Audi R8 review
The flagship Audi R8 supercar offers great performance and stunning looks, but running costs are steep
A facelift at the end of 2012 saw the introduction of LED lights, a twin-clutch gearbox and a new high-performance model: the R8 V10 plus. It’s based on the standard V10, but has an extra 25bhp, and adds ceramic brakes, sports suspension and additional carbon trim.
The V10 models use a Lamborghini-derived 5.2-litre engine, while the V8 model uses the same 4.2-litre engine as the Audi RS4. All versions offer scintillating performance, and have much of the same everyday usability as their baby brother, the TT.
There are two body styles available - Coupe and soft-top Spyder but only one choice of trim level - which comes with a very high standard specification.
Our choice: R8 V10
There's no mistaking the Audi R8 for anything else on the road. The 2012 update left the rounded bodywork alone, but added new LED lights front and rear.
These bring a hi-tech touch to the exterior, especially the rear indicators, which strobe in the direction you’re turning. LEDs in the engine bay are another cool touch. At night, these illuminate the cam covers under the glass engine cover, and make the V10 a real focal point.
The standard R8 V10 looks smart enough, but the V10 plus adds unique alloy wheels, extra carbon fibre trim, including on the distinctive side blades, and a black finish to the exhaust tips.
Inside, the R8 is largely unaltered from when it was first introduced. While the hand-finished interior can’t be faulted for build quality, the design is looking old now, especially when you compare it to Audi’s latest models.
Sat-nav is standard, but the blocky display is a step behind current systems. Yet it’s no worse than the set-up in the Nissan GT-R, for example.
Overall the cabin is still impressive, because it’s comfortable and its logical layout and good driving position allow you to make the most of the R8’s performance.
Driving a supercar needs to provide a sense of occasion, and the Audi R8 manages this as soon as you fire it up.
It barks into life with urgency and settles into a distinctive rumble. Switch to Sport mode, and the exhaust takes on a throaty sound that turns into a scream as the revs rise.
It doesn’t matter which model you go for, both versions of the Audi R8 offer an incredible driving experience. Even the 424bhp V8 manual version accelerates from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, putting it on a par with the Porsche 911 Carrera S.
The 518bhp V10 version does 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds, while the V10 Plus with the company's new S tronic seven-speed auto will do the sprint in just 3.5 seconds.
In corners, the stiff suspension delivers minimal body roll, and the steering has good feedback, while the R8 changes direction with immediacy, although it never feels as light or as agile as a Porsche 911. Those wide tyres offer immense grip, too, but they do tend to hunt for cambers.
Visibility is excellent, and with Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system the R8 feels planted, regardless of road and weather conditions. The system has a rear-bias so the majority of the power goes to the rear wheels during normal road driving.
At low speeds, the R8 is easy to manoeuvre. There’s some transmission shunt, but it’s nowhere near as bad as in a Nissan GT-R, and we’d recommend the optional front and rear parking sensors.
As a hand-made supercar, the R8 will be built to a higher standard than your average hatchback, and should run like clockwork. Of course, keeping the car regularly maintained will help, but that won't be particularly easy on the pocket.
The Audi has plenty of safety features to keep you on the road, too. Advanced traction and stability control are standard, the rear spoiler deploys at over 60mph, there are four airbags and tyre pressure monitors, while eight-piston calipers grip the standard-fit ceramic discs.
The Audi R8 trails rivals such as the Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 Turbo S for practicality, chiefly because the mid-engined layout means it’s a strict two-seater. However, there’s lots of space in the cabin, a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment means it’s easy to get comfortable, and big mirrors ensure you don’t suffer the usual supercar bugbear of limited rear vision.
The glovebox is a reasonable size, there’s a shelf behind the seats and the 100-litre space in the nose is useful. It’s 15 litres down on the 911’s boot, but Audi offers two or five-piece leather luggage sets that are tailor made to fit the available space. Prices range from £1,990 to £4,800.
Day-to-day running costs are hobbled by the engine. The eight or 10 cylinders are constantly taking fuel, as there’s no stop-start, but the shift indicator encourages you to change up to a higher gear as soon as possible.
All cars come with satellite navigation, 19-inch alloys, Audi Music Interface with integrated Bluetooth, heated seats and all-LED lights.
Depreciation is always going to be a hard hit for a supercar, but exclusivity ensures this figure is kept to a minimum.