Audi R8 review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Audi R8 has breathtaking pace and looks but it’s been on sale since 2007 and the interior is starting to age

For: 
Great performance, stunning looks, everyday usability
Against: 
Limited boot space, expensive options, thirsty engines

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The mid-engined Audi R8 is the pinnacle of the Audi range. With its head-turning looks and supercar performance, it's a formidable rival to the Porsche 911, Nissan GT-R, Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

The V8-powered Audi R8 coupe has been part of the Audi model line-up since 2007 but over the years it’s been joined by V10 models as well as a Spyder convertible. A facelift at the end of 2012 saw the introduction of LED running lights, a twin-clutch gearbox and a new high performance model, the Audi R8 V10 plus.

The R8 V10 plus has 542bhp - 25 more than the standard V10, which also powered the Lamborghini Gallardo. It also features ceramic brakes, sports suspension and additional carbon trim.

The standard Audi R8 V8 is powered by the same 424bhp 4.2-litre engine that’s under the hood of the Audi RS4. Every Audi R8 comes with the legendary Audi quattro four-wheel-drive system as standard and there’s a choice of manual or S tronic automatic gearboxes.

Despite the high power outputs from the Audi R8 V8 and V10, both are as straightforward to drive as their smaller brother, the Audi TT. In fact, the Audi R8 could well be the true 'every day supercar’.

The Audi R8, however, is starting to look a little dated. This is especially reflected by the interior, which looks positively last decade when compared to the crisp new Audi A3.

There will be a new R8 on sale as of 2015, but Audi hasn't quite given up on the existing model yet. In May 2014, Audi gave it a last hurrah by launching the high-specification R8 LMX - the first ever road car to feature laser headlights. 

Our choice: R8 V10

Styling

4.7

Unlike other models in the Audi line-up, which arguably seem to follow a standard design philosophy, the R8 well and truly stands out.

When the R8 was facelifted in 2012, Audi left the bodywork alone, but added LED lights to the front and rear. The LEDs in the engine bay are also a pretty cool touch and at night - these illuminate the cam covers under the glass engine cover to add a proper sense of theatre - that's what a supercar should be about though, right? The rear LED indicators are also a smart touch, as they strobe in the direction the car is turning.

The Audi R8 is a smart looking car, there's no denying it, but the R8 V10 plus really turns heads thanks to unique alloy wheels and additional carbon fibre trim on the R8's side intakes and exhaust tips.

Step inside the Audi R8, and the hand-finished cabin is pretty much unchanged from when it was launched in 2007. While it can't be faulted for build quality, it's starting to look dated, especially when compared to the sharply designed new A3. Audi fits the R8 with sat-nav as standard but its blocky display is a step behind some of the systems found in rivals.

Despite the ageing cabin design and dated sat-nav graphics, the Audi R8 is a comfortable place to be thanks to its logical layout and good driving position. This also allows you to take full advantage of all the power from the V8 or V10 powerplant. 

Driving

4.7

Despite its ease of driving, the Audi R8 doesn't disappoint when it comes to delivering supercar thrills. Irrespective of whether you choose the V8 or V10, it comes alive as soon as you fire it up.

Both the V8 and V10 in the Audi R8 bark into life with urgency and settle into a distinctive rumble. Switch the R8 to Sport mode, and the exhaust takes on a throaty sound that develops into a scream as the revs rise.

Irrespective of engine size, the Audi R8 will offer a mega driving experience - the 424bhp version with the six-speed manual gearbox will go from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, and this puts it firmly in Porsche 911 Carrera S territory. Spec it with the seven-speed automatic Audi S tronic gearbox, and it'll shave 0.3s off the time.

Audi R8 V10 Plus interior

With the six-speed manual gearbox, the 518bhp V10 manages 0-62mph in 3.9s, while with the S tronic system, this is again reduced to an eye-watering 3.6s.

Plant the Audi R8 into a corner, and the stiff suspension delivers minimal body roll. The steering has good feedback and it changes direction with immediacy, but don't expect it to feel as light and nimble as a Porsche 911. The wide tyres also offer huge grip, but do tend to hunt for cambers.

Visibility out of the Audi R8 is excellent, and the Audi quattro four-wheel-drive system inspires huge confidence in all conditions. It's worth nothing that the quattro system has a rear-bias, so the majority of the power goes through the rear wheels during normal road driving.

Overall, the Audi R8 is easy to manoeuvre, but the optional front and rear parking sensors are well worth going for. It's also worth noting that there is some transmission shunt, but it isn't as bad as that in the Nissan GT-R. 

Reliability

3.9

While the Audi R8 didn't feature in our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, Audi ranked 12th out of 33 manufacturers.

The R8 is also a hand-built supercar, so it will be built to a higher standard than your average hatchback. Factor in Audi's strong reputation for reliability, and it should run like clockwork.

Keeping the car regularly maintained will also help but that certainly won't be easy on the wallet. However, if you're thinking about buying an R8, it's doubtful that costs are at the top of your priority list.

Audi fits the R8 with plenty of kit to keep you safe - an advanced traction and stability control system is standard, while a rear spoiler deploys at over 60mph for extra stability. There are also four airbags and tyre pressure monitors, while eight-piston calipers grip the standard-fit ceramic brake discs.

Practicality

2.5

As a result of its mid-engine layout, the Audi R8 is strictly a two-seater and this means it trails rivals such as the Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 for practicality.

Look around the cabin of the Audi R8 and there's plenty of space, plus a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment options mean it's easy to get comfortable. Audi has also ensured that the usual supercar bugbear of limited rear vision has been avoided, thanks to generous sized wing mirrors.

The glovebox of the Audi R8 is reasonably sized, and the shelf behind the seats as well as the 100-litre space in the nose is useful, but 15 litres down on that found in the Porsche 911. 

Running Costs

2.5

The biggest problem the Audi R8 faces is its thirst. Neither V8 or V10 models feature stop-start technology, so it's constantly taking in fuel. However, there is a gear-shift indicator which encourages you to change up to a higher gear as soon as possible.

Audi fits all R8 models with satellite navigation, 19-inch alloy wheels, Audi Music interface with integrated Bluetooth, heated seats and LED lights front and rear.

As with any supercar, depreciation will hit the Audi R8 hard, but expect its exclusivity to help it hold its residuals better than some of its rivals.

 

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Yeah so great I hammered one not once but twice in Glasgow with my DIESEL BMW ;-)

Grant - you are a prat. Shut up.

Excellent review. Matt does a great job. Entertaining, informative and incisive. Always good.

I've got a v10 and nothing can touch it

Last updated: 2 Jul, 2014
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