Audi is now well into the stride of a massive new model offensive. At the Detroit Motor Show back in January we got its flagship SUV, the Q7, while here at the Geneva Motor Show the company has launched the next-generation R8. Come September at the Frankfurt show, we expect Audi's most important mainstream car, the A4, to be renewed.
But back to the top-of-the-stack R8: remember the shock and awe that greeted the first-generation of this car? Audi had never made a supercar before and there it was kicking sand in the face of the Porsche 911, bringing beautiful Audi design and ergonomics to the party and really looking like a million dollars. The R8 always caught attention on the road in a way the 911 didn't – because its proportions were so dramatic and that graphic side-blade behind the driver's door and window were so original and new.
Well, the second coming has that difficult "second album" feel about it. There have been numerous changes at Audi – the departure of the head of R+D and design to name two big players – during the development of the R8. Or more likely, when this car was internally finished but before it had seen the light of day.
To look at, it's still recognisably an R8 in form. Hey, this is Audi so we never expected anything revolutionarily new. But the car has the feel of one that's been sweated over, that many hands have touched and that's just not quite as refined as the first-generation car.
It certainly looks more angry, with its new and more angular grille, plus the standard LED headlights are upgradable to the latest laser-technology headlamps (insert Dr. Evil joke here). And while we're on the subject of lamps, the rear indicators on all R8s now strobe in the direction the car is turning. Cool, just don't mention to Audi that you can now get this tech on a Ford Mondeo or Peugeot 308 too.
Move along the car and there's now a big swage in the door, that runs into the new side-blade, which has been split into two sections – one matching the door glass, one the side body swage. To our eyes, it's a less effectively graphical device than the design used on the first car – it's more fussy and less distinct.
Step inside, and the R8's cockpit feels like it's had a much bigger upgrade than the exterior design and that's largely down to the tech on-board. It's always been an irony that the flagship R8 had some of the most outdated technology and interface design across the entire brand in the first-generation model. The new car corrects that in suitably wow fashion.
There's the same 12.3-inch TFT digital driver gauge display that sees service in the Audi TT. Crisp, bright and able to present itself in various format including a display-width map with small rev counter and speedometer sitting on top, it is a real visual feast. MMI-plus means the most advanced connected version of Audi's infotainment system is standard – and can be controlled on the steering wheel or via the touch-push-swipe and click rotary controller and buttons on the centre tunnel. The entire system runs using Nvidia's T30 chip, which helps with speed and is impressively free of lag.
An Audi Connect module means the new R8 is well-connected too. The system allows a passenger to connect a tablet or phone to the car via Wi-Fi and surf the web. Audi's connected-car services are accessible through the digital gauge cluster, and the system uses 4G LTE for the speediest connectivity. On the options list is the 500W Bang & Olufsen sound system we mentioned in our earlier news piece, which sadly we didn't get the chance to try out at the show.
Just in case you're not board with the tech story yet, the R8 features Audi's next-generation steering wheel, which, like the Ferrari 488 features a number of driver-select features and new functions, which are accessed through buttons in the lower half of the wheel. Want to play racing driver? Well you now have a choice if you prefer to do it the German or the Italian way.
Chances are, if you go German you won't feel short changed, because the R8 V10 Plus (the orange car in our pictures) produces no less than 610 horsepower. In essence it's a Lamborghini Huracan in disguise, so it may not to surprise you to hear it can hit 62mph in a Ferrari-rivalling 3.2-seconds.
The engine's power is put to the road through Audi's familiar Quattro four-wheel drive system, and the whole car is structured around Audi's new ASF (Audi Space Frame) structure, which incorporates both composite materials such as carbon fibre, and lightweight metals such as aluminium. Pegging the weight to a little over 1400kg, or 50kg less than the first-gen R8.
You can have a lesser-powered V10 with just a mere 540 horsepower or a fully electric e-Tron version (the blue car in our pictures gallery), which is little slower than the V10 and will do a Tesla-rivalling 280-miles on one charge. There's also a race-series R8 LMS version, and following later in the year, expect the lower powered, cheaper, lighter V8 version to make its debut.
If the last car is anything to judge by, the new R8 should be great to drive, simultaneously worry both Porsche and Ferrari with its blend of usability and power, and will be as easy to live with as a supercar gets.
The Audi R8 goes on sale this summer, with the 540bhp V10 coming in from £119,500, a figure which rises to £137,500 for the 610bhp V10 Plus. We just wish it didn't look like a slightly backward step compared to the first. But big credit to Audi for the integration of new technology, though, which is now industry leading.