£126,200 Price range
The Audi R8 is a powerful supercar that you can use everyday, whatever the weather. It’s a rival to mega-fast machines such as the Lamborghini Huracan (which shares the Audi’s engine and much of its components), the McLaren 650S and the Ferrari 488 GTB.
Audi has designed the R8 from the ground up and it is only available with a 5.2-litre V10 engine (the V8 from the old model has been dropped) coupled to a fast-shifting dual-clutch S-Tronic automatic gearbox. Buyers can choose from the 533hp V10 or the 602hp V10 Plus. Buy the latter and you’ll own the fastest and most powerful road-going Audi ever built.
The huge levels of grip provided by the quattro four-wheel-drive system mean you can use every single one of the R8’s horsepower, even in wet conditions and it is unbelievably rapid down a country road. Sliding around like a Ferrari might be off the cards (unless you’re going incredibly fast), but even so the R8 will put a grin on your face a mile wide.
Its even quite practical for a supercar. The 112-litre boot in the front of the car is tiny – less than half the size of a VW Up’s – but there’s an extra 226 litres of space behind the car’s two seats. Interior quality is (as you would expect) excellent and the R8 gets Audi’s Virtual Cockpit dashboard display and body-hugging bucket seats that do a great job of keeping you in place while exploring the car’s sizeable cornering abilities.
In terms of value for money it’s hard to argue that a supercar costing from £119,500 and returning fuel economy of 24.8mpg makes sense. Nevertheless it’s significantly cheaper than any of its aforementioned rivals and that’s before the average £14,454 you’ll make if you buy the car via carwow.
Audi has also revealed a convertible version that’ll join the range in late 2016. Check out what we know and official pictures of the Audi R8 V10 Spyder.
A grainy image suggests Audi is plotting a smaller engined R8 to fill the gap below the full-fat V10 version. This model could get the turbocharged V6 petrol engine expected to be fitted to the upcoming Audi RS4 and its smaller 3.0-litre capacity means it’ll be a better proposition for Chinese buyers where tax is based on engine size.
As the pinnacle of Audi’s model range, the R8 gets an incredibly well-made interior that’s stylish and easy to use. The first thing you’ll notice is how easy it is to swing into the low-set seat – unlike many other supercars. It’s a small point, but it means it’s usable even if the flexible days of your youth are far behind you.
The driving position is spot-on, and the steering wheel has a large range of adjustment for reach and angle. This means you can lower the seat and pull the steering wheel quite far towards you, giving the sensation that you’re an integral part of the car.
There are soft-touch plastics and suede-like Alcantara trimmings all over the cabin. Pick the range-topping V10 Plus model and you get sporty carbon-fibre trim around the gear level and instrument binnacle. The seats in all models are electrically adjustable and heated, and the seat belts include microphones to help anyone you call hear your voice above the wail of the V10 engine.
Typically, supercars with the engine behind the seats are a pain in the neck to see out of. The R8’s far better than most of the competition, and the glass engine compartment means you get decent visibility out the back. The view out of the rear-view mirror is unimpeded and you can see the glorious engine reflecting off the back window.
There’s no central infotainment screen, instead, the sat-nav display is combined with the speedo and rev-counter dials in Audi’s digital virtual cockpit display. Essentially it’s a giant computer screen that replaces the traditional speedo and rev-counter, and you can configure it to show sat-nav information, G-forces, lap times and all the car’s settings. It’s a doddle to use and helps keep the interior largely free of buttons. Sat-nav is standard.
Fitted to V10 Plus models and a £1,500 option on the basic V10 R8 is the Performance steering wheel, which includes four extra buttons – for engine start, drive select, various performance modes and two switchable settings for the exhaust. Our favourite, the latter transforms the R8 from relatively quiet to race-car loud at the touch of a button.
Boot space is limited to say the least – there’s a small 112-litre cubby hole in the front boot, and a 226-litre space behind the seats. There’s also a wide, zip-up bag behind the seats that you can use to keep items secure for longer trips.
The R8 is one of the easiest supercars to drive quickly, thanks to its four-wheel-drive system and huge levels of grip. The most die-hard of petrolheads may think this dulls the experience, but for 90 per cent of real-world buyers it’s an enthralling and utterly engaging car to drive.
A real ace up the R8’s sleeve is its engine. It’s shared with the Lamborghini Huracan and sounds just as raucous in the Audi if you buy the optional £1,800 sports exhaust system. It provides instant and mind-boggling acceleration from almost any speed – accelerate hard out of a 50mph limit in second or third gear and you’ll feel the engine’s power pinning you to the seat.
The steering is direct, and it always gives a feeling of what’s going on with the front tyres, allowing you to judge how much grip is available. The nose of the car darts into corners quickly, allowing you to turn later than you think, and the four-wheel-drive quattro system means you can start accelerating surprisingly early out of corners. There’s very little understeer (when the front tyres lose grip in fast bands), and you’re simply rocketed down the road towards the next corner.
