Parkers overall rating: 4.8 out of 5 4.8
  • V10 engine available in different outputs
  • Naturally aspirated for linear acceleration
  • Plus and Performance models are quickest

Audi R8 engines infographic

Unlike the previous generation model, there’s just the one engine size on offer with the Audi R8 Coupé, albeit in different power outputs depending upon the version and its age.

At its heart is a 5.2-litre V10 petrol powerplant which goes without the turbocharging or supercharging assistance many rivals use to boost performance and efficiency. This means a pin-sharp throttle response and a pure, unadulterated engine note.

It also features cylinder-on-demand technology, which allows it to shut-down five of the ten cylinders when not required, saving fuel and lowering CO2 output. It also means this isn’t a difficult car to drive slowly through town. Its gentle application of throttle and high-revving nature put pay to any preconceptions of a razor-sharp, bone-jarring experience.

Audi R8 Coupe front three-quarter dynamic

Both are coupled with Audi’s seven-speed twin-clutch S Tronic automatic gearbox, with the less powerful ones featuring a longer seventh gear for better cruising and fuel economy, with much closer gear ratios for sportier driving for punchier R8s.

You’re able to tweak the R8’s performance characteristics through the Drive Select system, which alters throttle response, engine sound and gear-change ferocity between Sport and Comfort. There’s also the facility to configure your own Individual setting.

Audi R8 V10 Coupe and R8 V10 Rear Wheel Series performance

With its maximum power rated at 540hp (until the 2019 facelift when it was elevated to 570hp) available at a heady 8,250rpm, it will rev-on to a maximum of 8,700rpm, which makes it the highest-revving engine in its class. Its maximum torque figure is 540Nm, which is available relatively high in the rev range at 6,500rpm. Be under no illusions here - you're encouraged to press-on with an R8.

Those figures enable a sprint from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 198mph. Due to it having inferior traction, the R8 Rear Wheel Series posts a 3.7-second 0-62mph time, but reaches the same top speed as its Quattro sibling.

Audi R8 Coupe engine bay

This configuration is best for cruising rather than outright performance, within the super car genre, at least. It feels best driven at eight-tenths, because if you wind it up further you’ll find the gearbox can occasionally struggle to find the right gear, ultimately slowing you down again.

The power deficit is most noticeable at higher revs, where the Plus model sings and the regular R8 isn’t quite so sonorous. That isn’t to say this is a slow car, though. The figures prove it isn’t, and we can’t imagine many buyers feeling hard done-by whichever model you pick.

Audi R8 V10 Plus Coupe performance

With power ramped up to 610hp and torque at 560Nm (both achieved at the same rpm as the standard engine), the R8 V10 Plus manages the same 0-62mph dash in 3.2 seconds and its top speed is 205mph.

In this configuration the R8 is an absolute monster. It has huge amounts of power and will pull from almost any rpm in any gear. Just when you think you’re going to run out of revs, it gets even more exciting past 7,000rpm as you approach the redline.

Audi R8 Coupe rear dynamic

It sounds fantastic too – especially in the sportier settings on Drive Select. Plus models get a special additional button on the steering wheel which puts the car into Performance Mode, further amplifying the impression that this is a genuine supercar. You can pick between optimum performance settings for snow, wet or dry conditions. In the dry in this mode the R8 is spectacular, accelerating savagely through the gears with an accompanying urgency from the exhaust. Lifting off the throttle provokes pops and bangs which are incredibly loud from outside the car

There’s a launch control function installed, and it’s one of the easiest systems of its type to operate. Simply select Performance Dry mode and at a standstill, hold your left foot on the brake and plant your right foot firmly on the throttle as far as you can. The engine’s revs will rise to the optimum level for the quickest getaway, and when you let your foot off the brake the R8 fires towards the distance with unbelievable acceleration. This is where the car feels its fastest – all four wheels seem to dig into the tarmac as the quattro meters power out accordingly, the rear of the car squats and then it rockets away. You won’t lose many races in the traffic light grand prix.

Audi R8 Coupe 2019 facelift: uprated performance 

We've yet to drive the fettled Audi R8 range introduced in early 2019, but we do know that the power for both models has been increased.

Opt for the standard R8 V10 Coupe to enjoy a 570hp powerplant burbling away behind you, while the Plus-replacing R8 Performance V10 has had its output boosted to 620hp.

  • Balanced handling for rapid progress
  • Traction-enhancing Quattro across the range...
  • Aside from the limited edition R8 RWS

Audi R8 Coupe handling infographic

This mid-engined sports car handles with a balance not many rivals can manage. We’ve driven it on both road and track, and the result was a car that surprised us with just how involving the chassis is.

But how is track driving relevant? While we’re pre-disposed to be wary of marketing talk, Audi proclaims this a race car for the road and to be fair, the firm has a point. The racing version of it – the R8 LMS – was winning races before we’d driven road-going version, itself using around half of the same parts; including the entire frame the car is built around.

It uses the Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system - barring the limited edition R8 Rear Wheel Series - which shuffles power between the wheels almost instantly and seamlessly. What this means it you’ve always got traction when you need it, but the car also allows you to tweak the balance for the sort of driving you want to do.

Audi R8 Coupe rear three-quarter dynamic

This version of the R8 uses a variable steering system, which we found slightly light in weighting (even in sporty driving modes) but incredibly accurate. It’s a very responsive set-up for fast driving, and while you’re missing that final level of feedback, the car makes up for it with precision and also far better low-speed manners. It will be as at home in the supermarket car park as it is on the race track.

Hitting the Performance Mode button on Plus models shuffles the handling bias rearwards in Dry configuration, and it’s in this set-up you’re able to fully exploit what the R8 has to offer. Head into a corner on the brakes and you can feel the car pinching the inside wheels, tightening your line, and if you apply full power early you’re treated to a progressively rewarding slide as the rear pushes wide. It’s not intimidating when this happens, but because of the amount of grip on offer, you’re going seriously quickly by the time the tyres lose traction, so this sort of tomfoolery is probably best left to the race track.

Audi R8 Rear-Wheel Series - the more playful option

Removing the drive from the R8's front wheels makes two appreciable changes to the R8's handling: the front axle now only has to steer as opposed to also metering out power, which in turn makes the rear-end more prone to sliding. Or so the theory goes.

In truth, while it feels a tad more agile thanks to its reduced heft and lightened steering, the tyres provide so much adhesion that you really have to be driving in a manner that's inappropriate for public roads to make the R8's rear half step excitedly out of line.

Audi R8 Coupe RWS side elevation dynamic

It's not all bad, though, because even being only slightly more playful makes the tail push out more than it would with a Quattro-equipped alternative, proving an enjoyable, adjustable degree of steering on the throttle around bends.

Audi R8 Coupe: magnetic ride suspension

Audi’s Magnetic Ride damper system, which allows the driver to adjust how firm or soft the ride quality is, and also how well the R8 will go around a corner. Even in its softest Comfort setting there isn’t a huge amount of bodyroll, but you can tell that just by looking at how it sits on the road. What is most impressive in this respect is how comfortable it still manages to be, but if you sharpen-up the suspension all of a sudden you’ve got a chassis that feels as stiff as a race car.

Less immediately impressive are the carbon ceramic brakes: these are optional on the regular R8 and standard on the more powerful models. They need a little bit of waking up when cold – they can feel a little grabby, when the pedal feels too sharp and you tend to slow the car down far too much – but once warm they’re simply outstanding. We gave them some serious abuse on a race track and the harder you work them, the better they become. When in the middle of a spirited drive they offer huge amounts of feedback (unusual in modern cars) and stopping power you have to experience to believe.