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IMAGES COURTESY AUDI OF AMERICA

With 610 horses under its hood, Audi’s R8 V10 Plus puts the super in supercar.

For many, the audi brand signifies both cars and increasingly suvs. but least you forget, audi has two lines of sports cars, including the exotic and super powerful R8. The smaller and less powerful TT starts at about $45,000. But for those who wish a unique look with super power, the R8, in either a coupe or convertible form, fits that need.

Recently, Audi reshaped the exterior of R8 with some revisions in the grille and other areas, but the overall look remains. No question the standard Audi grille appearance is present on the low body, and the unique side scoops highlight the overall design. And looking over the back end, the sweeping back glass lets you look directly into the engine in its compartment. A fairly large spoiler on the rear deck rounds out the look.

Interestingly, there are two power-plant choices neither of which could be described as lacking in power. The standard unit is a 5.2-liter V10, producing 540 horsepower. Not enough you say? So how about the optional “plus” model that produces 610 horsepower from the same size engine. In either case, a seven speed dual-clutch automatic transmission handles the gear changes. In our test car, the plus version, acceleration is outstanding with a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds and a top track speed of 205 mph. And when the engine is started, a deep throaty exhaust note is heard, adding to the thrill of the ride. On the move, the exhaust sound level can be changed with a push of a button on the steering wheel. A very hefty ceramic brake system handles all the stops.

As one would hope and expect with its huge 19-inch wheels and a racing-derived chassis and suspension, handling is first rate on all fronts. Corners can be taken at a lightning pace without fear. The steering is as direct and quick as they come. And now, there are multiple ways to handle the gear changes. The automatic version can be manually shifted with the paddles behind the steering wheel or with the gear lever in the center of the console. Added to that is a button on the steering wheel which can be pushed to alter the automatic shift pattern from performance to dynamic. Likewise, the ride and other dynamics can be manipulated with another push of a button whether you choose Comfort, Auto, Dynamic or Individual modes.

A leather-lined interior with an interesting checkered pattern with the stitching showing greets the two occupants. And hefty bolstering is all around both front seats. Large dials handle the automatic climate system. Unlike nearly every vehicle these days, there is no video screen in the center of the dash. Instead, Audi has installed a 12.3-inch color display in the dash pod. With multiple buttons and dials on the steering wheel and the center console, everything from navigation map to performance statistics (power and torque), to the speedometer and the tachometer size, to audio features, and basic data can be shown in various configurations.

With a base price at $165,000, the R8 gives a lot performance in a thoughtfully designed sports car. And with the “plus” option, there is certainly another plus to the performance spin.