What is it?
The Audi R8 has long made a name for itself as the everyday supercar. When the first generation hit the streets in 2006, critics said it wasn’t special or exciting enough to rival the likes of Porsche, with its subtle styling and an interior arguably not far off a well-specced Audi hatchback.However, more than a decade of progress has proved that theory to be false. The R8 has an interior tall people can actually fit in, an ergonomically spot-on interior and surprisingly decent luggage space — but with more than 600bhp and a screaming V10 engine, it more than holds its own in the supercar segment.
With this not being an all-new model, just a mid-life refresh, there’s not a great deal new to report. Easily the most obvious change is to the styling, with the R8’s face given a fairly major overhaul. It’s clearly the same car, just with a sharper, more aggressive look. There’s also new nomenclature. We’re testing the V10 Performance Quattro model, which is the high-performance version formerly known as V10 Plus. Meanwhile the ‘entry level’ version is now called V10 Quattro. All variants are more powerful and faster than before, too
What’s under the bonnet?
There’s one engine available in two states of tune. It’s a 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10, which makes it something of a unicorn in the car industry – with emissions regulations forcing car manufacturers to turn to turbocharging, this is surely the last of its kind.
In V10 Quattro guise it makes 562bhp, but in this Performance model it makes a quite incredible 612bhp. Other important numbers of note are a torque figure of 580Nm, a 0-60mph sprint time of 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 206mph.
As for economy, it’s not going to win any eco awards, with the combined fuel usage at 22mpg and CO2 emissions of 297g/km. That being said, those numbers are mighty impressive for a car and engine of this type, helped by cylinders that shut down when not needed, coasting mode and a petrol particulate filter.
What’s it like to drive?
The Audi R8 is a true Jekyll and Hyde car, which is where it gets its reputation for being the everyday supercar. If you’re looking to do the boring stuff, like driving through commuter traffic or popping into town to buy some milk, it relaxes into an easy companion. The ride is a little harsh, but visibility is surprisingly good, and the slick gearbox shifts smoothly at any speed.
However, when the road opens up, the R8 comes alive. Audi Drive Select allows you to put the car in dynamic mode, which sharpens the car’s responses and gives you all of the power, all of the time. Couple that 612bhp with the Quattro all-wheel drive system and the result is the kind of acceleration that scares you, the numbers on the digital speedo becoming a blur as you’re pushed back into your seat.
It’s just as capable in the corners, with the fat tyres biting into the road and giving you full confidence in its ability to grip. Perhaps its only fault is that because of this, you’re always driving well within its capabilities on the road, making cornering a little underwhelming at times. That said, the onslaught on your senses that comes from the way this car accelerates more than makes up for it — and the noise is utterly glorious to boot.
How does it look?
This facelift has received a mixed reception — despite the relatively minor changes the R8’s character has been drastically altered. Gone are the soft, sophisticated edges of its predecessor — in is a new, angry face that leaves you under no illusions that this is a high-performance supercar that won’t take any prisoners.
The front end is lower, wider, and the edges more angular. The result is a car that looks like it’s truly hunkered to the road surface even at low speeds. The rear is a little less elegant, with the wide grille running the width of the car, but overall there’s still the same air of high quality and sophistication this model is known for.
What’s it like inside?
The R8’s interior is up there with the best. While those who’ve owned modern Audis will instantly feel at home, the supercar takes all the firm’s interior tropes and just does them better. The seats are exquisite and manage to be figure hugging without being restrictive, the digital cockpit ahead of you oozes class, and the simplified centre console gives a sense of a narrow focus that this car is really for the driver.
The materials used are all of the highest quality, too. Everything you touch feels expensive, even down to the solid click of buttons — there are a decent number of them, too, which is refreshing as touchscreens become the norm. While we praise the V10 as arguably the ultimate end-of-an-era engine, perhaps this interior, too, is one we’ll hold up as the standard-bearer for combining digital integration with physical buttons.
What’s the spec like?
The standard specification list is a meaty one. On the Performance this includes 20-inch alloy wheels, ceramic brakes, Nappa leather-upholstered bucket seats, a fixed rear spoiler, and gloss carbon inlays. There are various free paint options, though you can upgrade to crystal-effect blue or choose from a range of Audi Exclusive paint finishes. There are also Alcantara headlining options, red brake calipers. There’s even an espresso machine that fits in the cup holder.
The Audi R8 made a name for itself as the car that could do everything, and in its latest iteration, nothing has really changed. It’s a bit faster than before, a bit sharper to look at, and just as lovely inside. It’ll do your morning commute just as happily as it’ll carve up a scenic mountain pass.
The fact it’s sometimes a bit too easy to drive fast will put some off, but for many that’s where its appeal lies. And when it has all-weather performance that can terrify you every time you plant your right foot, few could let that put them off. This is a fantastic car, and the new car market will be a sadder — and quieter — place once this engine goes off sale. Enjoy it while you can…