The second-generation Audi R8 Coupé is a truly special car. Totally redesigned from the ground up and sitting at the pinnacle of Audi’s impressive sports car range, this four-wheel drive supercar has to be driven to be believed.
If you’ve ever seen an R8 coming down the road towards you, you know it means business. Squat, aggressive and yet impressively lightweight, it looks every inch the TT’s more intimidating big brother.
There are two options: R8 and R8 Plus, and it is easy to tell them apart – just check the colour of the side-blades behind the doors. The R8 Plus boasts lots of details in a carbon fibre-like material, like the large fixed rear spoiler and the side-blades too. The stealthier standard R8 has a retractable spoiler that automatically deploys at high speeds to improve the car’s stability.
On a more practical level, Audi’s Parking System Plus is fitted at both the front and rear, making it easier to judge where the corners are (and protect your glossy metallic paintwork) when parking.
A racecar-inspired flat-bottomed steering wheel greets you as you step inside. It’s not just for show – it’s a multifunction wheel with which you can control the car’s driving characteristics.
The rest of the cabin is beautifully crafted and minimalist in design: Audi want you to focus on the road and enjoy the driving experience. The supportive seats are extremely comfortable, and bucket seats that really hold you in place (standard on the Plus) will make it even easier to enjoy the drive.
The engine is mounted from the middle of the car backwards so there’s no boot as such, but that does leave space under the bonnet free to store a couple of weekend bags when it’s time for a change of scenery.
Prod the throttle pedal and the 5.2-litre V10 engine propels you forward with ferocious power – 533bhp in the standard trim, or 602bhp if you opt for the range-topping Plus version. Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive system will help you transfer the immense torque to the road, varying the power it sends to each wheel based on how much grip is available.
A Start-Stop system, F1-inspired energy recovery and cylinder-on-demand technologies –where the engine can switch from ten to five cylinders to save fuel – combine to ensure it won’t guzzle fuel the way you might expect, either.
Audi drive select means you can also alter the driving manners of the R8 to suit the occasion, subtly changing the throttle and steering responses, while appropriately sporty suspension is fitted as standard.
The new R8 features the impressive Audi Virtual Cockpit, which replaces the traditional analogue dials with a giant 12.3-inch TFT panel that displays everything from speed and revs to instructions from the satellite navigation.
Much can be controlled by Audi’s intuitive and easy-to-use MMI system that sits between the seats, including the impressive standard-fit audio equipment. Everything is set up to connect your R8 to your Bluetooth®-enabled smartphone to ensure the ultimate soundtrack is always on hand.
Tyre pressure indicators will let you know if there’s a drop in pressure, warning you to drive for the conditions and ensure your safety. Lots of airbags are on hand to protect you in the event of a collision, while Anti-Slip Regulation, Electronic Differential Lock and Electronic Stabilisation Control work to ensure that should never happen.
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The R8 V10 RWS is a rear-wheel-drive version of Audi’s range-topping supercar. Jack Evans finds out if the change in drive is a good thing
For as long as we can remember, Audi sports cars have been synonymous with four-wheel-drive. Quattro – the system created by Audi to achieve the best possible traction – has featured in pretty much every high-end performance vehicle it has created, save for this – the R8 RWS.
Those additional letters RWS – or Rear Wheel Series – show that this isn’t any normal R8, but rather one which sends power to just the rear wheels, rather than traditional four. It should, therefore, be one of the more driver-focused versions available, so we headed out on to our favourite back roads to find out.
Quite a lot of the RWS’ components are tried-and-tested in the ‘regular’ R8. For instance, it’s got the same, sonorous naturally-aspirated 5.2-litre V10 and the same seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The RWS does without adjustable dampers, and sits on standard springs too.
The biggest change is, of course, the lack of all-wheel-drive. The RWS does without the propshaft and centre differential – among other components – and this makes it 40 kilograms than the regular coupe. Just 999 examples are heading out worldwide – in either coupe or convertible body styles.
Sat in the middle of the RWS is the beautiful 5.2-litre V10 engine that you’ll find in all R8 cars. It’s one of the best powertrains available in a car on sale today – and is one of the last naturally-aspirated ones too.
