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2017 Audi R8 V10 First Drive Review: Running in the Shadows

How the R8 V10 Differs From the R8 V10 Plus

How the R8 V10 Differs From the R8 V10 Plus

How much is a single horsepower worth? About $295 USD, according to Audi. The math works like this: Audi charges $191,150 USD for the 610-hp R8 V10 Plus and $164,150 USD for the regular 540-hp R8 V10, a $27,000 USD difference. However, the V10 Plus is equipped with $9,900 USD worth of carbon-ceramic brakes, while the regular V10 comes standard with Audi’s magnetic-ride suspension, an option priced at about $3,600 USD in other markets but not available on U.S.-sec V10 Plus models. So, on a spec-adjusted basis, call it $20,700 USD for an extra 70 horses. Or $295.71 USD per horsepower.

Good value? Oh, yes. As we discovered on the iconic Rolex 24-hour course at Daytona International Speedway, the 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus is one helluva track rat. But where does that leave the regular R8 V10? Is it a supercar destined to forever live in the shadow of its lighter, faster, sharper sibling? Not really. If the R8 V10 Plus is a proper sports car, the regular R8 V10 is more a gran turismo; still fast, still with that charismatic V-10 growl, and still a delight to hustle through the twisties, but just a slightly more relaxed take on the whole concept.

According to Audi’s numbers the R8 V10 is three-tenths of a second slower than the V10 Plus to 60 mph and has a top speed of 199 mph (320 km/h) instead of 205 mph (330 km/h). Debating what that means on real-world roads is a bit like medieval theologians arguing over the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin. By any objective measure the R8 V10 is still plenty fast. It just doesn’t have the same instant-on urgency of the V10 Plus.

It’s not merely the 70 fewer horses, or that they all arrive 450 rpm lower down the rev band than the V10 Plus’ ponies. Nor is it the 15 lb-ft less torque at 6,500 rpm. Nope, the big difference is the gearing. Compared with the V10 Plus, the V10 has a more widely spread set of ratios in its slick-shifting dual-clutch automated manual, and a much taller seventh gear—0.653:1 versus 0.841:1. You notice the difference in the way the V10 builds speed through the gears and that it’s a more relaxed and efficient cruiser on the freeway.

Find out the track-tested 0-60 time of the R8 V10 Plus HERE.

Audi’s magnetic-ride suspension switches between Comfort and Sport damping modes. Audi’s Drive Select, available for the first time on the R8, allows the selection of Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual settings for throttle, transmission, and suspension. The V10 does not get the track-friendly Performance mode setting available on the V10 Plus, however.

Even with everything switched to the sportiest setting, the V10 feels remarkably calm and composed, even on relatively poor road surfaces where the ride quality never feels as quite brittle as that of a 911. There’s not a ton of feedback through the steering—it’s certainly nowhere near 911 or Jaguar F-Type standard—but there’s noticeably more response from the front end than in the old R8, especially during initial turn-in.

Emitting a glorious bellow every time you gun it, the naturally aspirated, 5.2-liter V-10 feels crisply muscular through a broad range of revs, allowing you to finely balance the car on the throttle mid-corner and punch it hard when the road opens up. And yet it’s equally happy loafing along when you just want to sit back and enjoy the scenery. In an era where more and more sports car makers are being forced to switch to smaller displacements and turbocharging to meet emissions, this is an engine to be treasured. In fact, this R8—along with its Lamborghini cousin, the Huracn—may well be one of the last of the big-banger mid-engine sports cars: The V-10 is by no means a certainty for the next-generation R8.

The Audi R8 V10’s easy drivability, combined with creature comforts from the 550-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system to the geek-fest that is the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display, make it very usable as a daily driver. But with that big engine longitudinally mounted behind your shoulders and a diff and driveshafts around your ankles, there isn’t a lot of room left for luggage. No matter. The Audi R8 V10 is still a great gran turismo, a car worthy of epic road trips across continents. Just remember to pack light.

2017 Audi R8 V10
BASE PRICE $164,150
VEHICLE LAYOUT Mid-engine, 4WD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE 5.2L/540-hp/398-lb/ft DOHC 40-valve V-10
TRANSMISSION 7-speed, twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT 3,750 lb (est)
WHEELBASE 104.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 174.2 x 76.4 x 48.8 in
0-60 MPH 3.5 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB 14/22/17 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION 241/153 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.16 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S Now

Photos of the 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus: