As the aircraft banked steeply before coming in to land, I caught a glimpse of a dozen beautifully-sculpted aerodynamic pieces of metal lined up a short distance from the runway.

But the eye-catching speed demons below were not planes poised for takeoff, but metaphoric 'flying machines' of the 610bhp supercar variety.

And so it was that UK motoring journalists were first introduced to Audi's most powerful and fastest ever road-going car on the airport apron at Le Castellet, in the south of France.

The varied test route, with twists and turns interwoven with lengthy straights, provided the perfect chance to put the all-new R8 through its paces.

Thrilling, phenomenal, stunning. Any of these words could describe the acceleration capabilities of the 5.2-litre V10 engine, as it propels the vehicle from 0-62mph in a mere 3.2 seconds.

Indeed, the R8 conjures up an onslaught of g-forces and addictive howling.

While the high-revving Audi may be a bit of an animal, it is by no means a wild creature - rather a fully-controlled thoroughbred. This strong sense of control comes from the improved traction courtesy of the newly-developed quattro drivertrain.

See video of Audi R8

Exceptional grip through corners means the power and torque is matched in equal measure by great balance. Even when a heavy downpour created tricky driving conditions, the car's handling capabilities meant the slippery road hardly affected cornering speed.

The first generation R8 was a success in its own right, so it was hard to imagine how Audi might improve on such an offering. But the second incarnation has an even sharper focus on performance and driving dynamics.

Wharfedale Observer:

The basic format is unchanged, namely a two-seater coupe with a mid-mounted engine. In many ways, the R8 has supercar attributes but could be used in everyday situations - although you probably wouldn't fit too many bags of shopping in the storage space under the bonnet on your way back from the supermarket.

Its blistering performance is derived directly from the race machines with which Audi has dominated the Le Mans 24hrs for almost two decades.

The R8 V10 and V10 plus were unveiled at the same time as the R8 LMS GT3 racing car - a first in Audi history. The cars were developed simultaneously and share around half of their components.

Wharfedale Observer:

The car looks superb, with a low and wide stance, and is built almost exclusively by hand in Germany.

The driver has the option of several driving modes, with the car capable of providing a very quiet ride until you select the 'Dynamic' option, at which point the smoothness gives way to a more vigorous nature.

In this mode, the R8 will select the seven speeds of the S tronic dual-clutch transmission, and will blip the throttle as it downshifts as you slow for a corner. The S tronic ’box has been improved to quicken the shift times, and Audi claims there’s now next to no torque-drop between changes.

As you let off the power, the exhaust lets out a terrific-sounding pop. If you press the sports exhaust button, it opens up all four tailpipes and lets out a pure noise.

Another signature feature is the LED headlights, with optional laser spots that further extend the field of vision.

Most visitors who partake in a pleasure drive through rural Provence come away smiling but, back at the hotel, it was clear the assembled motoring experts were not grinning due to their liking of French scenery - more the superb car that had taken them through it.

A special guest joined us for the evening meal as Audi pulled out all the stops to make the launch of such a prestigious car memorable.

Wharfedale Observer:

Arriving fresh from the Shanghai World Endurance Championship race, was the UK-based Audi Sport racing driver, Oliver Jarvis - a great character who was happy to share his knowledge and passion for motorsport with anyone who wanted a chat. 

And it was hard not to agree with Mr Jarvis's assessment that most who are lucky enough to drive the R8 will come away feeling fulfilled and contented.

The lowdown 

Audi R8 V10 Plus

Price £134,500;

Engine V10, 5204cc, petrol;

Power 610bhp at 8250rpm;

Torque 413lb ft at 6500rpm;

Gearbox seven-speed dual-clutch automatic;

Top speed 205mph; 0-62mph3.2sec;

Economy 23.0mpg (combined);

CO2/tax band 287g/km, 37%