The Audi R8 is a supercar from a dying breed. As makers add turbochargers to their cars to meet ever-stricter emissions targets, the naturally aspirated engine is falling out of favour. In some ways, the R8 is a fantastic last hurrah. But, while the 5.2-litre V10 is a focal point of the car, there’s much more to the R8 than simply a big engine.
It’s as useable as an Audi TT on a daily basis, if you can live with the running costs, and its ease of use would put some superminis to shame. The Quattro four-wheel drive that’s standard on most models means it has plenty of traction and grip, but unlike many fast Audis, it’s enjoyable to drive on track, too. It’s nimble and agile, while the V10 packs a punch that’s accompanied by a thrilling V10 soundtrack, especially if you go for the R8 V10 Plus.
Specifications – Audi R8 Second generation
|Models||R8 Coupé 5.2 FSI quattro||R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro||R8 Coupé 5.2 FSI quattro (V10 Plus)||R8 V10 RWS 2018||R8 LMS 2016|
|Configuration, Displacement||5204cc V10|
|Power @ rpm||540 PS (397 kW; 533 bhp)@8250||610 PS (449 kW; 602 bhp)@8250||540 PS (397 kW; 533 bhp)||585 PS (430 kW; 577 bhp)|
|Torque @ rpm||540 N⋅m (398 lb⋅ft)@6500||560 N⋅m (413 lb⋅ft)@6500||540 N⋅m (398 lb⋅ft)||500 N⋅m (369 lb⋅ft)|
|0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) (seconds)||3.5||3.6||3.2||3.7 (Coupé), 3.8 (Spyder)||3.0|
|Top speed||198 mph (319 km/h)||197 mph (317 km/h)||205 mph (330 km/h)||199 mph (320 km/h)||186 mph (299 km/h)|
|Curb weight||1,595 kg (3,516.37 lb)||1,720 kg (3,791.95 lb)||1,555 kg (3,428.19 lb)||1,590 kg (3,505.35 lb)||1,225 kg (2,700.66 lb)|
Driving – Audi R8 Second generation
Select drive from the standard-looking Audi gear selector and dab the accelerator and you’ll find there’s nothing savage about the response. The R8 gets away smoothly and pulls effortlessly from just 1000rpm. Whether you use the automatic mode or manually flick the steering wheel-mounted paddles, the gear changes are nearly imperceptible.
Even the R8’s progress over UK roads on standard passive dampers is very composed. You get a fair amount of bobbing and bucking typical of a very stiff-bodied and short-sprung sports car, but the damping keeps thing from getting crashy. The optional adaptive dampers do improve things, making it even softer in the Comfort setting, but we’d say that most will be more than happy with the standard set-up.
You can also add variable-ratio steering, which makes the steering react faster to inputs at higher speeds. However, the standard steering feels more intuitive and enjoyable.
When you do want to test the handling a bit, the R8 responds well. It’s not quite as pin-sharp and keyed in to the driver as a McLaren 570S or Ferrari 488, but it turns in with breathtaking immediacy and grips ferociously. That’s down to that four-wheel drive system, which also means you can enjoy the car with relative ease even in poor conditions.
However, while the handling is a notch towards safe rather than dramatic compared with some rivals, the engine is a fascination of noise and visceral performance that beats the competition hands down – bar the Lamborghini Huracan, which uses the same engine. Switch it to Dynamic mode and the V10 rips through the rev range without the turbo lag you get in most rivals; the response is immediate and the acceleration ferocious. Its sound is addictive, too.
The standard brakes on the normal R8 V10 have potent stopping performance and good feel. The R8 Plus gets standard carbon-ceramic brakes, which offer much the same performance, but will resist fade for a lot longer in hard use, which will suit track days.
Engine and gearbox – Audi R8 Second generation
The only engine option is a 5203cc normally aspirated V10, available in two states of tune. The base model is good for 533bhp at 7800rpm while the Plus develops 602bhp at 8250rpm. Torque outputs are rated at 398lb ft and 413lb ft, both at 6500rpm.
With a near-9000rpm redline the V10 is scintillating, particularly in a world of relatively low-revving turbocharged engines. Throttle response is immediate and the £1800 sports exhaust endows the R8 with an intoxicating soundtrack – although we have known it to blow certain trackday noise metres.
The only gearbox option is a seven-speed twin-clutch unit. It’s refined and smooth around town and the shift speeds both up and down the ratios in manual mode are astonishing. The new gear seems to be home before you’ve finished pulling the steering wheel-mounted paddles.