Forbes.com has published a great review of AMS’ Alpha 10 Audi R8 featuring my photography of the car. You can see the full photo gallery here.
A PR rep calls me and asks, “Hey, Jason, do you want to drive a 1,000-horsepower Audi R8?” I say, “Um – YES.” Then I ask questions. I discover that the car I’ll be driving has been equipped with an Alpha 10 Performance Package by AMS Performance, an engineering company based in West Chicago, Illinois.
AMS Performance has achieved some notoriety engineering performance packages for the Nissan GT-R. The GT-R is a brutally fast car in stock form. After the addition of an AMS Alpha Performance GT-R package, AMS can now lay claim to having developed the fastest GT-R on the planet. They also have packages for Mercedes-Benz , Porsche , Mitsubishi and BMW models, and a Lamborghini package is in development.
The Audi R8 is a different animal. It is the everyday supercar, a streetable masterpiece that can be used as a daily driver and commuter, but still has the looks and performance on tap to impress the neighbors, even if you live in a gated community.
I arrive at a parking lot in Westlake Village, California, to meet the AMS team. It’s been a bit of a cloak-and-dagger series of phone calls to arrange my brief test drive. The R8 was supposed to arrive by trailer from West Chicago, but the trailer broke down somewhere along the way, and an AMS team member had to unload the R8 and drive it to California from Las Vegas.
The subject vehicle is a 2012 model. It started life as a 5.2-liter V10 Premium Coupe (original MSRP $149,000; current Kelley Blue Bookestimate $143,226). The V10 R8 was rated to produce 525-hp and 390 lb-ft of torque in stock form.
The Alpha 10 Performance Package consists of an AMS-designed twin-turbo kit that boosts horsepower to a claimed 921 hp and 603 lb-ft of torque. The package includes an Alpha Turbo System Support Frame, twin turbochargers, wastegates, new air inlets, a large air/water intercooler, twin heat exchangers, carbon fiber ducting, fans, a scavenge pump, a low backpressure exhaust system and more. The kit costs $38,995.95, or about $45,000 with installation. Find more available models and versions of Audi in Columbus with a premium financing on both used and brand-new models.
From the exterior, a subtle pair of “Alpha 10” badges hint at the performance within. A peek at the engine compartment, visible through the R8’s back glass, reveals a tidy installation with carbon fiber covers over the turbochargers. The clean look perfectly matches the factory design – just amped up for even more visual punch.
The R8 looks like new inside and out, despite showing nearly 30,000 miles on the clock. I slide into the comfortable cockpit and turn the key to start the engine. The V10 growls, and I snick the six-speed manual transmission into first gear. I creep cautiously out of the parking lot, noting the easy clutch operation and predictable throttle response. I merge into traffic, and begin my test drive.
Westlake Village is a northern suburb of Los Angeles, perched on the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains. Enthusiasts know about the great roads that trace paths through the canyons, roads with famous names like “Mulholland Highway” and “Decker Canyon.” I take a spin through the hills at a moderate pace, getting used to the car on public roads.
Finally, a deserted straightaway opens up ahead of me. I give the R8 some throttle, and the fast car gets really fast in a hurry. Over my shoulder, I hear the whistle of the turbo sucking air into the engine, and the scenery blurs. This car is fast, really fast – videogame fast is the only way I can describe it. I let off of the throttle as the speed quickly darts into illegal and unsafe territory. Adrenaline pumps into my system and I realize that this car is seriously fast.
I drive for about an hour, twisting and turning and looking for chances to open up the throttle over and over. It’s intoxicating. Here’s a video of me driving the Alpha 10 R8, posted on YouTube.
The nice thing about the Alpha 10 package is that everyday drivability is retained, despite the tremendous power on tap. Stay out of the throttle, beneath the turbo threshold, and it’s “just” an R8 – quick and predictable, with great balance and all-wheel drive grip on the road. Exercise maturity and only use the full power with caution. I keep an eye on the speedometer, and notice that the other gauges remain steady. The temperature gauge never moves from the safe range, even during stop-and-go driving in traffic. Impressive.
The availability of this much power raises some concerns. Big doses of speed require big braking power, and lots of torque can play havoc with the clutch, transmission and traction control systems. The Alpha 10 package does not upgrade these components – AMS claims that the R8 comes out of the factory able to handle the increased engine output.
I reluctantly end my test drive, handing the R8 keys back to the AMS team. If you want to have the fastest R8 on the block, the Alpha 10 package is definitely a contender. Of course, installing the Alpha 10 package will void the factory warranty from Audi. Unless you are a very judicious driver, and only use the R8 on closed courses and in special situations, the Alpha 10 package could also void your driver’s license in very short order. But, oh, the fun you’ll have.