We Test Drove Audi’s Ridiculously Fast New Sports Car
The R8 is the fastest and most expensive the company has ever made.
When Audi applies its engineering prowess to a production vehicle, the result is impressive, high-tech performance. When Audi applies its engineering prowess to a race car, the result is usually a trophy. Combine the two, as the company did in the new 2017 R8 V10 Plus sports car, and the results are Audi’s fastest, most expensive, and possibly most bad-ass production car ever.
The latest R8 release is Audi’s play for an even bigger piece of the luxury car market. The brand’s U.S. division just reported its 63rd consecutive month of sales increases. Parent company Volkswagen Group’s vlkay “dieselgate” issues seem not to have hurt the German luxury brand in America.
Audi introduced the first R8 in 2007. Two years later it unleashed the R8 LMS race car, which since then has won 70 or so first-place titles including the grueling Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in January—ahead of Porsches, Vipers, Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis.
So when Audi invited me to test the new 610-horsepower 2017 R8 V10 Plus at the Daytona International Speedway, there was only one answer: Yes, please, and thanks.
The track’s 3.5-mile sports car course, which includes the high-speed banked tri-oval that NASCAR uses, encouraged some serious numbers from the R8—up to 185 mph on the 31-degree banking. The car, the most powerful production vehicle Audi has ever produced, didn’t flinch (even if I occasionally did), thanks to its lightweight multi-material construction, a unique new Quattro all-wheel-drive system, a carbon fiber rear wing and the same unstoppable engine that powers the race car. In fact, Audi claims the V10 can run 13,000 miles or a full race season before needing a major service—while all of its competitors require engine overhauls after each race.
Don’t mistake the new R8 for a stripped-down racer, though. Although the two-door shares 50% of its parts with the R8 race car, it sacrifices none of the modern comforts—A/C, Bang & Olufsen sound system, Alcantara headliner and leather-wrapped carbon-fiber seats.
Audi worked to put all the key controls of the car on the steering wheel Formula 1 style and a “virtual cockpit” on the dash just behind it. Drive modes—from “comfort” to “individual” to “dynamic”—can be switched on the steering wheel. And then there’s “performance” mode—just push the checkered flag icon to fully dial back traction control and amp all systems to warp speed.
This extremely driver-centric positioning puts all the controls front and center for ease of use. The look is streamlined and high-tech. However it’s not entirely intuitive—and some function seems to have been sacrificed for the clean form.
None of that mattered on the track, though; the one number I wanted to see—miles per hour—was front and center, where it should be. What mattered was finding my own limits since the R8 didn’t seem to have many. If everyone who buys the Plus version (for $189,000 or so) could also run it on the banks at Daytona, the cost would hurt a lot less.
Price: Starting from $189,000
Power: 610 hp
Torque: 413 lb-ft
Top Speed: 205 mph
0 to 60: 3.2 sec
On-sale date: Now
A version of this article appears in the May 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “The Other Fast Fashion.”