Audi R8 review - The consummate everyday supercar?

Dan Prosser
15 Mar 2017

New R8 picks up where the old car left off, and has one of the great modern performance car engines

Evo Rating: 
From £123,330
Drivetrain, performance, dynamics
Not as pretty as the original

The original Audi R8 was one of the great surprises of the previous decade. From a company known for building fast but lifeless performance cars here was a genuine rival for the timeless Porsche 911. The second-generation model has an enormous amount to live up to, then, and the good news is it more than meets expectations. 

Some of the purity of the original’s styling has been lost to this new version’s angular aesthetic, but on the road it still looks suitably menacing. The cabin, meanwhile, is a triumph; you sit low and you're surrounded by high-quality materials. 

The chassis retains the sense of lightness and immediacy that made the first R8 such a pleasure to drive and the Quattro four-wheel drive system finds massive traction without ever making the car feel leaden or lifeless. The normally aspirated V10 is one of the most thrilling performance car engines at any price point, made even easier to appreciate if you opt for the R8 Spyder.

Audi R8 in detail

> Performance and 0-60mph time - Performance is absolutely blistering but particularly so in the V10 Plus. If anything, with that V10 soundtrack, it feels faster than it is.

> Engine and gearbox - A 5.2-litre, naturally-aspirated V10 in two power outputs, with a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. One of the best engines on the market.

> Ride and handling - Agile and poised, and happy to play on cue. Dynamic Steer isn't perfect, but it’s better than it was.

> MPG and running costs - It's a supercar, so expect supercar costs. Fuel economy isn't bad for a 5.2-litre V10 but hardly parsimonious, and tyres can be expensive.

> Interior and tech - One of the best cabins in any car right now. Great driving position and view out, high quality, and lifted by Audi's Virtual Cockpit dials.

> Design - Perhaps not quite as distinctive as its predecessor, but it still attracts mostly positive attention.

> Video reviews - Watch some of our films on the Audi R8 here.

Prices, specs and rivals

The base spec R8 is priced just below £125k ,with the Plus model sitting closer the to the £140k mark. Both trims are available in a Spyder body style, which carries about a £10k premium over their coupe counterparts. At this price point the R8 isn’t short of competition. The Porsche 911 Turbo (and Turbo S) has long presided over this market segment, which is also home to the McLaren 570S and Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. The Ferrari 488 GTB is pricier than the Plus by around £45,000, while the Lamborghini Huracan – which shares its platform and drivetrain with the R8 – begins a tad over £155K for the rear-drive LP 580-2.

As it stands McLaren’s junior supercar is the current sector benchmark in our eyes, only just edging out the R8. The exuberance oozing from the Audi’s powertrain is unmatched by the 570S’s, but the ubiquity of the badge diminishes its kerbside appeal next to the McLaren, and you never feel quite as plugged into proceedings at the wheel.

'As on the road, the McLaren is the most engaging car on circuit. There are very good reasons, not least its drivetrain, why the R8 Plus should win this test. Indeed, for some members of the road test team, that wailing V10 seals the deal. Offer me the keys to any of these cars for one drive over a great road, though, and it'll be the carbonfibre pendant with the distinctive speed mark on it that I'll pluck from your palm.'

Judged by the evo metrics, the McLaren would be our choice. As an everyday companion? The R8 is much easier to live with than the Brit. The Jaguar F-type R AWD and Porsche 911 Turbo also featured in the above test, but were quickly dismissed from the running for top spot. Omissions included the Nissan GT-R, which lacks Audi’s the supercar sense of occasion but would have little trouble keeping pace with the R8.

Comparing the specs of McLaren’s cheapest offering and the non-Plus R8 makes for incredibly close reading. They’re both configured on midship floor plans, both develop 533bhp and both dispatch 0-62mph in 3.5sec. The 540C’s carbon fibre chassis provides plenty of justification for the £2650 premium carried over the R8. Like the 570S is to the Plus, the 540C is to the non-Plus, it is just that bit more immersive and exciting than the Audi – apart from its powertrain that lacks the R8’s spine tingling V10 soundtrack.

> Click here to read our review of the McLaren 540C

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