What is it?
Until Audi decides to drop a motor with fewer than 10 cylinders into the R8, this is the entry point for the range. While you still get a snarling 5.2-litre V10 that will rev to 8500rpm, power is down nearly 70bhp. That may seem a lot to lose, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you still get a substantial 532bhp.
Even though it weighs 40kg more than the more expensive Plus variant, the R8 is still a very rapid motor vehicle. The 0-62mph sprint takes a scant 3.5sec and it doesn’t run out of puff until it hits 198mph. That’s 0.3sec more and 7mph less than its faster sibling.
As well as losing some horsepower, you also do without the ceramic brakes that are standard on the Plus. You can option them, but at £7700, that’s half way towards the cost difference between this R8 and R8 Plus. Time to find out if it’s worth spending the extra cash.
What’s it like?
The basic R8 may be less potent than the Plus, but there’s still an awful lot to love about this car. Chief among those things is the engine. With the automotive world moving increasingly towards downsized turbocharged engines, this car’s V10 feels increasingly special.
Power may have been turned down, but the noise certainly hasn’t. After starting with the kind of overdramatic yelp that is bound to upset your neighbours, it settles down to a surprisingly quiet cruise even with the optional sports exhaust.
Flatten your foot to the floor and things change dramatically, especially with the optional sports pipes in noisy mode. As with the best naturally aspirated engines, the motor builds to a gloriously vocal crescendo that you’ll want to revisit time and time again. The pops and crackles on the overrun might be engineered in, but they do make it even more exciting.
In terms of outright pace, it’s very unlikely you’d be disappointed by the normal R8. Our GPS timing gear clocked it at 3.5sec from rest to 60mph on a streaming wet surface which, let’s face it, is more than enough for the majority of folk. However, when driven just after a go in the Plus, the difference in accelerative force is noticeable.
While the Plus may have a more aggressive suspension set-up, the lesser R8 is still a talented car in the twisties. Understandably, given the everyday supercar remit, there is some understeer when you enter a corner too quickly, but you have to be travelling very quickly indeed to ever feel this. Sheer mechanical grip dominates the experience.
Should you be brave (or foolish) enough to get to this level, a bit of trail braking will tuck the nose in, while a stab of throttle will get the back end into play. Should you find yourself sideways, the quattro system quickly sends torque to the front wheels helping to haul the car out of a slide without too much drama.
Naturally, given the focus on cornering ability, the suspension is firm, but not uncomfortably so. You do feel every bump, rut and undulation in the road, but the damping ensures that the car deals with the initial hit quickly and without getting unsettled. Even a long road trip doesn’t leave you feeling battered and bruised.
Our test car was fitted with the standard, non-variable ratio steering system. Although the weight increases as you flick through comfort, auto and dynamic modes, it always feels a bit light and aloof compared with the very finest electronic racks out there. It is, however, precise and an improvement on the variable-ratio dynamic set-up we’ve previously tried.
Although you miss out on the ceramic brakes of the Plus, the eight-piston front and four-piston rear callipers put up with plenty of abuse even on track. Not only were they powerful, they resisted fade well. Our only complaint is that they could prove tricky to modulate under normal road driving.
There are no prizes for guessing that the R8’s interior is a very pleasant place to be. It may be recognisably Audi, but there’s enough bespoke switchgear to make it feel that little bit more special than the rest of the range.
Despite this, visibility is surprisingly good for a low-slung, mid-engined car. Factor in a reasonable boot up front and plenty of storage in the cabin, and you could use the R8 every day.
Should I buy one?
The latest R8 continues to offer a very tempting proposition to prospective buyers. It’s breathtakingly fast, yet easy to drive even in the foulest of conditions. Then there’s that engine; it really is one of the finest mass-market powerplants on sale today and something that helps make it feel more special than a 911 Turbo. It’s just a shame the chassis isn’t a touch more involving.
Whether or not you should go for the Plus for an extra £15k is a tricky question. Over half the price difference is covered by standard ceramic brakes, while the additional carbon fibre trim doesn’t come cheap on the standard car either. Ultimately, though, it’ll come down to bragging rights pure and simple.
2016 Audi R8 V10
Location Bedfordshire; On sale Now; Price £119,520; Engine V10, 5204cc, petrol; Power 532bhp at 8250rpm; Torque 398lb ft at 6500rpm; Gearbox seven-speed dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1670kg; Top speed 198mph; 0-62mph 3.5sec; Economy 24.8mpg; CO2/tax band 272g/km, 37%
What is it?