Text by Cheryl Tay
Photos by Adrian Wong
Falling in love with the Audi R8 is as easy as snapping my fingers, but for some, getting the opportunity to drive it is as hard as winning the lottery. I had the absolute privilege to occupy the most desired space in the R8 – behind the wheel in the driver’s seat – not once, not twice but five times.
My first four experiences with the R8 were with the stock R8: once on the streets of Singapore, followed by three different occasions at the Audi Sportscar Experience held at the Sepang International Circuit under the guidance of professional Audi Driving Experience instructors with controlled pace and no overtaking.
Just when I thought I might never get the chance to drive an R8 again, I was given the opportunity to drive it recently. This time, it was a modified one – the ABT R8 Project Car by Autovox – and I have to say it was an entirely new experience altogether.
Autovox felt that directly increasing power by supercharging would cause a decline in drivability of the car, hence they left the engine stock with no internal engine modifications, but went all out on improving the dynamics of the car instead.
As the sole importer for ABT Sportsline – amongst other brands – in Singapore, Autovox sent the R8 for a complete ABT makeover with the lightweight carbon fibre aerodynamic package that includes its front bumper, side skirts, side blades, rear wing and rear bumper.
Within the cabin is sleek black and red Alcantara with nappa leather interior that also helps to lighten the car some as Alcantara is lighter than standard leather. The weight reduction exercise extends to its wheels as well, with the ABT superlight forged wheel package of CR Superlight wheels (9 X 19 front and 11 X 19 rear) framed with rubbers in the form of Continental CSC 5 tyres (235/35/19 front and 305/30/19 rear).
Having lowered the car to suit its aggressive stance, a KW Variant 3 hydraulic height lifting suspension kit (KW V3 plus HLS) was fitted to ensure that the car can cope with high-speed humps. Three-way adjustable (height, rebound and compression) combined with a four-wheel height-lifting ability, this lifts the car about 40mm for better ground clearance.
Other things done to the car includes a Pipercross sports air filter system for the 4.2-litre V8 block and the Xcelerate e-throttle enhancer that aids the responsiveness of the gas pedal with two modes and improves acceleration. In addition, the car was originally white but was given a Sikkens custom-colour water-based car paint job to make it the gun-metal grey that you see here.
Having successfully shed 30kgs, Autovox decided that looking good is not enough and sounding good is equally important. Having a solid accompanying soundtrack is essential for a car of such brilliant performance. If you think the growl of the standard R8 is pretty addictive, then you will be hooked for life on the ABT R8’s enhanced aural notes produced by the German handmade Capristo stainless steel high-airflow exhaust system with valve control that improves the breathability of the car while giving the most sensational growl.
The sweet thing about this valve control is the radio wave remote control which switches the car between standard sound (in case you don’t want to wake the neighbours up) and the growling notes when you want to make your presence known on the roads.
Having driven both the stock R8 V10 coupe and V10 Spyder, I must say this drive with the ABT R8 V8 was the most dynamic of all. Driving quite differently with sharper agility and enhanced perkiness, the ABT R8 felt like it was ready to pounce any moment, hungry to unleash all its horses beneath the bonnet.
With more power and less weight, my right foot was itching to explore the maximum potential of the ABT R8 but the limitations of Singapore’s traffic regulations and the risk of losing my licence prevented me from doing so. In comparison, the stock R8s felt tamer, where the horses were ready to jump but not quite as aggressive as the ones in the ABT R8. Being closer to the ground, corners could be taken tighter and steering was more responsive too. If only I could take this to the track.
In spite of all its ferocity and aggression, one thing about the R8 is how it has this soft touch to it that appeal to the ladies. It rises up to the occasion when needed to be as manly as it can be with all its might and power, but it can also succumb in the hands of the ladies, behaving in the way we want it to and driving as we tell it to.
Revisiting a love affair five times is not the best way to do things, but that is the only way I can maintain my relationship with the R8, unless I really strike the lottery and turn this love affair to a permanent lifetime partnership. The good-looking R8 is already capable of winning hearts fast and furiously, but the ABT R8 just created a heartbreaker out of it, especially when I had to say goodbye.
To quote Autovox, this is “the new way of improving the overall performance of the car, not just by directly increasing power by turbo- or supercharging, but by enhancing its aesthetics and drivability”. Autovox specialises in European aftermarket tuning and also collaborated with ABT Sportline GmbH to open an ABT showroom in Singapore.
For more photos of this awesome ABT R8, view here.
*This was first published in Autogridz magazine: