When perfect is not enough
Behind the Wheel: 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus
In 2008 Audi introduced the R8, a mid-engine V8 somewhat inspired by their highly successful R8 Le Mans Prototype race car, and blew the world away, winning both the World Performance Car and World Design Car of the year awards. Of course it would win those awards; Audi’s performance group, quattro GmbH, designed, developed and built this car. It’s undergone only minor changes — until this year. The 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus ($171,000) gets one of the best upgrades yet, a smooth-as-glass and lightning fast seven speed dual clutch S Tronic transmission.
The official name “2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe quattro S Tronic” is the only major downside to this insanely balanced and powerful ride. Out goes the often rough-and-tumble six-speed R Tronic; in comes the seven-speed dual clutch S Tronic, which routes 550 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque to Audi’s world-famous quattro all-wheel-drive. 0-60? 3.7 seconds, sounding oh-so-glorious the whole time.
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During my few days with the car I found it just as capable running errands as it was destroying the canyon roads of Malibu, where I spent most of my time. No need to raise the nose, like you must in its sibling Lamborghini Gallardo, when approaching speed bumps. No half-day class on how to drive it. There isn’t even a push-button start, which means my grandmother could get in and know what to do. There is something appealing about that.
On the inside, the $5,000 diamond stitching on both the seats and doors along with the Alcantara suede head liner remind you there is something special about this car. The “Sepang blue matte effect” exterior looked like something Superman should be driving — which is probably why people kept looking at me in traffic or at the numerous gas stations I hit up — and the note on the 5.2-Liter V10 pumping through those MASSIVE exhaust pipes at startup woke my three-month-old daughter every single time.
If you’ve had the pleasure of driving an R8 V10 and think you know what to expect, I can only describe this “Plus” variant as a completely different animal. You’ll get sick flying into a turn, braking and then asking all four wheels (the back ones as wide as a fallen rubber tree) to slingshot you out. I found myself laughing wildly at some points. This thing begs you to push harder and harder — and you can quickly outdrive yourself.
My only knock on this beautiful R8 V10 Plus was the MMI infotainment system, which is not close to what an A4 with a tech package would have; the left speakers kept going in and out while driving. (After dropping $200k on a car I would be pretty frustrated about a loose wire.) Otherwise, this is maybe the perfect car. It’s a value proposition supercar — which is a sentence that maybe has never been written before — and that’s why it appeals to fiscally conservative people like Tony Stark. Now if there were only a Pepper Potts trim…