This is the second generation of the R8, finally succeeding the original 2007 car.
You might already be extremely familiar with the new car as, unusually, the racing version was made available for the 2015 season and won the famed Nürburgring 24 Hours in May. The general public has had to wait until now to get its hands on the road version.
The two cars were developed alongside each other too. Both use the new Audi Space Frame platform, largely made of extruded aluminium but using a carbon fibre bulkhead and transmission tunnel, and it reduces the weight of the new car by about 50kg compared to the first generation. In total the two cars share about 50% of their components, including just about all of the engine.
Located behind the driver, it comes in two flavours, with a 532hp 'regular' V10 model slightly shaded by the 601hp V10 plus – good for 198mph and 205mph respectively. Both feature the same 5.2 litre FSI V10 and a 7-speed S tronic automatic gearbox, with no plans for a manual after a staggering 99% uptake of the auto option on the previous model.
All this power is marshalled through Audi's quattro four-wheel drive system. With a cleverly clutched front axle it's able to put as much torque as it likes in any direction – 100% rear or 100% front-wheel drive if required. The upshot is that it will accelerate from any speed to any other speed without once slipping a wheel in protest.
You might think that the high-performance focus makes it not the best town car. It won't match the ride quality of an executive saloon, but it's easily better than some of the current crop of hot hatchbacks. Set into Comfort mode there's no fussy, skittish reaction even to poorer surfaces and the R8 is no harder or more stressful to drive than any family car you care to pluck at random. The only blip on the driving manners is the aggressive first bite on the carbon-ceramic discs of the V10 plus model.
Audi's opted to use full LED lighting on the R8, with an optional laser assist on the V10 plus model. This may sound utterly outlandish, but the laser headlights – operational on main beam and above 37mph – give an extremely tight band of pure white light up to twice as far ahead of the car as the LEDs, which are bright enough as it is. It's an extremely neat feature, as are the sweeping LED indicators, and helps to distinguish the R8 from any other car on the road.
The driver-focussed cockpit is excellent too, and it's really set off by the Audi virtual cockpit. This is standard on all R8s and takes the form of a 12.3 inch LCD screen in the binnacle that replaces a traditional centre-mounted sat-nav so you never need take your eyes away from that critical middle vision. It's a pleasing place to be and the driver-oriented nature of the layout means there's a good-sized passenger space, both for length and knee room.
In many ways then, what the R8 presents as is a completely normal car that just happens to be capable of extremely savage performance in a very safe manner. With the UK's oft-derided road surfaces and weather, it's the thinking-man's supercar.