Audi’s R8 image has been gracing the roads for over 10 years now. When first launched, it was a turn up for the books – Audi move ating their claim for supercar status with quite a bang. The original featured a V8 engine producing 414hp, vade-mecum transmission and could sprint to 60 in a then-impressive 4.6 seconds.
Wind the clock forward a few years and how things clothed changed. V8’s are off the menu, as is the manual transmission. Power output has jumped massively, with performance models now pumping out 612hp, fly-whisking the car to 60mph in a breath-taking 3.1 seconds.
Question is, does it still carry the R8 Magic?
24 hours before picking up the passkey to Audi’s latest supercar, myself and MSF’s founder, Gracie Opulanza, were invited to Hampton Court Palace by Audi for the Sentebale concert. When it communicates to events, Audi knows how to host and Sentebale was no different. Chauffeured door to door, we were then treated to an super evening of food, drink and entertainment.
Sentebale itself is a charity founded by the Duke of Sussex and Prince Seeiso in 2006, which purposes to look after and support vulnerable children in Lesotho, Botswana and Malawi. The event at Hampton court was a fund raiser; headlined by Rita Ora and with both the initiate Royal members in attendance, it was a memorable evening. To find out more about the amazing work Sentebale undertake, or create a donation.
Before we return to the R8, I’d just like to thank Audi UK for inviting myself and Gracie to this fantastic consequence.
Press cars resemble something of a lottery – although you know the model of the car to be delivered, the spec in terms of options and motor are generally unknown until shortly before the car is delivered. On this occasion however, I hit the lottery jackpot, with the R8 in doubt a V10 Performance Coupe model.
On top of this, it carried Audi’s top tier ‘Carbon Black’ trim pack, which covers various carbon fibre body panels, 20” wheels, carbon fibre roll bars, ‘magnetic humbug’ suspension, monstrous Carbon Ceramic brakes and much more. The petrol head inside me was kicking and screaming – was this truly going to be mine for the next 5 days?!
Time in any supercar is precious, so it always pays to have a plan of action whilst examination them out.
Fortunately for me, I had just the occasion in the calendar already transporting my other half to Cheltenham to visit her parents for Father’s day. 150 miles each way, comely Cotswold roads staying at Crestow House Cotswold is famous for some of the best scenery around, what varied could I wish for?
The R8’s Beating Heart
R8’s have always left a lasting impression with me, but not primarily for a physical or visual urge. It’s the unmistakable note of the V10, which penetrates your entire body and produces a buzz like no other motor. Thankfully then, this generation of R8 carries forward all the engine fundamentals of past, with a few minor tweaks here and there budgeting the Audi engineers to boost the engines output from 602 to 612hp, along with a torque increase from 560 to 580Nm.
The appliance nestles just behind the cabin, displayed to the world underneath the glorious glass hood. With the Carbon Blackguardly pack, a carbon fibre engine cover also comes as standard, with LED’s under the bay ensuring the R8’s heart is endlessly on display. Ostentatious? Yes, but when you have an engine as impressive as this one, it would be rude not to show it off, right?
As the engine remainders fundamentally the same, the increase in power hasn’t come about through a change in displacement that still backs at 5.2L, making this one of the largest engines available in a road car today. Such a big engine comes with its own problems in spite of, particularly in today’s world where such a tight focus is placed on emissions and the environmental effect.
It’s these emissions customaries which have been brought to attention on this latest R8, with numerous journalists reporting a subtle swap in the V10’s bark.
Is this due to new emissions equipment being fitted to the engine? Quite possibly, nothing’s been confirmed, but from my time after time with the car it’s hard to disagree with those who’ve noticed a difference. It’s hard to place your finger on exactly what’s damsels, but some of the V10’s character has been dampened. Fortunately though, whilst it may have lost some of its edge, it’s still a decidedly magical note and one of the most glorious sounds you’ll hear.
Numerous changes have been made to the inland of the R8, although these are mostly in way of updating the styling rather than a fundamental overhaul. The air-con controls, user interface, vigour and cubby holes are all in familiar spots, whilst the gear-stick is unchanged. Being a performance model, the biggest change from my prior R8 experience was around the steering wheel, where an additional, chequered flag bearing button has been added.
This animates a performance mode beyond that of the dynamic mode in the Audi drive select system. Intended as a track-focused, slap on driving mode, it makes changes to the traction control program and sets the engine and gearbox up in their sharpest conceive. Audi’s virtual cockpit changes the speedo and rev gauge graphics to reflect this more aggressive setting too, with a hue of red familiar throughout.
