Audi R8 review
The flagship Audi R8 supercar offers great performance and stunning looks, but running costs are steep
The Audi R8 was the company’s first attempt at a supercar to rival the Porsche 911 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage. It was given a mid-life facelift at the end of 2012, which included some minor cosmetic changes, more equipment, the introduction of a slick seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and the addition of a new range-topping and more driver focused 543bhp V10 Plus model. 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
With its wide, low-slung body and huge side-vents the Audi R8 looks every bit the supercar. It has a more aggressive stance than a Porsche 911 and can rival more expensive cars from Ferrari and Lamborghini when it comes to sheer road presence. All models come with LED daytime running lights and LED rear indicators that sweep in the direction of the turn. The V10 gets special ‘Y-design’ 19-inch alloy wheels and more pronounced side-blades, while on the V10 Plus version they are made from carbon fibre, as is the front splitter, rear diffuser and door mirror surrounds. Inside though the cabin is starting to feel dated. The sat-nav in particular is less intuitive than the unit fitted to the new Audi A3 and some of the switch gear does not feel nearly as special as it should on a supercar - especially when compared with the stunning build quality in the latest Porsches.
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. Direct and well weighted steering ensures the R8 goes round bends just as well as an Aston V8 Vantage. If you add the optional Magnetic Ride dampers, body control is improved even further as is the ride comfort. The system is standard on the V10, but the V10 Plus has lowered and stiffened fixed-rate sports suspension for even sharper handling but a slight loss in comfort. 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.
The R8 features the kind of high-class build quality and reliabilty we have come to expect from Audi. Unlike more temperamental rivals from Aston Martin and Ferrari, the R8 is as usable everyday as an A3. It is packed with airbags, and has built-in side-impact protection. Added to this, the standard ESP and quattro four-wheel-drive system mean the R8 is very surefooted in all weathers. Stopping power is good too, but with optional ceramic brakes (which are standard on the V10 Plus), the R8 has the ability to offer virtually fade-free stopping – completing the true supercar experience.
Supercar ownership rarely comes hand-in-hand with practicality, and the R8 doesn’t do a lot to buck that trend. However, there is room for two sets of golf clubs behind the seats, and there's an additional 100 litres of luggage space in the nose – enough for a weekend away. The R8’s low-slung shape can make it tricky to get in and out of, but once you’re in it’s very comfortable. The controls are well laid out, simple to use and the metal open-gated manual gearbox adds character, even if not exactly the fastest way to change gear. The new S tronic seven-speed automatic provides lightning quick changes, though, and runs in either automatic mode or lets you take full control using the steering-wheel mounted paddles.
Prices for the Audi R8 start from around £92,000, which is expensive but undercuts rivals like the Ferrari 458 and Lamborghini Gallardo. All cars come with satellite navigation, 19-inch alloys, Audi Music Interface with integrated Bluetooth, heated seats and all-LED lights. Of course, owning a car with a V8 or V10 engine is never going to be cheap, with fuel economy figures ranging from around 19mpg for the 5.2-litre manual, through to 22.8mpg for the 4.2-litre V8 with S tronic semi-automatic. Depreciation is always going to be a hard hit for a supercar, but exclusivity ensures this figure is kept to a minimum. An all-electric R8 e-trong model, with a 134-mile range, was due to be launched, but this has now been cancelled.