A motoring unicorn
It was about ten years ago that the rst Audi R8 went on sale. The R8 was Audi’s rst mid-engine supercar and it was a watershed moment for the brand. It proved that Audi could hang with the big boys from Italy and its German rivals from Stuttgart. The rst generation R8 was praised for its good looks, practicality, and performance. Insofar as supercars are concerned, it had almost no faults. By now it should be clear that the new R8 has a lot to live up to.
And I’m afraid we are o to a shaky start because I don’t think it looks as good as the model it replaces. Mostly it is because of the nose, which protrudes slightly and reminds of a witch’s crooked nose. It also has more angles, which makes it look more aggressive. Personally, I prefer the more uid and organic form of its predecessor. Still, there’s no denying that on the road, thanks to its wide frame, the new R8 commands serious road presence. Oh, it also helps that the test car I drove came in bright Dynamite Red.
Swing the wide doors open and you are greeted with a very modern cabin. The R8 gets Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which means you get LCD screens in place of traditional analog dials. There’s also a myriad of buttons and switches on the steering wheel that lets you control almost all aspects of the car, from vehicle settings to navigation and even
multimedia. It’s all very high-tech, and quite complicated especially if you are not familiar with Audi’s MMI interface.
Speaking of complicated, the car offers an incredible amount of customization. The engine, suspension, steering, Quattro setting, and engine sound can be all be adjusted to the driver’s liking, and each mode can be selected between Comfort, Auto, or Dynamic modes. I suspect some drivers can feel overwhelmed by the number of settings available to them. However, I feel that it is imperative to spend some time and effort understanding how to set the car up so you get the most out of your drive.
Personally, I like my supercars to feel racy, so I left the engine, steering, Quattro, and engine sound in Dynamic mode most of the time. I left the suspension in Comfort not because it is too harsh in Dynamic, but rather because I nd comfort to be the most well-judged. With so many road works going on around the island, a little extra comfort is welcomed. Plus, Comfort doesn’t feel willowy at all and I don’t feel like I’m sacri cing control or responsiveness.
It is in Dynamic mode that you get the most out of that incredible engine. That V10 is easily the R8’s party piece. If you want a 2-seater mid-engine supercar with naturally aspirated engine these days, you are left with, literally, a handful of choices. I can list them here: Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan, and Lamborghini Aventador.
It’s a short list, but fortunately, once you get past the somewhat ho-hum styling and complicated controls, the R8 is an absolute gem. That 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10 is a work of automotive art. It pulls effortlessly to 8,700rpm, making all kinds of exciting and seductive noises in the process. It crackles and pops on lifts offs and overruns, howls and whines through the lower registers, and absolutely roars when it surges to the redline.
It is mighty powerful too. 540hp and 540nm of torque might not look like much in comparison to rivals like the Ferrari 488GTB and McLaren 570S, but
CONCLUSION The Audi R8’s epic V10 makes it a motoring gem.
in the real world and on public roads, no one will ever accuse the R8 of feeling down on power. It just pulls through the gears like a hot knife through butter. Audi says it will do 0-100km/h in 3.5 seconds, but it feels faster.
The engine is clever too. If it detects that you are just cruising along, it can shutdown half its cylinders and work as a 5-cylinder engine to help save fuel. That said, don’t expect miracles. With a heavy right foot, I managed just 5.5km/l. On the bright side, it has an 83-liter fuel tank, so at least trips to the gas station will be minimized.
The R8 handles brilliantly too. The chassis is tight and the steering is responsive and offers a lot of feedback. It’s a wonder that Audi, the same company that makes family estates like the A6 Avant that I drove a couple of months back, can also make something as communicative as the R8.
When you are done thrashing the engine and throwing the R8 into corners, you can dial everything back to Comfort mode and the R8 becomes a completely different animal. The engine quietens down, the gear shifts become gentler, and the R8 just becomes an easy and relaxing car to drive.
It has decent carrying capacity for a mid-engine supercar too. You won’t be able to t golf bags into the R8, but the front luggage compartment is big enough for a couple of travel bags. There’s some storage space behind the seats, which is useful for smaller stuff like groceries. Despite its low ride height, I didn’t encounter any problems clearing humps or entering/exiting carparks.
The bigger issue with using the R8 on a daily basis is actually its doors. Like most coupes, they are very long. If you park too close next to anything, you will have difficulties opening the door and getting out.
In summary, the new R8 lives up to the high expectations set by its predecessor. It may not be as goodlooking and can be quite complicated to use, but it drives like a dream and is actually practical for a mid-engined supercar. And then there’s that wonderful naturally aspirated V10, which is worth the price of admission alone.
So many buttons and switches, the steering wheel can be a little confusing.
The cabin is a high-tech place to be in.
A naturally aspirated V10 engine is a rarity these days.