The Audi R8 has all the attributes to make you fall in love with it

The R8 is the newest supercar kid on the block, allowing Audi a seat at a very exclusive table that includes Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin. So, the pressure is always on Audi to convince drivers the R8 truly deserves to be called “super”. On looks alone, it already puts forward a strong case for its inclusion. It has a super- sleek body, unusually placed intake vents and a glass-encased engine on its upper back. This is one very sexy-looking car.

And don’t just take my word for it. Almost everyone who saw the car — from young kids leaving school to security uncles guarding condos and malls — as I test-drove it stopped and stared. It’s a real head-turner, partly because it is new and less well-known than its rivals. Seeing a red Ferrari in Singapore is hardly a cause for excitement any more as it is so popular and well-known on our roads. But an R8 still has the power to get the attention of most drivers and pedestrians.

But no one buys a car on looks alone, right? You also have to consider how the car drives, the price and what the wife thinks. The drive itself was greeted with eager anticipation. This new and improved R8 features a 5.2l engine, complete with 10 cylinders, earning it the right to truly be called a beast. And with a whopping 540 of brake horsepower and 540Nm of torque, I knew I was in for one hell of a ride.

For such a beast of an engine, I was half expecting something a little more brutal and pumped-up. But that’s where the R8 differs from its rivals. It is a supercar by definition, but has more roadworthiness and driveability than the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini.

When you start the engine, there is a spine-tingling roar that puts it on a par with a Maserati. But that is where the raw power ends. After that, it feels like an everyday road car, albeit in a much smaller cabin. An everyday supercar should be the Audi R8’s tagline. I just wish I get to drive it every day. Not surprisingly, you can shift at warp speed, from 0 to 100kph in a breathtaking 3.5 seconds. But it’s the ease at which you are transported along the century sprint that is the marvellous part: like a race car, but cocooned in a comfy and luxurious cockpit.

I was an early convert of how Audi put all the main dials and instruments on the driver’s display behind the steering wheel, keeping them all neatly in one place and in easy view. I first experienced this in the TT, so was pleased to see it repeated in the R8. A quick shift into dynamic mode via one of the suite of steering-mounted buttons and I was on my way.

As you put your foot down, the sound of the engine is like a mechanical cat as it purrs powerfully along. Rev it up and you hear a very throaty gurgle to remind you of the 10 valves sitting behind you. Combine this with the lightning-swift, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and you just glide along the tarmac. When you are not flooring it on the expressways, the Cylinder-on-Demand technology intelligently switches from 10 to five cylinders to help you save petrol.

The changes to the new R8 may be subtle and easily overlooked if not pointed out, unless you are an existing R8 owner. One of the main alterations is that the iconic side blades have been separated to give the car a longer feel. And inside, the aluminium gear shifter has been replaced with a much better-looking gear lever that can also be found in the Audi A4.

The multi-function, race-inspired steering wheel features toggles for the drive select, including drive programmes, allowing the driver to keep his hands on the wheel at all times. There are also voice-activated commands, although I normally avoid these for fear of being misunderstood. The boot is at the front of the car and is on the smallish side, which is what you would expect in a sports car. It was hard to find fault with anything about the R8, which is quite possibly the best everyday sports car I have ever driven.

AUDI R8
$799,888 including COE
Engine: 5,204cc, V10, 40-valve
Power/torque: 540bhp/540Nm
Fuel consumption: 11.4l/100km
0-100kph: 3.5 seconds
Top speed: 320kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast

This article appeared in Issue 787 (July 10) of The Edge Singapore.