The Audi R8 is now one of just two cars still built with an electrifying naturally-aspirated V10 engine – the other being the much more expensive and flamboyant Lamborghini Huracan. The R8 thoroughly deserves its place amongst the bona fide supercar elite, but it’s also comfortable and relatively affordable to run by such rarefied standards. This is truly an everyday supercar.
|Body Style: Coupe, Convertible||Seats: 2||MRP from £122,450 - £137,450|
Did you know? The R8’s Quattro four-wheel-drive system can send 100 percent of the torque to either axle
Decades ago, people who could afford supercars loved owning these exotic machines, but lamented their terrible reliability. Some still say that adds character, but the R8 has become so popular for a reason. It does lack some of the interior showiness of other supercars, but it’s comfortable and reliable enough to use every day and the V10 engine makes every journey an event. Drive it hard and it flatters your talents; drive it slowly and it keeps its cool. The R8 offers as rounded, as enjoyable and as addictive a supercar ownership experience as there is.
Easy to drive
Approachable but exciting handling
We Don't Like
Some of its best features are optional
Variable steering isn't good
Interior lacks supercar flair
Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)
The R8 is an instantly recognisable car in its own right, and even people not overly familiar with Audi’s range generally seem to know it. Its design has an exotic flavour thanks to the low, flowing roof line, large wheels and the huge brakes behind them. But the most recognisable elements are the side panels, which are usually fitted in a colour that contrasts against the main bodywork. Audi can also etch a short message or graphic onto them at the build stage.
Audi has better hidden the length between the doors and the rear wheels on this second-generation car by making the side panels, often called ‘blades’, smaller, cutting through them with a body-colour extension of the rear wings. The air intakes have been made more prominent, too.
It’s fair to say that the R8 isn’t the most staggeringly beautiful supercar out there. It simply isn’t as striking or glamourous as the exotica built by Ferrari, McLaren or Lamborghini, but that’s the point. If it were human it would wear an extremely stylish pair of glasses and hide its sharply-defined muscles under an expensive day suit.
Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)
The R8’s interior quality is in no doubt. Every surface, every dial and each seat feels like it was made to the very highest standard by the same person. There’s a cohesion to the look and feel, with four free interior colour choices: black or grey leather upholstery can each be teamed with either a head lining in silver or black.
Buyers should be prepared to add a significant amount to the list price, though. The standard interior is little different to that of a high-end A7, for example, and it needs optional extras to make it feel more special. The more supportive bucket seats are a desirable but £3,000 addition, but adding certain leather finishes forces you to include whole option packs, adding even more to the bill. The quality of workmanship is outstanding, but £500 for a set of floor mats does seem pricey.
It’s ultimately too easy and too necessary to add a five-figure options spend, but when the end result is so rewarding, it’s hard to argue against it.
While Audi has been careful to extract what space it could, by moving the cabin forward to create storage space between the engine and the seats, that’s not an ideal solution. The only enclosed, secured storage is a 112-litre box beneath the bonnet, which falls some way short of the 144-litre equivalent in the McLaren 650S.
Practicality is relative in cars like this, of course, and in practice there is enough room behind the seats for two people’s weekend bags, as long as they aren’t planning on attending any formal dinners.
There are no useful door pockets to speak of, but there is a covered storage bin between the seats. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is, for once, a practical touch allowing more leg clearance for taller drivers.
|Min: 112 litres (plus 226 litres behind seats)|
Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
Extremely bright LED headlights are standard, emitting a natural colour of light and using less energy than xenon equivalents. It’s £175 to add automatic main beam control, though, or £3,150 to switch to the advanced Laser Light option. On the Spyder cabriolet the roof operates electrically and takes about 20 seconds. Both versions are equipped with Quattro four-wheel drive and a limited-slip differential at the rear as standard.
You only get single-zone climate control, which seems mean considering the car’s price, but all R8s come with navigation software and the Audi Virtual Cockpit in order to make the best use of it. Parking aids are fitted at both ends and it’s pre-prepared for a tracking device. An interesting feature are the ‘wave’ brake discs, which are designed to offer more bite and better pad-clearing properties.
Options worth specifying include the magnetorheological suspension, which offers better comfort at low speed and better control at high speed when compared with the standard steel springs. Ceramic brakes aren’t worth it for road use, though; they never reach operating temperature and begin to squeal with every press of the pedal.
Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
The defining, standout feature of the R8 is its 5.2-litre V10 engine, which produces 540hp at 7,800rpm in the standard R8 and a heady 610hp at 8,250rpm in the more aggressive Plus model. The angry roar it produces is unlike anything else, save perhaps the V10 in the not-unrelated Lamborghini Huracan.
Performance is blistering, but more than that: it’s flattering. It does take commitment to keep your foot pressed hard on the accelerator all the way around the digital rev counter, but the chassis is so wonderfully supple and composed that it simply contains its enthusiasm – and yours – and delivers amazing stability. Until you deliberately try to push beyond the limits of grip, anyway.
The steering responds quickly and directly, biting into corners with a slightly lighter initial weight than you might expect, but communicating the phenomenal levels of grip nonetheless. Upgrading to Audi Magnetic Ride gives a greater breadth of ride and handling talent, extracting even more enjoyment, more of the time, and glueing the package together even better.
Recommended engine: 5.2 TFSI V10 540
Safety Features: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
With such powerful brakes and such wide tyres, the R8 is among the fastest-decelerating cars on sale today. That covers emergency stops and last-minute swerves, at least. Audi landed itself in hot water a few years ago, though, for claiming that its entire model range scored the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP testing, when in fact the R8 had never been tested.
