Audi R8 V10 Coupe is a practical supercar that can take even bad city roads in its stride

Is buying a supercar in India a good idea? Many would point out our potholed, uneven roads and congested, unruly traffic to argue that it isn’t. But then, how do the supercar owners here manage? We got our hands on the new 518bhp Audi R8 V10 and decided to find out.

We had the car for only three days and that’s not nearly enough time to get to know a car properly. But we wasted no time and set out in the new R8 right away. Unfortunately, we hit peak-hour traffic. But to our surprise, the crawling in traffic experience wasn’t nearly as bad as one would expect. We found the R8 no harder to drive than any big luxury saloon. The view out of the front was fantastic and despite the mid-engine layout, visibility at the back was not too bad either. The 5.2-litre V10 motor felt relaxed, although driving such a car on our crowded streets needs a lot of restraint, especially when you know how much power there is on tap, which can get frustrating. Then there’s this car’s most significant update for 2013 — a new seven-speed dual-clutch S-tronic gearbox in place of the clunky old R-tronic single-clutch unit. And what a difference it makes. In auto mode, it was butter smooth, and it’s only when we suddenly got on the power that there was a jerk from the gearbox as it rapidly downshifted for quicker acceleration.

It’s on open, empty roads that you realise the true potential of this V10 motor. The R8 happily spins into life without drama, and from the word go, has enough torque to blow your mind. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, is the speed with which the V10 motor builds its revs. There is no delay, no lag. You ask of the engine and it delivers in an utterly predictable, linear fashion. Out here too you will really appreciate the new gearbox. It endows the car with relaxed usability befitting its superb on-pace precision. It will remain in Auto mode, no matter which of the powertrain presets you choose, but so much as nudge one of the standard wheel-mounted paddles and it will shift to manual mode, where it will hold every gear and swap ratios on command with impressive response and precision. So the figure of 4.40 seconds for 100kph from standstill doesn’t come as a surprise.

We next headed onto the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Where most supercars can feel intimidating charging up a mountain road, the Audi simply doesn’t. Perhaps it is the steering, specifically the amount of reassurance it offered in being so accurate, maybe it’s the safe understeer you sense when you push hard, or maybe it’s just grip from the 295 section tyres and the Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Our test car was fitted with optional adaptive damping, and in Normal mode, it judged damping on most surfaces well enough. It never felt explicitly comfortable, but at the same time, never felt harsh either. When we switched the system to Sport, the ride deteriorated considerably. Save this setting when the road surface is smooth, and there’s a realistic opportunity to go for it.

A supercar wouldn’t be a supercar without a low-slung driving position, a steeply raked windscreen and all the controls that matter falling precisely within reach. The R8 V10 ticks all of these boxes, and does it with some style. But unlike a lot of supercars, these traits are accompanied by a genuine sense of quality and a generous level of trim and equipment. It blends some fairly obvious Audi parts — the MMI system, some switchgear and an excellent sat-nav system — without diluting the inherent drama that a supercar deserves. You also get a very effective air-con system and a top-quality stereo. Be in no doubt, the R8 feels like — and indeed is — a class act inside. No one buys a supercar for practical reasons. Yet, for its modus operandi of being a thrill machine, the R8 doesn’t do too badly. The boot in the bonnet is impressively deepand within the cabin there are numerous well-sized cubbyholes for odds and ends.

It’s been six years since the R8 first went on sale, and along with the new gearbox, Audi has thrown in a few styling tweaks for 2013 as well. Outside, there are new all-LED lamps, restyled exhaust pipes, a new valance at the back and a restyled grille at the front. Inside, there are a few more bits of aluminium trim and things such as sat-nav, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity have been promoted from optional to standard equipment.

There is, however, more to the 2013 R8. Though all the previous range elements remain, their ranks have grown — a new flagship, the 543bhp R8 Plus. It’s essentially a production version of the limited edition R8 GT with 25bhp more than the standard V10, bespoke suspension settings and carbon-ceramic brake discs. And while the car we drove is just as much at home on the road as on the track, the Plus has been given a harder, track-biased edge.

Pegged at Rs 1.8 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi), this Audi is very expensive. But then, it is a supercar. It is a great performer and has the looks to match the drama. It is surprisingly comfortable and offers tonnes of equipment. And in Indian cities where owning a supercar isn’t the best idea, the R8 V10 is actually not a bad option.

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