Its maker is describing it as the lighter way to enjoy 205mph – the all-new Audi R8.
Well, this is the fastest and most powerful road-going Audi ever built.
And it’s not every day you can enjoy the experience and insight of a three times Le Mans champion joining you for a performance car launch.
But then brand ambassador Allan McNish knows plenty about success for Audi, having won countless titles in variants of the racing machine on which the latest R8 is based.
The second generation R8 mid-engined supercar has just hit the streets with some mind-boggling numbers and an advanced new quattro all-wheel drive set-up.
Hotter of the pair is the V10 plus model boasting a thumping 610PS, acceleration to 62mph in 3.2 seconds, 205mph top end and price tag of £134,500.
To give a sense of perspective, the numbers are near enough identical to the McLaren 570S and Aston Martin V12 Vantage S though if we’re being really picky the Audi’s maximum is marginally up on the McLaren and way ahead of rivals like the Porsche 911 turbo S.
Driving at these sorts of speeds – and realistically that equals the track – you need immense concentration.
McNish has seen it all, as a Grand Prix driver with the Toyota F1 team and a world endurance car champion for Audi, but appreciates the difficulty of maintaining that focus for extended periods of racing.
“I never concentrated particularly well when I was at school so I it didn’t come easily to me as a driver,” says the Scot.
“You have to work hard at it. The fitter you are the easier it becomes, but there are always distractions that you have to eliminate.
“I remember when I was driving Formula 3 and sometimes found myself well ahead of the field in a race. I would look at the pit board, take in the information and then lose concentration.
“In fact I became so concerned about it that I asked James Hunt, who was an adviser to our team at the time, what I could do about it. He said ‘then don’t look at the board’ simple as that.”
Mere mortals like ourselves may never encounter these situations and while the latest R8 is every inch a supersonic rocket ship it also has all the systems to cope with that savage thrust.
Its power is transmitted to the road via a seven-speed S tronic transmission and despite extra equipment and greater rigidity, the ‘plus’ variant weighs up to 50 kilograms less than its predecessor, contributing to its official fuel return of 23.9mpg.
Inside the Audi virtual cockpit, where the displays are digital, the principal controls are grouped together in button clusters – which Audi calls satellites – on the steering wheel.
Everything is driver-focused and gives the impression of sitting in a racing car, from the sculpted leather bucket seats to the flat-bottomed steering wheel with its paddle shifts, and 19-inch wheels are standard.
Go for plus and you can have 20-inchers along with ceramic brakes while both the V10 540PS model and its more powerful stablemate feature an interior LED lighting package which illuminates the glass-covered engine compartment and the footwells.
Driving the R8 is an experience to relish. It really is an everyday supercar – comfortable, planted, agile and unbelievably cool.
The roads and villages around Le Castellet in the Provence district of France may be rustic and sleepy but they certainly come alive when an R8 passes through.
You just press that steering wheel-mounted button that alters the exhaust flaps and the note sounds volcanic; switch the Audi Dive Select to performance mode and that pop popping crackle on the over-run mimics a sports racer.
It’s a halo model for Audi and a car of outstanding merit, but while there’s an extensive list of options it’s a shame that you have to pay extra for the likes of the sports exhaust system (£1,800), a reversing camera (£600) and dynamic steering (£1,200) – even on the V10 plus.
The new Audi R8 V10 Coupe is on sale now and costs £119,500 for the 540PS version and £134,500 for the 610PS V10 plus.