Nor has the current car, either because it’s too expensive to send several of them to be destroyed, or because Audi knows the R8 wouldn’t score as well as it might like. There are no advanced active safety systems to speak of, which saves weight, but the long bonnet should give excellent frontal impact protection. Audi isn’t likely to be selling a car that isn’t solid enough in a crash, anyway, no matter what body style or price it has.
Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
Unusually, the most interesting colour options are those that come free with the retail price. Dynamite Red and Vegas Yellow suit the car well, but there is also a trio of colours common across much of the rest of the Audi range: Ibis White, Floret Silver and Mythos Black – the latter two of which are metallic, along with Suzuka Grey and Camouflage Green. Ara Blue is a crystal effect and Daytona Grey is a pearl finish.
For an extra £4,150 or £4,600 respectively you can add matt Camouflage Green or matte Argus Brown, but if none of those suit, Audi’s ‘Exclusive’ paint range allows customers to specify their own custom colour for £2,500, or £6,150 for a matte finish. The buyer’s imagination is the limit when choosing a colour, and the same shade can also be applied to the side blade panels, or even just to the panels and not the body.
The Spyder’s hood is yours in red, black or brown.
There are two trim levels; the standard grade applied to the R8 V10 Coupe and Spyder, and the more comprehensive one given to the R8 V10 Plus, which is hard-top only. Technologies like the Drive Select adjustable chassis and drivetrain are standard across the range, along with heated leather seats, satellite navigation, DAB and Bluetooth, parking sensors, 19-inch wheels and all the ingredients you need to enjoy the raw performance on offer.
The Plus model adds specific aerodynamic features like a fixed rear spoiler, which adds downforce and stability at speed. It uses a different style of 19-inch alloy wheel, but includes upgraded seats, automatic main beam headlights, ceramic disc brakes with even bigger calipers, carbon exterior and interior trim, plus extra ‘satellite’ buttons on the steering wheel to bring key performance features right to the driver’s thumbs.
The Coupe and Spyder share the same engine tune, specification and options, with the only differences being the Spyder’s electric hood and extra chassis bracing to compensate for the loss of a roof.
Audi says that the Spyder is around a third less stiff than the Coupe, but on the road it’s practically impossible to reveal it. The company has done an excellent job of disguising the loss in rigidity. The extra 125kg is sometimes harder to hide, particularly when driving hard into a corner.
But the key and most relevant difference between the two is that the Spyder’s driving experience becomes much more involving on a base level, with exposure to the elements heightening the enjoyment felt behind the wheel. The extra weight hardly makes it slow, either.
Size and Dimensions
Not only is the R8 quite wide, but it also has long and thick doors that need extra space to open into. It will go into larger garages with care, but it would be wise to line the walls with soft material to prevent the door edges striking masonry.
Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ (4/10)
R8 fuel economy is poor even by modern supercar standards, with sub-20mpg all but certain unless its owner covers a lot of cruising miles. The V10 only drinks super unleaded, too, which is around 10-15 per cent more expensive than regular petrol. Road tax and insurance are also high, but are typical for the class.
There is brighter news with regard to servicing, if not parts. Minor fluid-replacement services don’t need to be expensive at all, especially if you insist that the dealer uses oils you bought yourself. There’s no escaping a big bill when it comes to a major service, howver, with 10 spark plugs to change, among other high-cost parts. Parts can be terrifyingly expensive, with new front discs and pads priced at over £1,000 if fitted by an Audi dealer.
Reliability and servicing
The R8 is not known for major problems, but the inevitable packaging issues associated with mid-engined cars mean that labour costs can be expensive for even minor powerplant niggles – if they’re not covered under the warranty. Servicing doesn’t always need to be expensive, but will sometimes prove so anyway.
Flexible up to 24 months or 19,000 miles – £450 est.
24 months or 19,000 miles – £1,300 est.
Pricing: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
Priced from £122,450, the R8 is not an affordable car. Excellent used cars are frequently found in the classifieds for less than some of the R8’s optional extras cost. But, against its direct competition, it’s not bad value at all. The McLaren 540C and Porsche 911 Turbo are both several thousand pounds more expensive before options. And the R8 V10 Plus is comparatively good value against the likes of McLaren’s 570S and Porsche’s 911 Turbo S.
There is a £15,000 jump between the two hard-top R8s, and while the Plus model brings enough extra equipment to represent a saving on specifying a standard car up to the same level, some of the options may not suit your taste or intended usage.
The Spyder starts at £131,140, around £6,500 less than the Plus and almost £9,000 more than the standard Coupe. Its value for money depends entirely on the buyer’s opinion of convertible supercars.
V10 Coupe – the cheapest R8 gives the most room for adding more technology within a set budget
V10 Spyder – fully customisable to each buyer’s taste, the Spyder offers the luxury of open air driving
V10 Plus – the keenest drivers will find it hard to resist the full-flavour 610hp Plus version
Sparsely-furnished with technology, but a wonderful driving experience courtesy of a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8
Porsche 911 Turbo
The benchmark for balancing day-to-day practicality with outrageous performance, with excellent usability
Mercedes AMG GT S
Muscle car feel meets European usability, and beats most rivals for standard technology
Shares some major components with the R8, but adds waves of Italian character and emotion
More expensive but also more technologically advanced, the NSX is a next-generation supercar
What others say
“The popular Audi R8 offers a pure supercar experience with few of the drawbacks: it’s comfortable, fairly spacious and surprisingly easy to drive.”
“The R8 is the pinnacle of Audi’s ever improving range: a four-wheel-drive supercar that goes up against rivals such as the McLaren 570S and Ferrari 488 GTB.”