Audi R8 Review
The Audi R8 V10 has stonking performance and a soundtrack straight from petrolhead heaven. It’s well built and easy to drive, but can’t match alternatives’ exclusivity.
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- Sublime engine
- Grips like a sucker fish
- Viable everyday car
What's not so good
- Alternatives more exclusive...
- ...and have more effortless performance
- Not exactly practical
Audi R8: what would you like to read next?
In the world of supercars, the Audi R8 is the sensible, grown-up choice which – unlike the likes of the McLaren 570S – you can actually use every day. Since this model was first launched in 2015 it has grown into a more aggressive-looking sports car with the performance to match.
Just take its front-end for example. Those three rally car-inspired vents above the grille might be shared with the hum-drum A1 Sportback, but the rest of the R8’s gaping, ground-hugging front end screams ‘racing car for the road’.
It’s a similar story at the side, where this latest model retains the old car’s signature contrasting air intake trims, and at the back where a huge full-width mesh grille lets prying eyes get a glimpse of the Audi R8’s snake-like exhaust system.
Sadly, the R8’s drama levels get turned down to a modest six out of 10 as soon as you step inside. Sure, it all looks and feels lovely and everything’s super easy to use, but the R8’s sensible cabin lacks the pizzazz of the Lamborghini Huracan’s bonkers cockpit.
Even the digital driver’s display which the R8 shares with the Huracan looks a little less special in the Audi. The system’s graphics are hard to fault, though, and the steering-wheel-mounted controls make it much easier to use than the vertical touchscreen you get in a McLaren 570S.
The Audi R8 V10 Performance has a heavy metal soundtrack that makes all other supercars sound like they belong on the early rounds of The X-Factor.
The Audi R8 is also easier to live with than the McLaren. For such a low, wide car it’s a doddle to drive – even if you spend lots of time around town – and its suspension is supple enough to protect your spine from all but the most monstrous potholes.
Head out onto faster backroads and the Audi R8 feels even more stable and soaks up ruts and undulations without breaking a sweat. Every model comes with a lightning-fast automatic gearbox and a grippy Quattro four-wheel-drive system which makes sure you always have ample grip, even on slippery road surfaces. As a result, the Audi R8 gives you the confidence to pin the accelerator and enjoy the full acoustic experience of its fabulous V10 engine.
Unlike almost every other supercar on sale, the Audi R8 uses a naturally aspirated engine, meaning it doesn’t rely on power-boosting turbochargers to produce 620hp (in Performance guise). As a result, it responds instantly when you floor the throttle and sounds absolutely wonderful while doing so.
Sure, it’s not particularly economical and the R8’s four-wheel-drive system means it can’t carry quite as much luggage in its front-mounted boot as some rear-wheel-drive supercars, but none of this should put you off. The Audi R8 is seriously good fun to drive and the fact that it’s comfortable enough to use every day means you can enjoy the sound of its fabulous V10 at every opportunity.
There’s ample space for tall drivers to hunker down and get comfy in the Audi R8, but it can’t muster up quite as much boot space as many alternatives.
Providing you can whittle down your weekend clothes requirements to what fits in a small suitcase, the Audi R8’s boot is just about practical enough.
Despite its low roofline and road-hugging stance, the Audi R8 is relatively spacious inside. Sure, climbing in and out takes a bit more flexibility than in a Porsche 911, but once you’re inside there’s plenty of headroom and you get loads of seat and steering wheel adjustment to help you find your ideal seating position.
Every Audi R8 comes with a set of very supportive sports seats as standard with electrical adjustment, seat heaters and lumbar support to help reduce backache on long drives. Pay extra for a faster Performance model and you get a set of even more figure-hugging bucket seats. They’re just the thing to stop you sliding about in your seat on a race track, but they don’t come with as much bolster and lumbar adjustment as the standard car so aren’t quite as comfortable to sit in for long periods.
You don’t expect a supercar to be practical, but you still need a few handy cubby holes to keep its cabin looking factory fresh. As such, the Audi R8 comes with a decent-sized glovebox and a tray beneath the dashboard with a few USB ports and a wireless charging pad for your phone.
There’s also a pair of cupholders under the central armrest but they aren’t particularly deep so you might want to rein-in your right foot whenever you’re carrying any hot coffees.
The Audi R8 comes with 112 litres of boot space which is just enough for a small suitcase and a couple of soft bags. Both the Porsche 911 GT3 and the McLaren 570S come with roomier load bays, however.
Like the McLaren, the Audi R8’s boot is located between the front wheels. It also comes with a trio of netted cubbies and a 12V socket, but its deep, narrow shape means you’ll end up stacking your luggage if you’re carrying more than one bag. Best make sure fragile items go on top, then.
It might not be as fast around a race-track as some of its more hardcore alternatives, but the Audi R8 is still searingly fast yet comfortable enough to use every day.
The Audi R8 is faster than you’ll ever need it to be on the road, but its intoxicating soundtrack means that just cruising along in it is still an experience.
The Audi R8 comes with just one engine – but it just so happens to be one of the best of any car on sale. Sitting just a few inches behind your shoulders is a 5.2-litre V10 which also sees service in the Lamborghini Huracan. In the standard R8, this high-revving masterpiece produces a colossal 570hp as standard and sends all of its power to all four wheels through a seven-speed gearbox for maximum get-up-and-go when you hit the accelerator. With the Audi R8’s settings dialled up to the proverbial 11, it’ll blast from 0-60mph in just 3.4 seconds and reach a whopping 201mph.
If this sounds a little tame – perhaps you’re a fighter pilot, astronaut or human cannonball – there’s always the option to upgrade to the aptly named Performance model. This brings 620hp to the party and outsprint the standard R8 to 60mph by three-tenths of a second and reaches 205mph.
It’s worth bearing in mind that these seriously rapid models come with a smaller fuel tank than the standard car, so you can expect to make more frequent visits to your local petrol station. On the subject of fuel economy, Audi claims the R8 returns 21mpg but you’ll probably see a figure closer to 15mpg in normal driving conditions.
One of the biggest feathers in the Audi R8’s cap is just how easy it is to drive. Were it not for the sound of a great big V10 engine burbling away over your shoulder you might be forgiven for thinking you were pottering around town in a TT.
Sure, you sit so low to the ground you’ll worry about tearing your jeans on speed bumps, but the Audi R8’s relatively large windows mean it’s pretty easy to see out of and the suspension does a good job ironing out potholes. It’s even relatively quiet when you’re cruising at speed and you get cruise control to help take the sting out of long motorway journeys.
Head off the motorway onto a twisty country road and the Audi R8 is only too keen to show off its wilder side. Pull out of a quiet junction with the accelerator pinned to the floor and the glorious V10 lets out a shocking scream and delivers a serious kick to the back of your seat. It responds to your inputs more quickly than the turbocharged engines in the likes of the McLaren 570S and turns every sprint between sleepy villages into an eye-widening event.
That’s not to say the Audi R8 can’t tackle a series of twisty corners. Its quattro four-wheel-drive system coaxes grip from even the slickest of surfaces and helps the R8 cling to the road like day-old Weetabix to a porcelain bowl.
You won’t find yourself whirling the steering wheel a great deal through a series of tight corners either, which helps give you a good sense of what the front wheels are up to. This precision helps you thread the broad-shouldered Audi R8 through surprisingly narrow spaces at speed without worrying about scratching the passenger door on an overgrown hedgerow.
The Audi R8’s cabin feels solid and comes with a decent amount of tech as standard but it just doesn’t look as exciting as the interiors you get in some less well-organised alternatives.
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