Its overall power output of 532bhp is impressive, as is its 539Nm of torque. However, it’s more than just figures – the way this engine sounds is like nothing else. Economy figures are as expected – Audi claims that the RWS will return 22.8mpg on the combined cycle, while emitting a chunky 283g/km CO2.
The regular R8’s driving experience is dominated by the all-wheel-drive system. It provides security, and the ability to plant the throttle with little worry in all manner of conditions. You may think that the RWS would be the opposite of this, what with all 532bhp being directed at just the rear wheels.
However, that’s not the case.
There’s still plenty of grip to be found – even in the wet – and the R8’s handling remains predictable and, as is the case with Audi’s halo vehicle, actually quite driver-friendly. It never feels sharp or ready to snap, and instead gives you the confidence to carry more speed through the bends without fear of it pirouetting around you like a bear on roller skates.
The RWS, in our eyes, is one of the prettiest versions of the R8 yet – and it’s because it’s so back-to-basics. For instance, you won’t find a huge rear wing at the rear like you do on the Plus versions, while alloy wheels in a design exclusive to the series really do look the part.
It does get some model-specific touches too, with a red Audi Sport decal running the length of the car available as an optional extra. The vast majority of exterior components are finished in gloss black too, including the grille and upper side blades – and on our all-black test car, the effect was overall quite stealthy. It’s a handsome-looking car, and one which is all the better for not being too out-there.
The interior of the RWS is much like any other R8’s – but that’s no bad thing. It feels incredibly well finished, with plenty of metal trim helping to brighten up the otherwise quite dark cabin. The sports seats provide plenty of support, and there’s plenty of adjustment to be found too – meaning you can get your driving position spot-on.
There is one extra touch to make the limited-edition RWS feel a little more special. A numbered plaque sits on the dash section in front of the passenger, showcasing which number car it is. Could there be a couple more extra features on the RWS? Perhaps. But everything that is there is well made and good-looking.
The RWS is actually the cheapest R8 in the range, but as you’d expect with any supercar, there’s a vast wealth of technology on board. You get Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit infotainment system, as well as a high-definition sound system. Cruise control and front and rear parking sensors come as standard too, though you would expect that.
Prices for the RWS start at £107,315, though our car – fitted with extras such as a sports exhaust system, contrast stitching and 20-inch forged alloy wheels came in at a hefty £124,250. That said, the Performance version R8 starts at £149,545, so the RWS still represents a bit of a bargain – sort of. It’s surprising that Audi didn’t choose to charge more for the RWS given its limited nature, but that’s what makes it an even more appealing prospect.
The RWS builds on an excellent platform, and takes things just a little further. It’s lighter, and therefore a little more agile than the standard R8, while the components which matter have remained unchanged. The engine is still a triumph, the gearbox still shifts crisply and the interior is still hugely well-made. Chuck into this the RWS’ lower list price, and it makes for a compelling package – and one which will make you grin from ear to ear each time you get behind the wheel.
The New Audi R8 model is faster, sharper and more defined. The updated version features a number of performance and styling updates including the uprated 570PS in the 'standard' R8 Coupé and Spyder V10 quattro, increased to 620PS in the top V10 Performance versions. The R8 roar is unmistakable. The New Audi R8 is expected in mid-late 2019 and pricing will be announced soon.
Aesthetically, the new R8's upgrades are subtle yet impactful. The front splitter and singleframe radiator accentuate the front of the R8 while thick air inlet bars and slits in the hood nod to the iconic Audi Ur-quattro brand. Suspension modifications don't compromise on your comfort and a number of new colour and stitching options give you the opportunity to make the new R8, your new R8.
We’ll start with the visual. In keeping with Audi’s recent more-is-more approach to front grille design, the R8’s gaping maw has been made even wider and given the ‘Singleframe’ treatment. That’s had the effect of slimming the headlights and pushing them out to the very extremities of the car, but it works really well on the low-slung, aggressive R8. At the rear there’s a new full-width grille echoing that of the LMS racer.
