Supercar performance yet so simple to drive
- Seriously fast
- Involving handling
- Everyday usability
- Fantastic noise
- Beautiful cabin
- All-wheel drive
- Rivals look more exciting
- Passenger-side cabin dull
- Not much luggage room
When the Audi R8 Coupe was launched back in 2007 it quickly became known as the user-friendly supercar. It was fast, reliable and easy to drive. While this new model might not look massively different, the reality is that it represents a gigantic step forwards without forgetting the core attributes that made the last version so popular.
It’s a good job too, because to win five stars in a sector including some true icons such as the Porsche 911 Turbo, Jaguar F-Type R and Mercedes-AMG GT, resting on laurels simply isn’t going to cut it.
That improvement is because the new R8 has been built first and foremost with racing in mind. In fact, the R8 LMS had already won some world-class GT3 events by the time any reviewer had driven the new road car, which goes to show the firm is as serious about this car competing on track as it is about winning scalps in the office car park.
The racing version of the R8 shares over half of its components with the road-going version.
Based on an entirely new platform shared with the Lamborghini Huracan, the chassis is constructed from an aluminium and carbon fibre-reinforced polymer blend which means it’s incredibly strong but also very light. The skin of the car is aluminium too, which further reduces weight, and the result is a car which is 50kg lighter than its predecessor.
One V10 engine, two power outputs
It’s powered exclusively (for now) by a high-revving monster of a V10, available in two power outputs. You’ve got the ‘regular V10’, which makes 533bhp and features a slightly softer character with longer gears for better cruising ability.
Then there’s the bonkers R8 V10 Plus; which is a stiffer, faster and altogether more interesting car. Its headline performance figures include 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 205mph.
You can tell the difference easily – Plus models get a large fixed carbon-fibre rear spoiler, while normal R8s have a hidden one which rises electronically at 74mph, or when a button is pushed in the cabin.
Buying a Plus also nets you ceramic brakes as standard and a Performance Mode button on the steering wheel, which unlocks the most impressive traits in the R8 – pick between snow, wet and dry and you’ll have the best the car can offer for each situation.
It’s an addictive thing in all, but ‘dry performance’ setting on a dry road or race track turns this Audi into a machine capable of covering ground quicker and more engagingly than nearly any other car we can think of.
Both cars use slightly different gearing encased in the firm’s seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox, while power is metered out unbelievably quickly and accurately via quattro all-wheel drive.
Find out how this all comes together in the Performance and Handling parts of this review below.
But the R8’s talents don’t stop there. Its cabin is beautifully designed for driving. The firm’s new ‘virtual cockpit’ is a key part of this, taking away the requirement for screens and controls around the cabin. Instead it’s all concentrated on the dash, which means the driver has to spend less time looking away from the road.
The Parkers Verdict
We were also surprised with just how comfortable the R8 can be. The cars we tried upon launch in Portugal were equipped with Magnetic Ride, which enables the suspension to change almost instantaneously from supple and absorbing to stiff and engaging, and further testing in the UK has only built upon that conclusion.