For the past two weeks I’ve spent countless hours describing the incredible experience I had with Audi at the end of March.
To coincide with the launch of the new R8 V10 Plus Audi invited a small group of journos and bloggers to Melbourne to experience their flagship automobile and have a flagship experience. Not a single part of the trip to Melbourne was done in halves and I understood exactly why when I climbed into the R8 V10 Plus.
After being picked up and transferred to the airport in a comfortable Q5 I touched down in Melbourne to be greeted by a brand new A8 limo that was to deliver me to the Crown Metropol where I’d be spending the night. Much like the A8 I’d just been in, The Crown Metropol was stunning, as was my room and the view, perched up on the 16th floor overlooking the glowing city. Despite wanting to spend the entire night in the luxurious apartment that was my room I ventured out to the casino to dine at a restaurant of my choice.
Having little local knowledge I asked the hotel manager what his favourite restaurant in the complex was, ‘Rosetta’ he replied. After pointing me in the right direction I was greeted by a lovely Maître de that led me to a quiet outdoor table overlooking the Yarra River. Rosetta is part of the Rockpool Group and is Neil Perry’s first stand-alone Italian restaurant that comes with serious Italian service in white tuxedo jackets. The wood fire roasted duck with figs was delicious and plentiful; the accompanying glass of red recommended by the waiter was also a delight. A tad swept up in the moment I finished my dinner with a ‘Penicillin’, a Lagavulin and Johnnie Walker based cocktail with ginger, lemon and honey. Walking back to the hotel I wondered how good the R8 was going to be, Audi were clearly confident because I was certain they weren’t going to let the hotel and dinner out do the car. Suffice to say they set the bar pretty high, I could only assume the car was phenomenal – I wasn’t wrong.
We started the following day at 28 Sky Bar and Lounge where we enjoyed a quick breakfast and a rundown on the features of the new R8 V10 Plus. The new V10 Plus gains 25bhp on the existing V10 model and sheds 50kg with the extensive use of carbon fibre. The R8 V10 Plus comes standard with both a suspension upgrade and carbon ceramic brakes (an extra Lamborghini will happily charge you $40k for). Sitting through the presentation was rather agonising knowing what was waiting for us in the car park below and not until I stepped into the lift did it dawn on me that I was about to drive a $408,000 super car.
With more than a spring in my stepped I exited the hotel to be greeted by 3 snarling R8’s, a V8, a V10 and the matte blue V10 Plus. As you might imagine the group of cars (which also included a RS4 Wagon) had accrued a small crowd of onlookers and as I crossed the car park a hotel employee attempted to usher me away and asked if he could get me get a cab. I assured him my ride was sorted and walked straight to the blue R8 V10 Plus, placed my overnight bag in the front of the car and climbed in, possibly the smuggest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
It was hard to contain my excitement as we cruised through the city heading south towards the Mornington Peninsula. The convoy of 3 R8’s led by the RS4 was quite a spectacle and I spent the majority of the trip out of the city looking in the review mirror. Driving the R8 in the city is beyond simple, at one point I had to remind myself of what car I was in (but I’d kept the car pretty low key up till this point). As we rounded Port Phillip Bay I decided I’d experienced enough of the car’s docile ‘city’ mode and pushed the ‘sport’ button located at the base of the iconic gear stick. The car literally roared to life and straight away I knew why the R8 had earned its moniker ‘everyday supercar’.
From the moment I engaged the sport mode I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The car’s S-Tronic double clutch gearbox is lightning quick and can be controlled automatically or via the paddles on the steering wheel. Controlling the gear changes manually via the paddles seemed to offer a smoother ride then letting the car decide for you, perfect for the man who is entertained by sound of the engine at every down shift.
By the time we got to the highway heading south my foot was aching to stamp the accelerator, and as the entrance ramp got closer I shifted the car down 2 gears and took the final roundabout slow enough to let the RS4 get a good distance away, then my foot hit the floor. As I manoeuvred the car out of the roundabout the engine barked aggressively and 2nd gear hit the redline, we shot up the ramp and onto the highway, engaging third and passing the RS4 in seconds. The R8 V10 Plus is so quick. It’s not everyday you get to drive the best car Audi make so I decided I’d get out of it having no regrets.
Having 550bhp at your disposal is a mind-boggling concept. One second the R8 V10 Plus can be a gentle highway cruiser, the next it’s scaring M3’s out of the right lane. The drive to lunch was spectacular and over the hour and a half I got to give the car a serious run, much to the amusement of the rest of our group (not to the motorists we passed).
The destination for lunch was the highly acclaimed Ten Minutes By Tractor set in the hills of the famous Mornington Peninsula wine region. When we arrived the tyres of three R8’s crunched onto the gravel and the smell of ‘car’ was abundant. I rolled out of the car and had to take a moment to compose myself – absolutely brilliant. By the time I’d sat at the table I was ready for a glass of wine to settle the excitement, luckily I drove the first leg so the waiter happily poured me a pinot noir. Lunch kicked off with shared entrees of seared tuna, quail and goats cheese salad, followed by a Cape Grim Eye Fillet to match the delicious pinot. To me the food seemed quite homely; it was impeccably prepared and made of local ingredients, which is something I like to see on a menu. After a few glasses of wine, some cheese and a coffee we returned to the cars for the journey back to Vue De Monde for an afternoon debrief and some cocktails.
Taxiing the cars down Collins Street to their resting place outside the entrance of the Intercontinental was a strange experience because I’d got used to being in the R8, despite the attention the three cars were still getting on the street. Perhaps being exposed to a car like that for the period of time I was, is worse for a car lover than not being exposed at all – at least you’ll never know how good it really is. Saying goodbye to the R8 V10 Plus wasn’t as easy as getting used to being it in. Thankfully the transition was made all the more easy by the fleet of A8’s waiting to take us to the airport and I retired to the back of the limo and had another luxurious but somewhat more relaxing Audi experience.