R8

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2018 Audi R8 Overview

Audi introduced the svelte R8 ten years ago in an effort to create a supercar that would perform menacingly on the street and on the track, yet was also capable of being a livable daily-driver. Developed first on the track, this first-generation R8 earned Audi’s motorsport division a formidable reputation and has successfully served as a halo for the entire lineup. For 2017, the R8 underwent a full ground-up redesign, so for 2018, Audi is leaving it basically untouched.

The supercar comes in both coupe and roadster (stylized as Spyder) variants and, like its counterparts, it has room for only two occupants. It employs Audi’s unique space frame construction; as such, even the heaviest versions of the R8 tip the scales at just over 3,700 lbs. This new R8 is a cousin of the considerably more-ostentatious Lamborghini Huracán, but that’s not readily apparent at a glance as it has a design language shared with its predecessor. From the exterior, the second-generation R8’s redesign is about as evolutionary as can be, updating the beautiful base model’s lines and edges to be in accordance with Audi’s contemporary design language. The relatively-short hood sharply joins up with the steeply-raked windshield, and from there, it’s just a smooth graceful arc to the vehicle’s tail. The trademark sideblades are still there but are now interrupted by the car’s strong shoulder line. Tasteful bulges and vents hint at the power within and help to manifest some of that power. All in all, the shape is a clean, eye-catching combination of curves and creases that is decidedly “Audi.”

Stepping inside provides an equally eye-catching blend of form and function. The R8’s cabin is driver-focused, with all controls within easy reach of the person piloting the supercar. The drive-mode and start buttons are prominently mounted on the steering wheel’s main bezel. Audi’s “virtual cockpit” instrument cluster is a high-resolution 12.3-inch LCD that also serves as the sole infotainment display and is simultaneously able to provide driving, navigation and audio data. The climate-control center is a simple, elegant affair, consisting of a few stylish mutli-directional switches and dials. Critics have regarded all of this in a favorable light, specifically praising the powerful virtual cockpit for its smoothness and speed. It all adds to the R8’s ease of operation.

The R8 is split into two trims, V10 and V10 Plus. Both trims employ a mid-mounted hand-built naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter V10 engine, delivering power to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; no manual transmission is available, but drivers who enjoy a little extra control can utilize the shifting paddles. During normal driving, the majority of the power is routed to the rear wheels, but the front-rear ratio can vary as needed, and either axle can take a full 100 percent of the available torque. Thanks to torque-vectoring, the power can also be split across each axle, providing a dialed-in amount of power to each wheel for the ultimate control in cornering and braking.

The base V10 can be had on either model and is good for a stout 540 horsepower and 398 lb.-ft. of torque. With this, the R8 can make the run to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, topping out at 199 miles per hour. The base V10 also receives Audi’s magnetic ride suspension as standard. The seven-speed’s gear ratios are rather spread out, so that top track speed actually occurs at sixth gear, with seventh gear serving as an overdrive ratio suitable for highway driving. The driver can manipulate throttle input, suspension, and engine mapping by selecting one of four drive modes: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. All of this adds up to a version of the R8 that is naturally relaxed for a supercar, but can be woken up when needed; a comfortable grand-touring car with plenty of hustle.

The powerful V10 Plus is available solely on the coupe and bumps engine output to 610 hp and torque to 413 lb-ft. The sprint to 60 comes in just 3.2 seconds with a top speed of 205 miles per hour. In addition to that, the V10 Plus variant adds carbon ceramic brakes, a carbon fiber engine cover, mirrors, diffuser, spoiler, and sideblades, and a fifth, track-oriented driving mode called Performance. The uprated exhaust gives a throatier, more-dramatic growl when the engine is revved. V10 Plus’ version of the seven-speed places gears three through seven close together in order to keep RPMs (and therefore horsepower) high. According to reviewers, these upgrades put more of the R8’s capability in the driver’s hands, demanding more attention and coaxing more spirited driving than the base V10. In either trim, steering isn’t terribly communicative, but is solid and inspires confidence.

Because the R8 is a driver’s car, Audi has chosen not to offer a lot of the gizmos available in commuter cars. Its technology stack is more streamlined than one might expect from the cutting edge modern machine that it is. Standard features include a reversing camera, navigation, rear fog lamps, LED tail-lamps, automatic high beams, powered parking brake, reversing sensors, power folding side mirrors, and of course a powered soft top for the roadster variant. One neat feature is Audi’s LED/laser combination headlights, which are optional on the V10 and standard on V10 Plus. These activate at 40 miles per hour and above, using four laser diodes in each lamp to supplement the LED bulbs with a very specific wide and low pattern light that greatly enhances visibility on the road.

Cargo space in the R8 is as much of a challenge here as it is in any other mid-engined two-seat car. A small net-enclosed parcel shelf sits behind the seats and is good for occasional items that nevertheless need to remain in the cabin. The dedicated cargo area at the front of the vehicle is good for a couple of overnight bags, and buyers should plan any multi-day leisure trips involving the R8 with that fact in mind.

It couldn’t have been an easy feat for Audi to translate its clean, linear design philosophy to something as alluring as a supercar, but the brand has managed to do so successfully in the new R8. Though it lacks the visual drama of competitors from Ferrari, McLaren, and its own corporate Lamborghini brethren, the R8’s design language is both sophisticated and muscular. In addition, its naturally-aspirated suite of engines allow it to dole power and sound in a traditional manner for ultra-performance cars such as this, which should please enthusiasts acquainted with classic metal. It’s hard to say there’s such a thing as a practical V10-powered supercar, but the Audi’s ability to be perfectly livable and its significant price advantage over competitors make it a smart choice indeed.

Updated

Kyree is new to the automotive journalism scene, but has voiced snarky public opinions about cars for quite some time. When he's not drooling over the latest European luxury sled, he's designing web experiences or writing backend code.

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