Sunday, January 20, 2013

2014 Audi R8 First Impressions

To its credit, the 2014 Audi R8 I'm piloting scarcely puts a tire wrong on the slippery cobbled tarmac. A couple of heart-stopping seconds of hydroplaning are quickly taken under control by the quattro all-wheel-drive system, although the rear end's occasional squirming adds unneeded drama on the hairpin roads.Our destination is the mountainous principality of San Marino, and thank heavens for the navigation system whose screen resembles a plate of spaghetti thrown at a wall. The windshield wipers flail furiously on the front windscreen, but visibility is close to nil. Too bad, because the ancient, crenellated walls barely visible through the thick fog would have made a terrific photo backdrop.

The 2014 Audi R8 is certainly lighter. Thanks to an extensive use of carbon fibre on inlays, bumpers, even the mirror housings, and the aluminum "space frame" body, the R8 sheds between 75 and 105 kg (between 166 and 232 lbs).There are a few subtle changes to the 2014 Audi R8's exterior, some slight bumper modifications and standard round exhaust pipes throughout the model range.

The 4.2L V8 returns in the 2014 Audi R8, with an output of 430 hp, while the 5.2L V10 also remains at 525. Now offered in coupe-form only, is the R8 V10 Plus that puts out 550 hp and 398 lb-ft instead of 391. The power differences come courtesy of some creative engine management software.

Before we hit the drive route, we had a few laps around the Misano World Circuit in the 2014 Audi R8 V10 Spyder. A fast track roughly the shape of a crossbow, it would have been an exhilarating experience had we not been deluged by sheets of driving rain. The quattro system has the extraordinary ability to keep the R8 from going sideways through hairpin turns in two inches of water -- and I did manage speeds of up to 180 km/h in the straights. The flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped steering wheel is heavy, but is reassuringly substantial and delivers good feedback

The racing-style seats are highly bolstered and supportive, if on the hard side. Absolutely perfect for track days, probably not so much for long, luxurious cruises.All controls are simple and straightforward, and there's a truly marvellous Bang & Olufsen sound system in the unlikely event that you tire of listening to that glorious V10 behind your back. There's even a back-up camera -- a nod towards everyday practicality.

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