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Test Drive: The 2014 Audi R8 V-10 Plus

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Drive the new 2014 Audi R8 V-10 Plus ($179,645) on the Pacific Coast Highway around Malibu, California, and the authorities will appear in your rearview mirror like they have an appointment. You might be tempted to test how they react to a car that goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds and hits a top speed of 196 miles per hour, but resist the urge. A discreet move into the right lane is enough to convince them that no laws will be broken.

Still, a 50-mile-per-hour speed limit is frustrating when behind the wheel of this newest, slimmed-down iteration of the vaunted R8. Since track time was not on the itinerary, we turned east to get a real feel for the car. Surf shacks gave way to canyon ranches perched atop roads so steep (and deliciously curvy) that the locals keep a four-wheel-drive vehicle at the bottom of driveways for the final ascent.

The R8 V-10 Plus is the kind of two-seater sports car you could commute to work in; the normal driving mode is very smooth, thanks in large measure to a seven-speed S tronic transmission. Though the interior is comfortable, it would be only a slight exaggeration to say that anything bigger than an iPad would challenge its cargo-carrying capacity.

But shift into sport mode for some canyon-carving and the true character of the car reveals itself. (The 550 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque hint at the transformation.) The R8 V-10 Plus spits like a mad beast on a chain with a tap of the brake, and springs forward like a freed demon when the accelerator is toed. It handles a curve like a straight line and is a car that doesn’t like to stand idle. In fact, you can’t even shift into park. The only way to stop is to turn the engine off.


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