaged.

The changes to the R8 are small but they add up to make something brilliant even better. The R8 continues to be a car for those who know a bit better -- that the supercar aristocracy is a bit much nowadays. Shame about the interior, though.

NB: You can get a V10 Plus with a manual, but so few are likely to be specced its best forgetting about it. Shame, really.

Specs
Engine 5.2-litre V10
Power 550 bhp
Torque 390 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 3.5 seconds
Top speed    197 mph