AUDI - TIME MACHINE

Audi - Time Machine - Luxury Travel Magazine


Time Machine


By: Sam Tinson, Issue 40 – Spring 2009
(Audi)

LATE FOR LUNCH, MOTORING WRITER SAM TINSON WAS GLAD HE WAS BEHIND THE WHEEL OF THE NEW AUDI R8 V10.

We're halfway along the Putty Road, the notoriously twisty scenic drive from Sydney to the Hunter Valley wine country, when it dawns on me that we’re going to be late for lunch. Our table at Chez Pok Dining in Pokolbin is booked for 1.30pm.

It’s now almost one and according to the sat-nav on our Audi R8 we still have 96 long, zigzagging kilometres to go. On the R8’s little dashboard map the road ahead resembles the frenetic Etch-a-Sketch scribblings of a Tartrazine addled toddler. Chez Pok’s kitchen closes at two, meaning we need to average around 100km/h through this valley of a thousand hairpins or go hungry. Logic says no. Belly says go. I am male. No contest.

Fortunately we’re in the right car for the task. The Audi R8 is no slouch when it comes to cornering, and this one is even quicker than most. At first glance it might appear identical to the standard version, but a keen eye will pick out the custom 19-inch alloy wheels, widened side vents and fancy oval tail pipes that identify it as the new R8 V10, Audi’s eagerly awaited upgrade to the original V8-engined model. When that car made its debut back in 2006 it didn’t open the door to the supercar market for Audi so much as batter it down. A thoroughbred mid-engined sports car with the comfort levels of an executive sedan at around half the price of a Ferrari, the R8 was in a class of its own. The only thing that let it down, according to some, was that it didn’t go quite as fast as it looked.

Having Lamborghini as a sister company Audi didn’t need to look too far for a means to put that right. The upgraded R8 borrows its mammoth V10 powerplant from the Italian marque’s famed Gallardo coupe, and while the engine has been slightly tamed to avoid putting its pricier donor out of business the resulting performance figures (525 horsepower and zero to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds, compared to the standard R8’s 420hp and 4.6 seconds) are more than enough to silence the nitpickers and have Porsche drivers looking nervously in their rear-view mirrors.

The R8’s wild Italian heart is all the better for being counterbalanced and controlled by sound German engineering. Lightweight aluminium ‘spaceframe’ underpinnings, near perfect front-to-rear weight distribution and Audi’s acclaimed quattro all-wheel-drive technology provide astonishing levels of grip and handling, giving even the most timid driver the confidence to corner at speed. With the thought of lunch spurring me on I soon had the R8 threading its way along the Putty Road like a ball bearing down a hosepipe. If there can be such a as thing as a point-&-shoot supercar, the R8 V10 is it. Perhaps most impressive of all is the way the R8 manages to provide all this performance without sacrificing anything in terms of luxury and style. Some supercar interiors are so uncompromisingly sparse they can leave one cold, or worse, with a cricked back. But the R8 offers all the five-star comforts we’ve come to expect from Audi, including acres of finely stitched Nappa leather, carbon fibre trim, heated seats and a Bang & Olufsen sound system. Chances are you’ll leave this car feeling more refreshed than when you got in.

This is lucky, because when we finally arrive at Chez Pok, having hurled the R8 around innumerable hairpin corners at the sort of speeds usually only seen at Philip Island racetrack, we still look presentable enough to maintain some vestige of dignity while we beg the restaurant manager for mercy. We are still late, but nowhere near as late as we’d have been had we not had the astonishing Audi. To the restaurant’s eternal credit we are accommodated for, and given an excellent table with a cracking view over the Hunter. My veal medallions with pea and broad bean emulsion were sublime, and I’ll be visiting again for sure. But unless I have an Audi R8 V10 handy I’ll definitely be taking the freeway next time.

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