Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement

I got the chance to test Audi's flagship supercar in both V8 and V10 forms. The V8's arguably the better car, but it's the V10 I'd go for in a heartbeat

Being given the keys to a car, any car, for a day of guilt-free driving is something I’m fortunate - and very grateful - to experience fairly often. But when said keys unlock a piece of machinery as special as an Audi R8, well, you can probably guess how I was feeling.

Waiting patiently in front of me, basking in rare English sunshine, were three iterations of Audi’s famous supercar; one red V8, one red V10 Plus, and one black V10 Spyder. I had both the V8 coupe and V10 Spyder for a day in the deepest countryside of Warwickshire, and here is how I got on…

V8 Coupe, £93,735

Audi - Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement  - Blog

I thought the logical thing to do would be to jump in the V8 first; it’s an entry-level supercar after all. The vital statistics? 0-62mph takes just 4.3 seconds and it’ll go all the way to a top speed of 187mph. These figures are thanks to the wonderfully responsive naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8 that’s crammed into the middle of the chassis. It makes 424bhp and 318lb ft of torque, which is transferred to all four wheels via Audi’s famous Quattro system through a seven-speed S-Tronic gearbox.

Audi - Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement  - Blog

The first thing you notice as you ease yourself into the driver’s seat, is that the interior is surprisingly subdued. The dashboard, steering wheel and instrument binnacle feel and look more or less like any other Audi interior, lacking the theatre I was expecting.

Slotting the car into Drive and rolling away into the narrow streets of the local village, it’s immediately clear that the R8’s trump card is how useable and easy it is to drive normally. The interior is familiar, visibility is good and manoeuvering is a doddle. This is not an intimidating car to drive.

Audi - Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement  - Blog

With the oily bits nicely warmed up and the quaint homes of rich old folk behind me, the roads begin to open up. At this point, it’s time to hit the throttle to unleash this car’s more rowdy side. First impressions are good; the V8 doesn’t provide gut-wrenching acceleration, but the numbers on the speedo rise rapidly.

If you watch the video below, the V8 gargles and crackles, but when you’re driving hard it’s not the kind of raucous attack on the senses you might expect. Pushing your right foot down hard results in a distinctive hard thrum, but it’s not enough to tell me that I’m in a 400bhp+ supercar.

Perhaps I’m still a little wary of the fact that I’m driving a near-£100k car, but the only complaint I can throw at the R8 V8 is that the steering is a little too light. Crests and crowns cause the car to squirrel a little, particularly under acceleration, and there’s always a moment of slight unease before you’re sure that your corrections have been registered.

Audi - Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement  - Blog

That being said, when you’re in the flow, you won’t even notice this phenomenon. The grip is phenomenal and once you’re past the straight ahead and throwing yourself into bends, the steering is delightfully precise. After about an hour with the car I find myself repeating the same sections of road, finding a rhythm and carrying more speed than I thought I and the car would have been capable of earlier.

With my time on the clock now running out, it’s time to head back to upgrade my current ride to the full-fat V10 Spyder.

V10 Spyder £123,485

Audi - Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement  - Blog

Where the coupe felt a little subdued, the convertible feels instantly special. The interior is just as underwhelming as the V8’s, sure, but knowing that two extra cylinders are sitting behind my head, with no roof cocooning me from the experience, I can’t help but get excited.

Audi - Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement  - Blog

Pootling through the same village, it’s again easy to forget that you’re driving a low-slung supercar. Low speed manoeuverability is easy, and you feel at ease behind the wheel within seconds.

Where the differences between the V8 and V10 cars make themselves known is when the national speed limit signs come and go. Two flicks of the left toggle drop the car from fourth gear to second, after which I plant my right foot…

The 5.2-litre V10 engine roars to life, its 518bhp and 390lb ft sending me hurtling into the distance: what was over there moments ago is now rushing past me. And no wonder: 0-62mph takes 4.1sec - 0.2sec quicker than the V8 - and it’ll keep going all the way to 194mph.

The Quattro system ensures there are no traction issues, so all that power is converted into organ-rearranging shove. I’ve genuinely never driven a car that consistently pushes me into the seat, but this does, all the way through the rev range.

Audi - Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement  - Blog

If the V8 rewards you for finding a flow, the V10 is a brute that makes you giggle like a girl. The acceleration is so addictive that I don’t spend quite so much time worrying about racing lines, rather taking slower, more careful trajectories and enjoying the kick up the backside once the road opens up.

And then, once accustomed to the sheer pace of the thing, I engage Sport mode and the final theatrical piece of the puzzle falls into place.

Everything is louder, and on downshifts you’re treated to a guttural bark. While driving hard, it slams the gear in higher up the rev range than before to keep you on the limit. The V10 screams like an old-school F1 car, the noise bouncing off the trees and hillsides that line the road.

Audi - Driving An Audi R8 V8 And V10 Back To Back Taught Me That There Is No Replacement For Displacement  - Blog

With the R8 and I back in the village - and with Sport mode still engaged - I approach a tight 90 degree left-hander and ease off the throttle. My speed drops a little and the S-Tronic gearbox decides it’s time to drop into second gear. It slams home with a deafening bark that echoes between the limestone buildings and the handful of people nearby turn my way. A gardener puts down his wheelbarrow with a smile on his face, so I blip the throttle a little to give him the delight of a crackling over-run. It’s moments like this that I treasure most.

The V8 and the V10 versions of the R8 might be brothers, but they’re so different in so many ways. The V8 is more of a driver’s car because it’s lighter (1585kg vs 1720kg) and more fluid, but the V10 just makes you feel more special. For that reason, I’d take the one with the big bark; the noise and the acceleration were like nothing like I’ve ever felt and I’m already in need of an R8 V10 fix.