Audi has jumped on the bandwagon with its own performance sub-brand called Audi Sport which will include all RS models and of course the R8 while the S models (S1, S3, S4, S5, S6, S7 and so forth) are a tier below and the S-line styling packages form the base of the performance range. Think of it like the BMW range with M cars, M Performance cars and the M Sport design packages.
What does this mean?
Audi state that the significance of this brand launch is not only to differentiate the various performance models but also to introduce a new way of marketing and releasing its sporty cars. For instance, buyers will not have to wait years for the RS or S versions of the ‘regular’ models to be launched as these will now make market introductions no more than a year after the standard production models. The brand has also committed to the release of at least one major RS model every year, whether it is a facelift or an all-new variant.
The launch of this brand also means extensive training for new and existing Audi dealerships resulting in knowledgeable sales representatives who are available for the Audi Sport range. Gone are the days of the buyer being more up-to-date with these cars than the salesperson it would seem. There will also be an increased emphasis on the Audi Sport Driving Experience, the advanced driver training section of the performance vehicles which provided owners with the necessary skills to handle these vehicles.
So what about the R8?
Now that we’ve gotten past the new Audi sub-brand let’s focus on the marque’s flagship performance car, the new R8. I travelled to Kyalami to sample the new product on a perfectly crisp winter afternoon. We should be conducting a full road test on this car soon so I’ll list the basics.
There are two models in the R8 range, the V10 and the V10 Plus. The regular V10 gets 397kW/540Nm and the Plus a massive 449kW/560Nm. Both, quite incredibly are naturally aspirated, displacing 5.2 litres. The V10 motor screams all the way to 8 700rpm and produces a soundtrack that every car enthusiast simply must experience for themselves. The car features a dry sump, perfect for track driving as is the mid-engine layout and the use of carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) and aluminium in its construction.
The V10 gets to 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 320 km/h while the V10 plus, does the sprint in 3.2 seconds and takes just 9.9 seconds to sprint to 200 km/h and will hit 330 km/h flat out. Despite the fact that we drove the car at altitude it is clear that this is a very fast, focussed and very well-sorted supercar indeed. There are hints of understeer on track but when driven the way it should be the car actually tends to oversteer or remain neutral, making for an incredible track experience.
On a side note, the new Kyalami facility is world class, from the pit facilities to the track itself. International motorsport must simply take note and we’ll get some incredible racing formulas back in to the country.
It is great to see Audi placing an emphasis on performance vehicles, especially in our car-crazy country. In terms of the R8, it is certainly a leap forward in terms of design, driver involvement and sheer supercar antics. In a world of turbocharging and downsizing, the V10-powered R8 sticks out, like a glorious ode to the generation of supercars that we’ve idolised for decades.