In our 2017 Audi R8 review, we said the car "balances thrilling power and handling with everyday livability."
The proof comes easily, over the next few hundred miles. The R8 puts us at ease as we aim for the heart of Virginia, even when we drop the hammer, taunting the limits of grip and the local law enforcement.
It’s a game of cat and mouse, but it’s a rewarding one. The 5.2-liter V-10’s intake snorts and its exhaust crackles at the slightest tip into the throttle. The V10 Plus maxes out at 610 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque; the slightly milder V10 rates 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet. With either, 60 miles per hour rush up on you—and on tight, deep hairpins—in about 3.0 seconds.
Pushed to its limits, the R8 V10 Plus can reach 203 miles per hour. But more on that in a bit.
From Biltmore, we hit the ground through parts of the Smoky Mountains that don't even have cell service. Places where street names like Snake Bite Holler are accurate retellings, where Blowing Rock still elicits snickers because, in our hearts, everyone who writes about cars is still 12 years old.
Our convoy’s worth about $1.5 million, and it draws fans as we slide between mountains like the pendulum on an out-of-time clock. Snuggled up close to the Tennessee state line, our string of Audis draws the attention of a local reporter, a slew of patinated pickups, and about a half-dozen police from different authorities.
We hustle through North Carolina, Tennessee, then carefully into the heavily policed state of Virginia. On the way, we stumble across some extraordinary automotive non sequitirs. A pranged early NSX with a cracked windshield, parked in someone's front yard next to an SLK Kompressor, in maybe the oddest pairing ever witnessed in these parts. Not one, not two, not three, but more SX4s and Aerios and Equators--in Galax, Virginia, where some out-of-business Suzuki dealer no doubt still has a cult following.
All day long, the R8 blends speed and agility in intoxicating amounts. Its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission clicks off shifts in milliseconds. Magnetic shocks adapt to the road surface with brilliance, shaving the worst off these sandy, gravelly, potholed roads.
Tweaking the R8 through its driving modes reveals a huge range in its ability. In Comfort mode, it quiets down, shifts imperceptibly, and soaks up road rash better than some sport sedans we’ve driven lately.
Dial it into Performance mode, and it’s a rager, ripping from hill top to mountainside with naturally aspirated joy. Yes, the gated-shift manual is gone, but the new all-wheel-drive system underfoot keeps a near-perfect balance.
That and massive carbon-ceramic brakes let us drill away toward dusk, knifing our way to rural Virginia’s Primland resort. It’s our oasis. A place to check on the wellness of the computer bags tucked into the car's frunk. A place for a good night’s sleep, which we'll need before things get much, much more serious.