Audi R8 review – an exemplar of the naturally-aspirated supercar

Dan Prosser
18 Jan 2018

The Audi R8 is a well-rounded supercar with a stonking V10 engine that sets it apart from the competition.

Evo Rating: 
From £113k
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

Audi’s R8 range is divided into three sub models, the RWS (Rear Wheel Series), V10 and V10 Plus. The RWS model is cheapest at £113k, however it’s limited to 999 units. Crucially, it uses the same specification engine as the (non-Plus) V10 model (£126k), but drives two wheels rather than four. Crowning the range in price and performance terms is the V10 Plus bearing a £143k sticker price. All three are available in Spyder convertible form for an £8k fee.

> McLaren 540C review

Identically equipped, the RWS and V10 leave a lot to be desired in terms of standard kit when compared to the V10 Plus. To upgrade the two base models to Plus specification requires £17k worth of options – the same figure splitting the Plus and standard V10 – so if you can stretch financially, go for the Plus (over the V10). Not only will it grant you the extra performance, but also the aforementioned extra kit that includes: ceramic brakes, bucket seats and plenty of carbonfibre trim inside and out.

> Porsche 911 Turbo review

Competition for the R8 is rife and capable. In a group test that brought the R8 V10, £127k McLaren 540C and £129k Porsche 911 Turbo together, the McLaren was the pick of the bunch, but not by far. We reckoned the Turbo was still the best at coping with day-to-day life, while the McLaren was the most thrilling, however the R8’s naturally-aspirated engine made it difficult to look past.

> Mclaren 540c vs Porsche 911 Turbo vs Audi R8

In terms of power and performance, the McLaren 540C and Porsche 911 Turbo are toned-down versions of the 570S and Turbo S respectively – just as the V10 is to the V10 Plus. The power and torque figures demonstrate the fine margins separating the trio: the 540C develops 533bhp and 398lb ft, the Turbo 532bhp and 524lb ft, the R8 533bhp and 398lb ft. 0-62mph sprint times are close too, the Turbo covers the distance in 3.0sec, 0.4sec quicker than Mclaren and 0.5sec quicker than the R8.

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