Mission control

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Audi has launched the second generation of its flagship sports car, and while it’s the fastest production car it has ever made, it hasn’t lost the magic of the original.


In 1981, John Young was about to embark on the very first Space Shuttle flight. He quipped: “Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen–oxygen fuelled system in the world, knowing they’re going to light the bottom, and doesn’t get a little worried, does not fully understand the situation.”

As the old saying goes, power without control is nothing. Audi, though, has different ideas. It has launched the second-generation R8 supercar, with even more power, making it the fastest ever production car to wear four rings. Unlike a rocket, though, the R8 is designed to harness that power and make it completely usable.

Evidence of this is the new all-wheel-drive system, which is even quicker to react, and can now vary the torque split with up to 100 per cent directed to each axle when needed.

Under the clear engine cover, you’ll find a 5.2l V10 which produces a staggering 600bhp and 560Nm, launching it from 0 to 100kph in just 3.2 seconds. Top speed? 330kph.

The acceleration is immense and relentless, and thanks to the R8’s carbon-ceramic brakes, deceleration is just as ferocious.

The passenger cell now combines aluminium and carbon-fibre reinforced polymer, dropping weight by 10kg but increasing torsional rigidity by 40 per cent. Inside, there’s leather everywhere, a full-colour instrumentation screen, and a voice-control system which understands natural English phrases.

Like an onion, as you peel back the layers of luxury, you discover more and more ability. Specifically, cornering ability. The electronic brain sends power exactly where it’s needed, while the suspension crushes the tyres into the road, communicating the surface quality via the pin-sharp steering.

Despite this dynamic prowess, all the qualities that made the original R8 great are still evident. The new R8 is still as simple to drive as a hatchback, but can take on a racetrack when you want to get that itch scratched.

The Audi R8 is a machine with both dynamic prowess and daily usability. Its mission: control.

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