You already know the Audi R8 is a mighty supercar. Now saddle it with $40,000 worth of performance parts and you’ve got something else altogether: The Alpha 10. And it’s entirely too easy to terrorize the streets of Los Angeles—and yourself—in it.
The “Alpha 10” treatment is a tuning package from a company called AMS Performance, which has a huge catalog of power-adders for supercars like the R8 V10 FSI, Porsche 911 Turbo, Nissan GT-R, Mercedes AMG cars, BMWs and soon McLarens and Lamborghinis.
The entire equipment rundown is available on AMS’s website. But basically the company’s Audi loadout includes a unique pair of turbochargers, wastegates and blowoff valves, plus significant improvements to the engine’s cooling system and oil management along with, of course, a bigger exhaust system.
AMS is very proud of the fact that they’re able to achieve OEM-like fit and finish and retain the car’s factory air intake locations while increasing the car’s output and temperature management abilities significantly.
I can tell you that it sure does look pretty, and it better for the cost of $38,999.95. That’s not even considering that installation is extra.
But AMS guarantees “1058 bhp and over 750 ft-lbs of torque” on 100 octane gasoline, “or 925bhp/687 ft-lbs on 93 octane pump gas.” The kit’s not street legal in California, so the company hasn’t bothered to claim a 91 octane power rating.
But one of AMS’ test pilots decided to bring one of their Alpha 10 R8s over to my Los Angeles office anyway.
The quietly burbling shark of a car wouldn’t have stood out in nearby Beverly Hills, but on my block next to the condemned KFC and discount liquor store it looked like a landed spaceship. And people walking past it over bumps in the sidewalk were bugging out proportionately.
“Hey man is that a Lambo?!”
My enthusiastic neighbor could have been further off, since the R8 does indeed share a platform with the Gallardo, but I guess a little tint on the Audi rings went a long way to turning this thing into a “generic supercar.” Which, to everybody who doesn’t read Jalopnik everyday, is of course “a Lambo.”
Inside the R8 feels distinctly Audi– cold, cool and sharp. An in the case of the Alpha 10, no indication that you’re in a “tuner car.”
That factory-fresh vibe continues as you shove off. Clutch engagement is pronounced, steering is purposefully heavy and the gas pedal has enough resistance built into it to give you the sensation of speed even when you’re just holding the car off somebody’s back bumper.
Which, unfortunately is what the majority of my informal “road test” consisted of as we hacked through traffic on the 10 freeway and over to the Pacific Coast Highway.
The car was compliant over LA’s garbage road surfaces and certainly not difficult to drive, but holding it way below the speed limit to avoid rear-ending anybody did get pretty tedious.
“This car’s still good in the twisties of course,” AMS’ marketing guy riding shotgun said over a muted exhaust burble. “But I think the upgrades are best appreciated in a straight line.”
If that’s not a hint to hit it, I don’t know what is.
Having waded from the West Side of LA to Santa Monica between various speeds of 1 and 50 mph, I was feeling confident enough with the car’s clutch, steering and glorious gated shifter to drop a gear and release my tension through the Alpha 10’s exhaust cannons at the first break in traffic.
What does 900 horsepower really feel like?
As soon as I dropped the hammer, the good-advice giving angel on my right shoulder was pinned against the rear window while the devil on my left cackled and clung to my collar. My intestines felt somewhere else entirely as the car rotated the Earth and brought the horizon towards us way, way too quickly.
Acceleration was arrow-straight and intense. The back of the car was as solid as a stack of bricks, and the front wheels stuck themselves into the asphalt like a pair of skis through snow.
I slowed to what I thought was a reasonable pace. When I realized it wasn’t, I hit the brakes and waited for another traffic light to compose myself.
In about an hour of driving, we only got one fleeting moment of raging bliss. So, I’d call my Alpha 10 experience pretty typical of a Los Angeles supercar owner.
Frankly, I don’t think I’d be able to put too many miles on this car without running off the edge of a cliff, or into somebody. But the AMS R8 Alpha was certainly impressive. The whole kit was cleanly installed, audibly satisfying and felt downright dangerous in the wrong hands.
Now you can buy used V10 R8s for less than $100,000. So the real question has to be—is the Alpha 10 kit worth another $50,000 on top of that? For most, maybe not. But for those who can afford it, make sure you know a good traffic lawyer.