There’s a range of adjustable driving modes for the suspension, stability control and the car as a whole, and they’re customisable so you can have the fastest gearshifts and the softest suspension, for example.
Select the comfort driving mode, set the exhaust to its quietest setting and you can cruise around in relative peace, and surprising comfort. Infact, the Audi is as simple to drive in town as a normal hatchback. You won’t be driving fast over speed bumps (it’s still a low-slung supercar after all), and there’s a fair amount of tyre roar at motorway speeds, but not enough to annoy on long journeys.
The old R8 came with a choice of a V8 or a V10 engine, but the new one comes only with the latter – albeit in 533hp or 602hp forms. The second of those equals the power output of the lairy Lamborghini Huracan.
There’s no manual gearbox option for the R8, but our tests showed that the seven-speed DSG gearbox (called S-Tronic) changes gear smoothly when you want it to, yet rapidly and savagely when you’re driving hard. In its loudest mode the sports exhaust treats you to a glorious crackling as you change up and down gears – it sounds and feels dramatic.
Audi R8 engine specs
Peak power from the hand-built engine is achieved at a racecar-like 8,250rpm and the power delivery is immediate and explosive. The entry-level R8 can sprint from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 198mph, while the R8 Plus has a 0-62mph time of just 3.2 seconds and can reach 205mph. Combined fuel consumption is stated as 24.8mpg for the regular R8 and 23mpg for the Plus version, but you’ll struggle to match those figures in real-world driving.
The Plus version’s fuel economy is actually 1.1mpg (five per cent) up on the old V10 R8, despite having 11 per cent more power. Both models can shut off half the engine (using cylinder-on-demand technology) to save fuel when you’re just cruising along, and have stop/start technology that switches the engine off completely when the car’s at a standstill to make it even more efficient. Even the gearbox can coast the car along using very little fuel when you’re not accelerating.
A rumoured smaller engine R8 will join the range in 2018. This model is expected to get the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 fitted to the upcoming RS4 so should have well in excess of 450hp.
There are no official crash test results from Euro NCAP, but expect a car engineered to do 205mph to score the full five stars on a 37mph crash test.
The added bonus of all those electronic systems that help you go faster is that they also make the car safer – they know exactly where the limits of grip are and can save the driver from dangerous situations.
Quattro all-wheel-drive will help you in the most slippery conditions and the carbon-ceramic brakes on the R8 Plus (a £7,700 option on the base model) are exceptionally strong – even after numerous laps around a race track they don’t fade.
A car that costs more than £100,000 can never be outstanding value for money, but when you compare the new R8 to its rivals it looks like a bit of a bargain – it costs £45,000 less than the mechanically similar Lamborghini Huracan.
The R8 is reasonably well equipped with climate control, park assist, LED headlights and the newest Audi infotainment system. Nonetheless, it is easy to swell the price – the car we tested came with more than £20,000-worth of options – and we would recommend the £650 Driver Assistance pack that includes cruise control and a reversing camera.
Audi has released estimated running costs for the R8 – it expects the car will cost £1.33 per mile over three years/60,000 miles for the lower-powered R8, and £1.52 for the V10 Plus. Those figures are cheaper than the R8-rivalling Porsche 911 Turbo and V10-Plus rival 911 Turbo S, which cost £1.39 and £1.68 per mile respectively.
Audi R8 laser headlights
One of the R8’s most impressive optional extras is the laser headlight system. All R8 models have LED headlights (low beam and high beam), but for £3,000 you can supplement these with lasers, which adds an extra high beam when you drive above 37mph. You’ll notice them kicking in immediately – suddenly another 150-200 metres of road is illuminated with a thin beam of light. The effect is incredible and it allows you to drive almost as if it were daylight.
However, the auto-dimming system that switches the lasers off when you go below 37mph or another car is detected can be unnerving. You may see a corner when the laser lights are active, only to lose sight of the bend completely when the car switches back to solely using the (incredibly bright, but closer-range) LED headlights.
The laser lights also cast incredibly harsh shadows, meaning that small bumps in the road can leave a black void behind them, giving the sense that you’re driving off the edge of the world. Normal headlights have beams that scatter more light, lessening this effect. These niggles are minor, however, and the pros outweigh the cons.
Audi R8 V6
Rumours suggest that Audi could be developing an R8 powered by a 400hp V6 engine. If this is true, we expect it to be launched in 2018 and cost approximately £80,000.
Audi R8 Spyder
A convertible R8 Spyder will go on sale in late 2016. This drop-top will come with the same 533hp V10 engine as the coupe yet should be, Audi claims, 50 per cent stiffer than the old model. We expect it to cost more than £130,000 when order books open.
The old R8 can be put in the supercar hall of fame for being the first supercar that was easy to use every day.
Audi has stayed true to this philosophy but added more power, more drama, more advanced technology and some of the brightest lights we’ve ever seen on the road. It’s a technological tour de force, yet also an utterly captivating and addictive car to drive.