Five years is a long time in any business but in the motoring industry, it's an eternity — which is why the major manufacturers are always quick to roll out variations on an initial theme within a year or so of a new car launch. It's perhaps not surprising then that since the Audi R8 appeared on Singapore streets in early 2008, several iterations of this stunning supercar have been introduced, so anyone considering a sporty Teutonic addition to the garage will be spoilt for choice.
The V8 Coupé was followed in relatively quick succession by the Spyder, V10 and GT versions, along with limited edition and motorsport models. At a distance, enthusiasts will be able to tell the difference between, say, an early V8 and the latest V10 but no matter the year or model, the R8's iconic shape and distinctive silhouette easily sets it apart from the rest and identifies it as a discerning driver's object of desire.
Not that anyone who's ever been up close and personal with an R8 is likely to forget the experience but just in case — and in an effort to keep up with the Joneses, as it were — Audi has gone that extra mile to ensure its high-performance flagship remains fresh in the supercar stakes while also giving owners plenty of bang for their buck.
Here in Singapore, that means plenty of bucks as well — you'll have to shell out close to a million dollars for the privilege of owning the latest R8. Still, this newest kid on the block, the — take a deep breath now — R8 V10 Plus Coupé, offers a lot more than the opportunity to utter a couple of extra syllables when fielding enquires about the car.
The R8 may be substantially more expensive now than when it was first introduced but if it's any consolation, it's also lighter and more powerful — essential attributes in any conversation — and possibly easier to drive too, which is saying something considering how much of an everyday, all-purpose vehicle the original R8 was.
Knocking 30kg off the weight of an R8 (it now tips the scales at 1,670kg) is no mean feat, especially since the car was already a paragon of modern motorcar engineering, with its cutting-edge aluminium space frame and signature design details in carbon fibre. On the power front, the 5.2-litre V10 engine now has 550bhp and a smidgen more torque available, compared to a mere 525bhp previously. Add to that ceramic brakes and a smooth-shifting, dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission (that is a big improvement on its predecessor) and it all translates to a time of 3.5 seconds in the benchmark 0-100kph sprint, down from 3.9 seconds in the past.
The “Plus” in a name usually implies that a few goodies have been included in the package and in the R8's case, this extends beyond the mechanicals. Matte finishes, a new grill, full LED headlights and larger shift paddles are some of the more notable standard features and add to the impressive visuals, but if you want to kit out your car interior to even plusher levels (quilted Alcantara, anyone?), all you need to do is channel your inner designer (and sign on the dotted line).
Like its contemporaries in the supercar category, the R8 is way too much car for life on regular Singapore roads — but then, that has never stopped any owner with an independent spirit, a healthy bank balance and a need for speed from signing up for a ride to remember.
The R8 is one of the best-handling cars known to man and it never met an open road it didn't like. With the back roads of Malaysia beckoning, plus the prospect of a dedicated race track to be built just across the border, there are ample opportunities to enjoy a dynamic drive in the new R8.
The simple joys of negotiating an uphill hairpin bend, a series of challenging S-curves or a traffic-free country road should always be accompanied by an appropriate soundtrack. The R8's throaty 10-cylinder roar certainly qualifies so hold that thought, get to grips with those Draconian car laws and do whatever it takes to get behind the wheel of this mean motoring machine: It will be a big Plus indeed.
Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupé
Car Type: Two-door, mid-engine, high-performance sports car with quattro permanent all-wheel drive
Price: $985,800 (including COE)
Engine: 5.2-litre V10
Transmission: Seven-speed S tronic sequential gearbox with paddle shift
Power: 550bhp at 8,000rpm
Torque: 540Nm at 6,500rpm
Performance: 0-100kph in 3.5 seconds, top speed 317kph
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Suspension: Aluminium double wishbones (front and rear)
Brakes: Ceramic discs front and rear