The original Audi R8 was the first supercar with four rings on the bonnet. It had a lot in common with another machine that wore a raging bull badge – the Lamborghini Gallardo. For considerably less cash than the Lambo, especially if you go for a used Audi, you got awesome performance from a mid-mounted V10 or V8 engine, all-wheel-drive and a lightweight aluminium chassis. And that status has largely remained unchanged with the latest car, which is sister to the Lambo Huracan.
For Audi to go head-to-head with the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and even its sister company Lamborghini, it had to make the R8 look like a proper supercar. Its proportions are pin-up perfect, with a relatively short nose sniffing the tarmac, a compact passenger compartment and a long tail to house the car’s most important feature – the engine.
Proudly on display beneath a glass hatch, you don’t even need to open it to show the world the mighty V8 or V10 that powers performance. Two huge side vents feed the engine fresh air, which you can pick out in a contrasting colour to attract even more attention.
If you’re a real exhibitionist you’ll want to pick the Spyder, though. At the touch of a button the fabric roof stows away behind the seats, leaving you open to the elements and the comments of admirers.
What's it like to drive?
Audi achieved something amazing with the R8 - a supercar that’s as easy to handle as a hatchback. That’s a compliment, by the way, because at low speeds the Audi R8 is easy to see out of, has lightweight steering and surprisingly comfortable suspension.
Press the loud pedal – and with the awesome 5.2-litre V10 engine, it really is loud – and the R8 is astonishingly quick. The wild R8 V10 Performance version has over 600bhp and will rearrange your internal organs as it blasts to 62mph in just over 3 seconds. Perfect for joining fast-moving motorway traffic from the service station (we’re not sure where else you’d need such acceleration).
The first generation of Audi R8 was available with a manual gearbox, with a polished metal gated shifter, which really gave it that old-school supercar feel. Later models have a thoroughly modern 7-speed dual-clutch transmission controlled by paddles on the steering wheel. The truth is that the latter is actually faster and easier to get along with. Most models come with quattro all-wheel drive for powerful traction in all conditions.
Press the loud pedal – and with the awesome 5.2-litre V10 engine, it really is loud – and the R8 is astonishingly quick.
In the same way that Audi has made the R8 easy to drive, the German engineers have made the car’s cabin a pleasure to live with on a daily basis. It’s a low-slung car, but the doors open wide so it’s no effort to get in and out. When you’re ensconced in the sporty seats, you’ll find an instrument layout that’s clear to read and with controls ergonomically positioned for ideal operation.
You’ll have no trouble finding the perfect driving position thanks to multi-way adjustable seats and a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and reach. The overall design of the cabin is quite minimalist. The aluminium, carbon fibre and leather that are used throughout are of maximum quality. There’s also a really substantial feel to the car thanks to Audi’s trademark build standards.
The latest cars feature Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel that the driver can configure to their desires, and the steering wheel has multiple controls that are simple to thumb. There’s also a rotary controller on the centre console for extra functions. As you’d rightly expect the standard of equipment is high, with climate control and satellite navigation as standard, along with smartphone connectivity and charging.
If you’re buying a supercar, practicality is probably quite a way down your list of priorities. Audi has designed the R8 to be usable every day.
In the cabin you’ll find a good-sized glovebox, a pair of cupholders and extra storage space behind the seats. As the engine takes up all the space behind the occupants the boot is actually at the front of the car.
If you’re going away for a road trip, leave the fancy steamer trunks behind and pack a couple of squashy bags as that’s all you’ll be able to squeeze in.
Reliability and running costs
First the good news. Audi has a justified reputation for reliability and the R8 has given no reason to alter that. For extra peace of mind though, you could consider cinchCare.
Now the bad news, a V10 supercar is not cheap to run. The official fuel consumption figures hover around 22mpg and the car’s CO2 emissions rise as high as 296g/km - making fuel and tax bills rather hefty. That’s the price you pay for this kind of performance.
What we love
The Audi R8 is a thinking person’s supercar. It offers searing performance, with an added dose of sense. It boasts attention-grabbing looks and serious speed, yet doesn’t compromise on comfort and usability. If it’s good enough for (fictional) billionaire playboy Tony Stark, it’s good enough for you right?
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The R8 represents the pinnacle of Audi engineering. With an awesome V10 engine, quattro all-wheel-drive, drop-dead gorgeous looks and a genuine day-to-day usability it’s an incredibly impressive achievement. You’ll feel like a superhero when you take the wheel of this supercar.
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