This car is wickedly quick, and if you don’t watch the speedometer, you will be driving with one foot in jail most of the time.
Despite its all-wheel-drive system, the R8 behaves a lot like a rear-drive car. It sends almost all of its power to the rear wheels, with up to 30 percent of the power transmitted to the front wheels once wheelspin is detected. The weight distribution is about 44 percent in the front and 56 percent in the rear, and the bigger engine doesn’t add much heft. At 569 pounds, the V-10 is just 68 pounds heavier than the V-8.
The limits of the R8 V-10 are extremely high. The ESP stability-control system has very little work to do even when you corner at insane speeds. The steering is precise and direct but not exceedingly aggressive. This car will stay neutral for a long time, and when it finally breaks loose, it doesn’t bite like other mid- or rear-engined sports cars. Just don’t stomp on the throttle clumsily.
Unless, that is, you plan to use the V-10’s launch control system. When driving an R8 equipped with the optional six-speed R tronic automated manual, the launch control procedure is thus: Turn the ESP off, push the transmission’s Sport button, put the car into gear, step on the brake with your left foot, and floor it. The engine settles in at a nice 5000 rpm. Lift off the brake pedal and hang on.