Standing water, a mid-mounted engine and 525bhp. It's not an ideal combination. You live in trepidation of front wheels heading gripless towards a barrier, of rear wheels cutting loose and pitching you into a spin. Or both in quick succession. If there's any grip to be had, you need to feel it in sharp focus. And you're forever brushing the brakes on the approach to every bend, then cursing your unnecessary timidity.
Southern Spain is awash today. I'm driving a new Audi R8 V10 with the foregoing attributes, and, usefully I think, four-wheel drive – albeit with no more than 35 per cent of torque ever heading to the front wheels. I have to get the measure of this car, but how?
With great ease, as it happens. I don't think I've ever driven another car of such power which feels as co-operative, as biddable, as unthreatening as this. That's not to say this R8 wraps you in an electronic cocoon of invincibility. It doesn't say, "Leave this to me" as it defeats, unseen and unfelt, all manner of dynamic assaults. Instead, it does exactly what you tell it to by exactly the amount you have told it, and delivers an instant report of its obedience. So I can drift the R8 out of a tight and rain-soaked turn on the Ascari Autodrome and feel no fear, just a thrill.
But the R8 was always like this: natural, friendly, balletically agile, beautifully balanced. The low, wide, clean-cut transport of choice for the rich city boy in BBC1's Survivors showed Audi could make a viable Porsche 911 rival or a lower-cost Lamborghini, depending on your viewpoint. And that's impressive for a carmaker with family hatchbacks in its range. Now, though, the R8 has gained a new engine option, plus a £22,000 price hike and a Bang & Olufsen sound system to go with it. Instead of a 4.2-litre V8 with 420bhp, you can have a 5.2-litre V10 with 525bhp and a similar appetite for sky-high engine speeds (up to 8,700rpm). All this for a starting price of £99,575.
This engine is related to the new V10 that is fitted to the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, the car whose transmission and, broadly, whose all-aluminium structure it shares. Unlike earlier Lamborghini and Audi V10s, and for reasons of crankshaft strength, this one's cylinder-firing intervals happen at unequal intervals during the crankshaft's rotation. In the LP560-4, this gives rise to a savage, dirty, guttural sound, at times almost explosive, but the R8's V10 has more refined tones. It's still a powerful, complex aural cocktail, though, especially when you really let it cut loose.
Third gear (out of six) is the gear of party tricks. Even at idle speed the V10 has 80 per cent of its ample pulling power on tap. So you can amble at town speeds in third, then surge up far beyond any European terrestrial speed limit, should temptation overwhelm you, in one delicious, sonorous, adrenalinous blast. That's where the V10 scores over the V8, in the sheer breadth of its energy delivery.
Some people will think that the R-tronic sequential transmission is an essential part of the modern supercar experience, but to me it takes away a vital tactile interface. Besides which, its automatic mode still surges annoyingly during shifts. Far better to save a hefty £5,090 and specify the manual gearbox, whose lever slides satisfyingly around an open metal gate.
I'd have the standard steel brakes, too, because the carbon-ceramic ones feel snatchy in the wet. All UK-market R8 V10s will have the "magnetic ride" suspension, however, which works very well in both normal and firmer Sport modes. And all V10s get new LED headlights – an industry first – which look striking, use minimal energy but have a patchy light spread on main beam.
My objective summing-up? I love this R8. It's truly an exotic car you could use every day, a car you can see out of, store things in and rely on to work. Though never mercurial it is always thrilling. It rewards skill but doesn't expect you to be Lewis Hamilton. It has ideal ingredients perfectly cooked. The perfect supercar for the real world? Nothing gets closer.Reuse content