"Tell me that's a car with a ski rack on the roof and not a cop," I pleaded to my pal just after demonstrating the extreme acceleration of the 2016 Audi R8 Plus. That's the one with 10 cylinders and a whole gob of horsepower. Unfortunately, the men in blue noticed my (highly illegal) demonstration and immediately pulled me over.
The R8 debuted 10 -- yes, 10 -- years ago, at the Paris Auto Show. It's always been an undercover supercar lacking the élan of a Ferrari or the swagger of a McLaren. Still, its 5.2-liter engine, available detuned with 540 horsepower or a full-bore 610, is a twin to the Lamborghini Huracan, thankfully without any of the harsh angles prevalent on that angry bull.
Instead, this second-generation R8 carries the tight Audi design language seen on the new TT. Smooth curves tuck into a tightly conscripted front fascia. LED headlights and tail lights are standard, and the dynamic sequential rear turn signals grab the attention of the driver behind.
But you can't talk Audi R8 without talking about the blade. The slash of solid black from top to bottom on the profile of the R8 is no more. Instead, the body color cuts through the blade, bisecting it into two distinct parcels. I love it, but some of my colleagues at Roadshow contend that the new style line interrupts the visual flow of the rear quarter panel.
I knew I had to get the R8 on the track to truly appreciate its mid-engine power. Thunderhill Raceway, a few hours north of Roadshow HQ, may not be the fastest track in the world, but there's enough of a front straight to break triple digits and plenty of turns to toss the R8 around.
Upon startup, the V10 engine roared to life at a timbre that thrilled my soul. I wanted to turn it off and back on again just to hear its basso growl.
After a few warm-up laps on the two mile track, I was finally ready to let the R8 do its thing. I pushed the checkered flag button on the steering wheel to select Performance mode, which then let me drill down further to select Dry, Wet or Snow. The sky was blue and the temperature gauge read 105 degrees. Dry, it is.
Coming out of the horseshoe at turn 2 and into a downhill straight highlighted the Audi's high-revving engine. The cylinders screamed behind me as I waited for the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to upshift. The revs climbed higher and higher as I dared a quick peek at the tachometer. 6,500 rpm, then 7,000 rpms and still climbing. I started to get nervous. Will this thing ever shift? Will I blow the motor? Will Audi ever talk to me again?
All my concerns were for naught as the R8's 5.2-liter engine is designed to rev that high. It doesn't even hit peak horsepower until 8,250 rpm, and redline comes soon after at 8,700. Keeping on the gas is an exercise in pushing through your fear and trusting the vehicle.
Through the turns, the R8 hugged the track like I'd hug Chris Pratt should he walk into my office. That is, constantly and without interruption. In fact, with the all-wheel-drive technology I would have to work hard to get the R8 to break traction. Had I turned traction control off I might be singing a different tune, but while drifting around a corner is fun and all, it certainly isn't the fastest way around the track. Instead the Audi stayed flat in the turns, exhibiting little body roll, letting gravity push me into the firmly bolstered (and heated!) racing seat.
Coming out of turn 7, the track makes a small uphill elevation change before getting to the half-mile straight. The R8 V10 Plus will go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and has a top speed of 205 miles per hour, but I am neither crazy nor do I carry that much insurance. Instead I took the R8 up to 130 mph before applying the ceramic brakes and reveled in the rev-matching downshifts before going into turn 1.
My next few laps I used the paddle shifters, but a look at the tachometer showed I still had half the power band to go. Paddle shifters are fun and all, but the R8's transmission does so well on its own, there really isn't any reason to use them. Of course, I'd love to see the return of the gated manual transmission from the previous generation, but that won't be happening.
Lap after lap, the R8 showed me her capabilities. The brakes never faded, and even with the hot weather and multiple laps, it never came close to overheating. My only complaint, as it is with all Audis, is the steering. Yes the ratio is quick, especially in dynamic mode, and it has plenty of heft. It's extremely precise, but it lacks feedback. I was never really sure where my tires were in terms of grip. Fortunately, the high grip levels meant that the car didn't need to communicate that back to me, but I missed the interaction.
On the road home, spent but satisfied, I set the driving mode to Comfort and the R8 became as docile on the highway as it was furious on the track. The transmission kept the revs and engine wail low, shifting seamlessly, while the adjustable dampers made for a fairly comfortable ride. A street-legal race car that doubles as a daily driver. It's quite a combination.
You'll have to live without some of the autonomous features that are becoming ubiquitous on new cars these days. It's got cruise control to help you keep it on an even keel, but it's not adaptive. There is no pre-collision warning or blind-spot monitoring or automatic braking. You'll have to, you know, drive the car.
And though some safety features are absent, the R8 comes with Audi's stellar Virtual Cockpit technology. All instruments and navigation are combined into one 12.3-inch LCD screen behind the steering wheel, and drivers can choose to display that information as either a performance readout, a large navigation screen or a more traditional speedometer and tachometer view.
The R8 uses Google Earth for navigation, which can be displayed in graphic or satellite mode. The multi-functional steering wheel operates the system, supplemented by a rotary dial and buttons on the console.
The optional Bang and Olufsen stereo system has 12 speakers and pumps out 550 watts of heart-thumping musical power. The standard five-speaker 140-watt system is just not enough to blast your tunes over the 10 shrieking cylinders. The upgraded system is up to the task, however, with a clear and crisp sound quality and plenty of potency.
There are a few trade-offs for the supercar experience beyond the lack of autonomous features mentioned above. The R8 is not the easiest car to exit, and ladies (or Scots) exiting while wearing a skirt will need to take extra care. Cargo space is limited to a small duffel bag, and the laughable cupholder socked between and nearly behind the seats is not convenient for a mid-drive refreshment. The R8 is also not the most efficient car out there, as you would expect. EPA fuel ratings are 15 miles per gallon in the city, 22 miles per gallon on the highway, and 17 miles per gallon combined.
And it doesn't come cheap. Although the detuned R8 V10 starts at $162,900, my test V10 Plus ups the ante to $189,900. The optional leather package adds $3,000, the banging Bang and Olufsen stereo system is $1,900, and the 20-inch wheels tack on $1,500. But wait, there's more! Expect a gas-guzzler tax of $1,300 and a $1,250 destination charge, for a grand total of $198,850.
And what of my speeding ticket? It hasn't arrived in the mail yet, so I have no idea what the fine will be. But it was worth it. Oh, my Lord, it was worth it.