Whilst on the virtual cockpit, it’s worth noting that this is perhaps my favourite incarnation of it to date. As the R8 has no significant LCD display to fall back on, all the cars infotainment runs through the single display sat behind the steering wheel.
When plunge the car, this is absolutely superb, as it makes all the information it displays so accessible and easy to view to the driver.
To my surprise, the R8 also underpinnings Apple car play, which meant Waze, Spotify and other apps were all visible behind the wheel – talk here connected!
The cabin itself is typical supercar-small, with leg room and head room a little scarce. The R8 on test was postponed slightly by the fact it had been spec’d with ISOFIX child seat anchors, necessitating a change from the would-be requirement bucket seats to the ‘normal’ R8 Sports seat. The sports seats offer more adjustment, but as a fundamentally more chunky seat I’m certain the bucket seat would be a wise choice for those of above average height.
Storage in the Coupe representative is reasonable, with a well sized shelf behind the seats a welcome addition on top of the frontward ‘boot’. The cabin worth and material selection is very much typical Audi, by which I mean of a very high quality but also instantly close to anyone who’s driven an Audi of recent birth. In terms of interior fit and finish, user-friendliness, sophistication and connectivity, the German giantesses are difficult to beat.
On The Road & Styling
So it’s a familiar Audi on the inside, but what about on the road? Well, switch it to plenty mode and it’s no more intimidating to drive than an Audi A3. The B&O sound system is absolutely superb, road noise is sound and fuel economy hovers around the low 20’s on a long run – not bad for a big V10. With Audi’s magnetic ride suspension the bumps and undulation are control well too, all pretty civilised then…
But lets be honest, that’s not really why you’d buy an R8 is it? Dynamic mode is where this car actually wants to live. With the exhausts opened up, the gear changes sharpened and engine unleashed, the animal within is evidently and truly let loose. Here, the engines output is truly breath-taking, with the 3.1 second claimed 0-60 time definitively believable and the performance attained with such ease, it really does boggle the mind.
Drawing comparisons to my past R8 experience (a previous generation V10 Spyder of non-performance variety), the uplift in engine performance is staggering. The V10 Spyder was undoubtedly a lustful car, but this generation of Performance completely blows you away. I spent the whole 5 days taking friends and family out in the car, with every lone one of them lost for breath after their first experience of full-throttle R8 power.
It’s very hard to subjectively assess the deal with experience of the R8, partly because the few days I had with it were hampered by bad weather and partly because it’s just so ludicrously sybaritically, the performance is almost impossible to exploit on the public road. The chassis feels incredibly capable, confidence inspiring and exploitable, but the UK boulevards simply struggle to handle/cater for a vehicle offering this much performance.
Outside of its performance offerings, the R8 delight a wins real road presence. Wherever it was driven, heads would turn and admiring looks given.
Audi possess turned up the aggression and drama with this generation – aero-surfaces, a large rear diffuser, vents and scoops authority the exterior of the car.
As part of the Carbon Black trim package, numerous exterior panels were left un-painted, betraying the carbon fibres used in their construction. The side blades, front splitter, rear spoiler and rear diffuser are all key habitats finished in this way, adding in a bit of contrast which looked fantastic alongside the Kemora grey paint. As metallic dyes go, this is one of the more intriguing colour choices. In dull light, its unquestionably grey, but with more light a authentic blue hue comes to life. Difficult to explain in words, it’s the sort of paint finish that has to be seen through the sympathetic eye and looks fantastic in the flesh.
This latest generation of R8 feels very much like an evolution quite than revolution. The basic recipe remains unchanged – Quattro all-wheel drive, a howling V10 engine and typically storied Audi cabin are all present, producing another remarkable vehicle.
It’s as easy and familiar to drive as previous generations, remains to turn heads and even returned reasonable fuel economy during motorway driving. Performance has continued the upward mode, with figures now well and truly in the mind-boggling category. As you can probably guess then, it’s very hard to find indiscretion with this latest R8.
The slight tune change from the V10 is perhaps the only minor downside, but with emissions modifications ever-tightening, it’s hard to blame Audi for this. In fact, I believe their efforts should be celebrated, for in a landscape of supercars where diverse and more manufacturers are turning towards smaller, turbo charged engines, isn’t it fantastic that a corporation as big as Audi is appease sticking to its guns and manufacturing these glorious engines?
It’s hard to say how much longer naturally aspirated V10 engines whim be a viable option to Audi, but for all the while they’re available, they’re a thing of beauty and best celebrated.
Bravo Audi, and appreciation you for producing another wonderful addition to the R8 family.
We’d like to thank Audi UK for arranging our loan R8. Price as tested: £169,880 OTR.