Think about this for a moment; how many naturally aspirated supercars can you think of that are available on the new car price list? Some shockingly expensive Ferrari’s and Lamborghinis. In fact, Ferrari is bolting turbochargers onto their cars as does McLaren, Mercedes-AMG and just about everyone else. Audi has been working on a turbocharged six cylinder for its iconic R8 model, so what of the sublime 5.2-litre V10 model? Well, I suspect that its naturally aspirated days are numbered, in fact I thing its V10 engine days are numbered.
I decided to spend one absolutely thrilling day with the car and create a memory that I’ll keep with me for a very long time. The ideal place to fully exploit the R8 would be a long quiet road that meanders through the countryside. A road with many high speed corners, long straights, sweeping bends and no cellphone reception. You might be thinking that such a road doesn’t exist, well not outside of the Western Cape that is, well it does.
It’s called Slaaihoek and it’s a 35km stretch beautifully maintained tarmac that ends at the boom gates of a mine located out in the Highlands Meander area. The road is mostly quiet over weekends and offers breath taking scenery. Sappi plantations contrast against the mountainous terrain. In some places it doesn’t even feel as if I’m in South Africa.
Now that you know what it looks like, let me tell you about the road. For the first twenty kilometres or so the road offers long sweeping bends atop a hill, on both sides are these grey rocks which litter the landscape, it looks very British. The Audi R8 felt very good here, the engine revving well into the 8000rpm range. It is the ideal part of the road to stretch the car’s legs so to say. All of a sudden while exploiting the screaming V10’s 397kW and 540Nm the road changed.
Gone were the long sweeping high speed bends, instead I was faced with sharp turns, blind rises and hairpin bends. What made it even more daunting is the fact that there is little to no run-off area, in some places there is no guard rail, go off and you will have time to call home, well that’s if there was any cellphone signal.
The Audi R8 that I was wresting was fitted with Audi Ceramic Brake disks which meant that they can take a lot of punishment and don’t fade which is a good thing because despite its naturally aspirated set up, the R8 V10 is one very fast car with a claimed 3.6 seconds 0-100km/h time. It also features a seven speed S-Tronic gearbox which instantly delivers the ultimate gear.
It’s also surprisingly nimble through the corners and it offers loads of grip thanks to Audis quattro system. One thing I did notice is that despite its all-wheel drive setup, the R8 can get a bit tail happy at times when in Dynamic mode. It is however the sound that really hits the emotional sweet spot especially when the roof is down. It crescendo’s at 8500rpm. On down shifts it pops and bangs out of the large exhaust pipes which was made even louder amongst the trees. The entire area was filled with this cars presence. When I reached the end of the road I pulled over, got out, wiped the sweat from my palms and just looked at the car as it sat there ticking away.
It is an incredible machine, a machine that I will dearly miss if Audi were to decide to bid it farewell. Luckily that is not happening anytime soon. There was only one more thing left to do and that was to go all the way back to the start of this incredible road in what is undoubtedly one of my favourite cars, the Audi R8 V10.