Audi R8 V10Audi R8 V10
Audi R8 V10
ARRIVING at Granada Airport, Spain, for the official launch of Audi's long awaited R8 V10 supercar I emerge from the terminal to see more than £1 million worth of exquisite-looking German supercars lined up at the roadside.

Engine: 5.2-litre, direct injection V10

Power: 518bhp and 391lb.ft.

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 3.9 seconds and 196mph

Fuel economy: 20.6mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 327g/km

Price: £104,665

Rating: *****

Visually the V10 may be subtly identified over its V8 sibling by more gaping side air intakes, 19-inch Y-design alloy wheels and a new rear diffuser—inside only the V10 logos on the instrument binnacle give a clue to its added potency—but this is Audi's R8 turned up to 11...

It's hard to overcome the urge to replicate a traditional Le Mans start, sprinting to one of the cars, throwing my bags inside and getting out on the road.

Thankfully, I don't have to...

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What follows is an agonising cruise to escape the city, however, and though the V10 proves remarkably quiet and (dare I say it) a little unremarkable at a steady 2,000rpm with the sequential R-tronic transmission set in 'auto', I knew there was more to come.

Thankfully, once on the billiard table-smooth mountain roads Audi have brought us here to enjoy it doesn't take long for, the opportunity to open up that RS6-derived (not Lamborghini Gallardo) V10.

Two swift tugs on the steering wheel mounted gear selector brings two perfectly measured blips of the throttle and as my right foot sinks towards the floor my bum sinks into the seat.

The R8 rises onto its tip-toes as 518bhp and 391lb.ft of torque drives all four wheels and £104,665 of aluminium-bodied German supercar is fired up the road.

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A deep resonant growl—like a big cat stirred from a heavy slumber—develops into a hard-edged roar as the needle arcs towards a ferocious 8,700rpm rev-limit.

The process unfolds staggeringly quickly in the first three gears, demonstrating the possibility of 0 to 62mph in 3.9 seconds and a 196mph top speed, as the swift R-tronic robotised sequential gearbox ensures a relentless hit of acceleration.

The R-Tronic is not without it foibles, however, requiring a lift of the throttle to shift down through the gears smoothly in manual mode.

Later Audi's car development guru, quattro gmbh's Stefan Reil, explains that it's gearbox that has to be learned to a degree, adding: "It's no soft option."

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Audi's V10 never sounds complex or clattery like some and the sheer thrust and charismatic yowl as the revs rise, mean that the addition of two-cylinders and 1,041ccs have brought a new dimension to the Porsche-baiting R8.

The R8 has been a car with dynamic polish to spare spare since its launch in 2006 thanks to its all-aluminium space frame construction, a mid-engined layout (made obvious by a Ferrari-esque glass engine cover) and quattro four-wheel-drive split for a 40:60/front:rear distribution of power.

In V10 form it also comes with Audi's magnetic ride adaptive damping with the help of which, along with 380mm front and 356mm rear disc brakes, I'm busy trying to explore the R8's dynamics.

Braking deep in to each prevailing corner on a fast descent the it corners flat but there's no anodyne all-grip, no poise approach to corners. Instead, the R8 feels agile, alive and adjustable mid-corner, eager to trim a line with a lift of throttle or a dab of the brakes.

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Where the V10 makes it mark, however, is with the spectacular eruption out of the other side.

Emerging from a slow second gear corner the V10 immediately sets the R8 back on it tip toes and with the same secure four-wheel-drive traction (in the dry at least) as a 247bhp Audi TT...with a massive dose of adrenaline thrown in for good measure.

The cynic inside me maintains that the original version—a stunning proposition in 4.2-litre V8 form—never prompted the need for more power.

Adding two cylinders and 104bhp along with £20,000 to the price tag seemed ill-advised at a time when money is short, a little unnecessary.

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But this is more than just a car for Audi. It's a timely statement of intent.

The R8 V10 comes at a time when Audi is bucking the industry trend and developing new models at a rate intended to batter its rivals into submission. It's an aggressive new flagship which encapsulates the firm's aggressive strategy.

And I, for one, am glad someone is still in a position to create such an intoxicating new car...and proudly announce its arrival with the wail of hard-revving V10s across the Spanish countryside.

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