Under the hood, the naturally-aspirated V10’s been given a tune-up and now produces 562bhp in its base form – an impressive 29bhp more than previously. The Performance model – previously known as ‘Plus’ also gets a boost of 10bhp to a hefty 612bhp.
What’s under the bonnet?
Five-cylinder engines – and their derivatives, like this V10 – have long been Audi’s forte, and so it’s no surprise that even a short spin around track is enough to know that it’s a sublime unit. The 5.2-litre unit is an increasing rarity as it’s naturally aspirated – that means no turbocharger or supercharger.
There are two advantages of this. The first is throttle response, which is totally instantaneous, and the second is noise. Put simply, this car sounds utterly glorious – and it only gets better as the revs build to their 8,700rpm redline. And, since maximum power doesn’t arrive until 8,000rpm, you’ll spend plenty of time up where the engine sounds its best.
With more than 560bhp on tap regardless of which model you go for, it’s no surprise that the R8 is a fiercely quick car – helped by quattro four-wheel drive, which aids in speed from a standstill. Coupe versions will do 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds, and go on to an impressive 201.3mph top speed.
The engine’s paired to a seven-speed S tronic gearbox, which shifts cogs so quickly that you won’t miss having a manual gearbox. That’s the case for track use, certainly, where you can carry so much speed that you’ll want both hands on the wheel for as much time as possible.
And, not that it matters to most supercar buyers, but the V10 is also cleaner than before. It now comes with cylinder-on-demand technology, which can shut down a whole bank of cylinders for increased efficiency, as well as a particulate filter to curb air pollution.
What’s it like to drive?
It’s difficult to comment on aspects such as ride comfort and low-speed agility, as we spent most of our time at Ascari giving the R8 as many beans as we dared. The R8 takes a very Teutonic approach to being a supercar – with handling that lacks the drama of some of its rivals, but makes up for it by being supremely secure and accurate.
It takes a great deal of effort to unsettle this car, and the quattro four-wheel drive system does a superb job of keeping the car secure through fast corners. The steering isn’t as direct and darty as a Porsche 911’s, but it’s still well weighted and very accurate. It’s been retuned since the last model, and Audi says that response and feedback have been improved – both in the standard rack and in the optional ‘dynamic’ system.
Switch off the traction control totally and the R8 can shuffle all of its power to the rear wheels, so if you want to get the car sideways there’s still that option. But it’s the four-wheel drive which makes this such a good all-weather supercar, and one that’s particularly easy to drive quickly.
How does it look?
The overall shape is identical to that of its predecessor, so don’t expect the new R8 to be wildly different. The devil’s in the detail, where existing styling features have been amped up and refined.
As mentioned, the front is dominated by the latest ‘Singleframe’ grille with a black honeycomb design. Also tweaked are the front bumper, spoiler and air intakes, while the lights have also been smoked.
Round the rear, there are new oval exhaust pipes which are particularly prominent in their contrasting surrounds. There’s also a full-width rear grille, the effect of which is spoiled somewhat by the number plate in the centre. LED rear lights match those on the front.
It’s easy to dismiss the R8 as lacking drama next to rivals from McLaren or in-house running mate Lamborghini, but that’s doing it a disservice – look at it with fresh eyes and the aggressive anger of this car is really rather appealing.
What’s it like inside?
Interior fittings are typically Audi, though we weren’t paying too much attention to the beautifully knurled climate controls or the MMI plus infotainment system. It’s good to note, though, that entry and exit is superbly easy for this class of car thanks to a wide door opening and sports seats which don’t hug you quite as aggressively as others.
Audi’s Virtual Cockpit dashboard is in full deployment in this car and, as with the smaller TT, it’s the only screen you’ll find in the interior. It can be controlled either through the steering wheel or through the rotary controller on the centre console.
Of more importance to us was the crystal-clear display itself, which in sport mode shows a big, digital speedometer and lightning-fast rev counter, plus a readout of gear ratio. All you need, presented well.
From this early drive the Audi R8 certainly appears to deserve the entry-level supercar crown. Those with more money to spend certainly can, but you don’t need to – this provides all the supercar thrills you could want. We’ll wait to get it out on public roads before we give our verdict on how easy it is to live with every day, but early impressions are really very good indeed.
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