THE first generation Audi R8, launched to universal acclaim in 2007, blew my mind. Now its sensational successor is here, and it has blown me away.

This is the sort of car that turns mature motoring journalists into children craving a new must-have toy, an achingly beautiful piece of auto design.

Audi returned to Le Castellet in southern France - venue for the media launch of the original R8 - to introduce the UK motoring press to the new version.

The sight of 20 new R8s in bodywork colours ranging from grey to blue to red and yellow was like throwing raw meat to a pack of salivating dogs. There was much throttle-blipping as the air filled with the sounding of barking engines.

The R8 started out in life with the magnificent 430PS 4.2 V8 from the RS 4 before gaining V10 and V10 plus choices. Now it has only a choice of more powerful 610PS or 540PS V10 engines that take it to another level. That same higher output V10 - named V10 plus - can be found in the Lamborghini Hurracan.

There's no V8 any more, and both new engines are linked to superb seven-speed S-tronic transmission that flicks through the gears virtually undetected.

You might recall how the original R8 burst on to the motoring scene looking like a flattened, sportier version of the TT. This new one is 50kg lighter, a tad flatter, a tiny bit wider and not quite so long.

More importantly, it's the fastest ever Audi road car, with V10 plus clocking a 0 to 62mph sprint time of 3.2 seconds, 0 to 124mph in 9.9 seconds and a top speed in excess of 200mph.

Despite the upgrade in performance, the R8 remains a car that any competent driver will enjoy and find quite easy to get to grips with.

There are virtually no traditional supercar drawbacks, although entering and exiting the driver's seat gets to be more challenging as I get older. The view from behind the wheel is fine, there's plenty of headroom, front and rear park assist and a decent amount of luggage space behind the two seats or under the bonnet.

Audi is keen to promote the V10 plus among its wealthy clientele. Its price tag of £134,500 compared with the £119,000 cost of the regular V10 version is unlikely to deter buyers in this segment.

Apart from the increase in power, the V10 plus becomes the first road-going Audi to be fitted with laser headlights for improved night vision and gets ceramic brakes, Audi's virtual cockpit instrumentation complete with 12.3-inch display, R8 bucket seats, a large fixed rear carbon spoiler.

The flat-bottomed steering wheel now features the start button and other buttons to change characteristics to deal with weather conditions or to alter throttle response, steering and engine sound. In addition, shift paddles present the opportunity to play with the gearing.

For the most part of my road test, the weather was appalling, a mix of torrential rain and gusting winds, so it was with some trepidation that I pulled out on to the French roads. Then my confidence built as I pushed the latest quattro system more and more into a series of bends. There's no other car of this ilk I would rather drive in these conditions.

Acceleration is breathtakingly quick, with the power arriving in wave after wave as the speed figure rises at an alarming rate. For the most part, the engine does this in a remarkably civilised manner, with its buzzsaw backing track and occasional explosions of sound. But you become aware that other drivers and pedestrians in the vicinity are getting an earful of R8.

The composed ride and luxurious driver-focused cabin make the R8 a great everyday car as well as a quite awesome performer. But with average fuel economy of 23mpg, despited the introduction of cylinder-on-demand technology, it will require more frequent trips to the fuel station.

Exclusivity is guaranteed. Only 30 R8s a day are built at a new production site in Germany. Be prepared for a four to five-month wait if you want one. You will have to wait longer for a soft-top version - the R8 Spyder is unlikely to be available until autumn next year.

You might also want to take advantage of Audi's offer to UK buyers of a complimentary driving experience at Silverstone. It will probably be the best driving lesson in world.