2-litre V10 and promises race-bred but road-ready four wheel drive performance able to justify its new-found supercar status. Rivals must take this car very seriously indeed.
The engine comes mated to 7-speed S tronic auto transmission and is offered in two states of tune. There’s 540PS in standard form, or 610PS if you go for the ‘V10 plus’ variant we’re trying here, a car capable of 62mph from rest in just 3. 2s en route to 205mph. That torque travels to the tarmac via an updated quattro set-up able to flash 100% of power to either axle instantly on demand and as a result, traction levels are astonishingly high. The car feels agile too, though a slight vagueness in the steering masks some of the improvements that have been made. These are down to lighter weight and extra torsional rigidity, plus the car now benefits from a torque vectoring system that deals with tight turns at speed by dialling out understeer and channelling power to the wheels that can best use it.
As usual with Audi, there’s a ‘Drive Select’ driving dynamics system so that you can tweak throttle response, steering, stability control thresholds and gearshift timings to suit the kind of progress you want to make. It includes a special ‘Performance’ mode on this top version, with graphics delivered via the customisable screen of the brilliant ‘Audi Virtual Cockpit’ display that replaces the previous conventional instrument dials. The ‘Drive Select’ set-up can control the suspension too if, as we’d suggest, you find the extra for the ‘Audi Magnetic Ride’ system. Tick the box for the Sport exhaust option too so you can better enjoy that melodic 5. 2-litre V10 out back before you have to pay for its pleasures – combined fuel economy sees this ‘V10 plus’ version deliver just 23mpg on the combined cycle and put out 287g/km of CO2.
Visually, the R8 remains much as it was, a distinctive cocktail of low-slung curves and delightful design extravagance, though the influential shape of the previous model is now expressed in a tauter, more technically precise way. As before, we’re talking Ferrari, but with a German twist.
Of course, as ever what really matters is the stuff you can’t see. Like its predecessor, this second generation R8 uses lightweight ‘ASF’ ‘Audi Space Frame’ construction, shared (as before) with an equivalent model from the Volkswagen Group’s Lamborghini brand, in this case the Huracan. This time round though, the ASF structure is fashioned not only from aluminium but also from an even more advanced material – carbonfibre reinforced polymer. That’s not only helped make this car 32kgs lighter this time round but also contributes to a 40% improvement in torsional rigidity.
Getting in is something it’s possible to manage in a more graceful manner than is the case with most models of this kind and once inside, you’re introduced to what Audi calls a ‘luxury-level racing atmosphere’ and an interior that remains an object lesson in how to package a two seat sportscar.
As before, one of the cockpit’s key distinguishing features is what the stylists call the ‘monoposto’, a stylised large arc that encircles the driver’s area of the cockpit, starting in the door and ending at the centre tunnel. But if that’s familiar, there’s also plenty that’s different too, the changes beginning with this grippy, flat-bottomed R8 performance steering wheel. Extra round satellite buttons have been added to control engine start-up, exhaust sound and driving dynamics, with an end result that’s both pleasing and effective.
As for all the infotainment functionality, well, as with Ingolstadt’s humbler TT sportscar, that’s all been relocated to what we’re supposed to call the ‘Audi Virtual Cockpit’, a 12. 3-inch high resolution instrument binnacle display that completely replaces the usual set of conventional dials.
With the original R8, Audi set out to prove that it could build a supercar. Now it has. With this second generation version, the aim was twofold: to perfect the original package and then prove it capable of edging towards the more exclusive territory occupied by Lamborghini, McLaren and Ferrari. A step too far?
It seems not. The four rings don’t yet give this car the rarefied appeal of a Huracan or a 488 GTB, but in most meaningful respects, this MK2 model can match them car-for-car. Unlike its Italian rivals, it feels bullet-proof. And unlike a Porsche 911 Turbo, it makes a six-figure statement.
It’s a very Audi supercar. And there’s nothing quite like it.