906bhp Audi R8 V10 driven

906bhp Audi R8 V10 driven
906bhp Audi R8 V10 driven

Add £25k’s worth of turbo madness to an Audi R8 and the result is one of the biggest buzzes in road-legal motoring

Ever wonder what happened to the aftermarket tuning industry in the UK? Not so long ago, our streets pulsated with the heinous throb of maxed-out Imprezas and Evos, but most of those cars have long since been razzed to death on supermarket car parks of an evening.

More recently the Nissan GT-R has been on the receiving end of some fairly mad modding, indicating an upward shift in the disposable income of those looking for extra power. This would seem to be confirmed by what’s currently going on at RE Performance in Swindon, where Ricky Elder reckons expensive European supercars are set to become the next big thing in tuning.

“Over the last two years, I’ve really felt it change,” says th ex-Volkswagen Group technical specialist. “The GT-R has been the king of the UK tuning scene for a long time, but now we’re starting to see the rise of the supercar – Audi R8s, Lamborghinis, McLarens and even Ferraris.”

This trend is nothing new in the US, where according to Elder “companies like Dallas Performance and Underground take European supercars and turn them into the fastest cars in the world, some developing 2000bhp.

“Those cars are terrifying. In the UK, we’re terrified of voiding our warranties, so we don’t have a tuning scene like they do, but it’s getting there.”

As more Audi R8s, Lamborghini Gallardos and the like fall off the ends of their warranties, devil-may-care owners are chucking some money at tuners with a simple request: give me power. “Lots of guys are getting out of tuned GT-Rs, buying real supercars and finding them dog slow, because they’re used to 900bhp,” says Elder.

The Audi R8 is proving especially popular, it seems. Why? Well, for a start they’re not that rare or expensive, relatively speaking. An early V8 can be had for as little as £40,000 these days.

But for really daft power, twin-turbocharging a V10 R8 is the route of choice – and Elder is fast becoming the go-to guy for turbo upgrades to R8s and Gallardos. “Those engines will do 850bhp with just a twin-turbo kit and not much else – stock engine, clutch, gearbox and electronics,” he says. “You’re talking £25,000, plus the donor car. That’s hypercar performance for a tenth of the price.

“We’ve just built an R8 GT, which was a £70,000 bill. That had a rebuilt gearbox and engine with aftermarket rods and pistons, head work and so on. The owner wants 1400bhp so that’s what we’ve built the car to do.

“I think we’re going to get a big McLaren wave. I’m seeing more and more as they drift out of warranty. They’re very tunable because they’re already turbocharged. They are immensely fast and we can make them faster.

“We also did a Ferrari 488 GTB the other week. Ferrari ECUs are so easy to get into. You can tune them with an abacus and a bit of tin foil. The electronics aren’t protected like on other brands. Just give the ECU a tickle and all of a sudden you’ve got horsepower.”

 

The temptation to wonder why anyone would want to turbocharge a V10 R8 – one of the last non-turbo supercars – is quickly overcome by an insatiable curiosity about what it’s like to drive a 900bhp R8 V10. We’re about to have that curiosity satisfied, as Elder’s first-gen demo motor is ready to go.

“It’s got a stock engine, stock clutch, stock fuel system and so on,” says Elder. “It’s only running 0.4 bar of boost. I wanted to show what we can achieve with just a twin-turbo conversion and without having to spend another £50,000 on rebuilding the engine and transmission. Even so, the car is bloody intimidating!”

You’d have to agree with that summation if, like us, you found yourself driving it around the suburbs of Swindon. Apart from the outlandish hisses, whoops, whooshes and whumps as turbo pressure is built and released, this R8 is just as civilised as when it came out of the factory.

Until we get onto some clear private roads. After a few very ginger prods of the throttle pedal in a high gear so as not to lose one’s hair/lunch/pride exiting a roundabout, the decision is made to give it a full-throttle thrunge in second.

That exercise doesn’t last long. The surge is simply too intense not to lift off immediately and make it stop. Even in third gear, acceleration is not just loopy, but relentlessly so. Keeping your foot flat in second gear demands every last scrap of courage.

The rate of progress is actually uncomfortable. At these rates of acceleration you’re no longer certain about your brain’s ability to deal with anything unexpected. All you can do is put a death grip on the steering wheel and hope for a happy outcome.

We’ve driven a McLaren P1. This Audi feels faster.

The turbos begin boosting at 3000rpm. That gives you a 5000rpm window of operation to the 8500rpm red line. Boost is ever present, and the throttle response is excellent for an aftermarket turbo conversion. Having 5.2 litres and 10 cylinders helps, as does four-wheel drive. Traction is surprisingly good considering the outrageous amount of power on tap.

Best of all, though, Elder hasn’t masked the character of the V10 engine. Many modern turbo engines feel quite bland and breathless once the (usually quite low) peak power point has been passed, but this Audi delivers linear power while also encouraging a lunge towards the 8500rpm red line. It’s all underscored by a wailing scream from the exhaust, and the steam-shovel puffing of the turbos and blow-off valves.

As Elder says, it is intimidating – but it’s also wonderfully exciting. It’s hard to imagine how driving could be any more thrilling.

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