Audi R8 (2015-2018) review
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.
What's not so good
Audi R8 (2015-2018): what would you like to read next?
The Audi R8 has been designed 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 Audi 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.
Everything you expect from an Audi, but with huge performance and serious attitude
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.
The old Audi R8 can be put in the supercar hall of fame for being a proper supercar that was easy to use every day and the company 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.
The Audi 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.
The R8 is quite easy to drive fast while the screaming V10 is a lot more involving than turbocharged alternaives
The old Audi 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.
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 Audi 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 Audi 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.
A real ace up the Audi 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.
As the pinnacle of the brand’s range, the Audi 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.