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2013 Audi R8 Overview
Audi's R8 has always been the subtle supercar. It seems foolish to talk about any 500-hp, midengine all-wheel-drive (AWD) beast in such a manner, but when you compare it with its rivals, no other word will do. It doesn’t have the ostentatious bravado of the Lamborghini Aventador or the menacing brutality of a Mercedes SLS-AMG. It’s content to do its job well, no pomp or spectacle necessary. It's the Cal Ripken of the automotive world.
For 2013, things are no different. An adjustment here, a polish there and the whole package becomes a lot better. At the top of this year's list are a new transmission—or rather, the absence of the old transmission—and a new top trim, but the less noticeable changes are just as worthwhile.
Outside, you’ll have to look closely to notice the slight mods to the tail- and headlights, which are now full LED. Bumpers are sculpted moderately as well, and the front fascia gets some beveling on its top corners for this newest iteration of the iconic Audi grille. Look extra close, and you’ll even notice some accents on the front intakes to match the changes to R8’s wide mouth. Out back, all R8 trims now share the same giant dual exhaust tips, displacing the quad and oval options that previously sat at the back end.
Inside, it’s more of the same. A metal edge now graces the top of the navigation screen, new shift paddles set off that special transmission, and the window switchgear has some new metal accents.
Necessary? No. Nice? Yes.
The same can be said for the new materials and trim options, which see quilted fabrics on doors and seats, Alcantara for the headliner and some extra options to personalize your R8.
But that all comes after you pick your trim. If you’re an entry-level type of guy, or perhaps just level-headed, the “base” V8 version offers the best value, the best ride and perhaps even the best balance of performance, whether in coupe or Spyder configuration. Its 4.2-liter V8 delivers 430 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, and V8 versions ride on an adjustable suspension that makes things just as livable in the city as on the track.
That said, the V10 outsells the V8. Predictable, perhaps. If you’re going to buy a midengine supercar, you might as well have the most super of the bunch. With 525 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, it’s a noticeable upgrade from the V8 and can propel the R8 to 60 mph in just over 3 seconds.
Better still, both engines are cleaner this year, with upgraded engine management resulting in less carbon dioxide spewing out the rear with every mile. Anyone who’s done any tuning in the last 30 years knows that engine management can be used for good as well as evil, and here it’s been utilized for a little extra oomph from the big 5.2-liter V10 in a special new trim. For 2013, the V10 Plus trim arrives, and the plus is no misnomer.
First, it's “plus” 25 horsepower and 8 lb-ft of torque. In Audi style, it’s not a crazy bump—more like a gentleman’s upgrade. After that, the Plus is the perfect example of less is more. Thirty-five pounds less insulation. Forty-five pounds less from lighter, racing-style seats. Twenty-five pounds less from ceramic brakes, and 15 pounds less from dropping the magnetic suspension dampening for a more conventional setup. The brakes and suspension alone should be worth the upgrade, shedding important pounds in the most important of places: the corners.
All this and we haven’t even touched upon the transmission. Legendary 6-speed gated manual aside, the transmission has always been the weak point of the R8. While the traditional 3-pedal is everything you could want from a cog-swapper, the R-tronic single-clutch automatic has been a constant source of frustration for owners. Enter the dual-clutch S-tronic, the answer to all your power-transmission needs. It’s around 35 pounds heavier than the R-tronic it replaces, and 45 heavier than the traditional 3-pedal, but while the R-tronic was more track oriented, the S-tronic won’t exhibit the sluggish, lurchy character of its predecessor when traveling around town. Frustratingly, the S-tronic still utilizes the same backward “pull to downshift/push to upshift” layout that has caused many a frustrating exit out of high-speed turns.
Sadly, this will be the last year for the 6-speed manual transmission. Don’t allow the excitement over the new S-tronic cloud that fact and let you miss your last chance for three pedals in your R8. It’ll be all S-tronic in 2014.
Meanwhile the R8 continues to roll on in its stated grace, content to be overshadowed by its more raucous competition. I contend it’s the only truly livable supercar, and the only one that isn’t guaranteed to come with a little a side helping of buyer’s regret. And it just keeps getting better.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.