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.
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.
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 R8 is quite easy to drive fast while the screaming V10 is a lot more involving than turbocharged alternaives
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.
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.