There are very few supercars left that can deliver the raw exhilaration of straight displacement and horsepower.
In some applications, the phrase “never meet your heroes” is absolutely appropriate. There are countless supercars out there that, upon spending a week with them, just cease being interesting for one reason or another. The Audi R8, however, is not one of these cars. Regardless of trim level, colour, or engine configuration, every single example of the R8 we have sampled continues to not only impress, but surprise on many levels. The 2019 Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus brings together a personality that’s becoming more and more iconic over the years, but most importantly is easily the most streetable supercar on sale today.
With more and more cars going the way of turbocharging, hybrid propulsion, and even plug-in electrification, the Audi R8’s naturally aspirated V10 engine is something purists should hold close to their hearts. This sweetheart of a powerplant, a 5.2L V10, pushes 602 horsepower at a screaming 8,250RPM, and 413 lb-ft. of torque at 6,500RPM. Newer tech from the competition has done well in terms of efficiency, but there really is no replacement for displacement in a supercar. The power comes on with urgency and response is always immediate.
The 5.2L V10 is also the same engine that powers the Lamborghini Huracan (reviewed here) and the R8 offers the same level of drama without the fuss of the Italian supercar. Unfortunately, the second generation of the R8 (new for the 2017 model year) signifies the death of the scrumptious six-speed gated manual gearbox, which had the last gated shifter of any mainstream production car below $1 million. That said, the seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch application in the latest R8 is spectacular. It bangs off both upshifts and downshifts at lightning speeds, and in most drive mode settings, these are met with a confident backfire from the performance exhaust.
The V10 Plus’ 610 horsepower is a bump from 532 in the regular V10 models, and the Neckarsulm, Germany built supercar is a treat. It’s incredibly easy to drive fast, and the steering is extremely precise. The Audi Space Frame and aluminum structure all contribute to not only lightness, but also a package that feels seriously nimble. Steering feel isn’t necessarily analog, but it has a level of precision to it that few other cars are able to get close to. It turns on an absolute dime, with a tight turning radius, and the all-wheel-drive system has a rear-bias that is eager to induce understeer on demand.
When in Spyder form, the R8 V10 Plus is about 275 pounds heavier than the regular fixed-roof model, for a total of about 3,700 pounds (slightly lighter than the standard V10 Spyder). As you drive it though, the weight is all but forgotten. The faster you go, the more this car shrinks, and it feels only mildly heavier than genuinely lightweight sports cars like the Porsche 718 Boxster (reviewed here). In V10 Plus spec, the R8 Spyder will guffaw at lesser machines as it sprints to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds flat. The quattro all-wheel-drive system means launches are hard and fast, and this leads us to believe that Audi Canada’s acceleration estimate may be conservative.
Audi Canada rates the fuel efficiency of the R8 Spyder V10 Plus at 17.1L/100km city, 11.3L/100km highway, and a combined estimate of 14.5L/100km. Our test consisted of mostly city driving, and considerable use of the “Performance” setting. We averaged 19.2L/100km operating solely on 94-octane ultra-premium fuel. Longer highway runs resulted in matching the manufacturer’s estimate and slightly besting it at 11.0L/100km. This was achieved in “Comfort” mode with the transmission left in its automatic setting.
This year, Audi is offering the R8 in “RWS” form, which is the only one to be equipped with a rear-drive setup. It’s a little bit less powerful, but it’s also lighter, and starts at $163,000, an absolute bargain when considered against rivals like the Acura NSX. The R8 Coupé quattro starts at $185,000, and the Spyder at $198,100. The V10 Plus Spyder starts at $229,500, and a series of options on our test vehicle brought the total to $242,740. Highlights here include the Audi Magnetic Ride ($2,300), Bang & Olufsen sound system ($2,300), Black Optics Package ($1,350), Audi Sport Package ($1,900), and extended leather ($3,400).
Bystanders, regardless of age or gender, can’t help but look at the R8 with interest. The Ara Blue Crystal Pearl Effect paint is absolutely stunning, and this car gets just as much attention out on the streets as the McLaren 570S Spider (reviewed here). Whether passing through the local fast food chain’s drive-through, or at the gas station, the R8’s gorgeous lines garnered attention. The second generation is a bit more conservative than the first, though the LED headlights are permanently associated with the Iron Manseries and the general shape of the car has rightfully earned its own identity as a legitimate supercar.
Regardless of the fact that the Audi R8 is handmade at the quattro GmbH factory, the car’s fit and finish is right up to Audi standards. There are no awkward panel gaps, and the interior is just as impeccably finished as in every other model in the lineup. The R8 has manually adjustable sport bucket seats that could use a little bit more adjustability, but most drivers won’t find it too difficult to get comfortable. The leather materials and carbon fiber accents all come together nicely, and everything is driver-centric.
With regards to in-car technology, the Audi Virtual Cockpit is in play here, and just like the TT (reviewed here), the only screen within the vehicle is the digital instrument cluster. It’s not only capable of displaying vehicle diagnostic and trip computer information, but can also mirror Apple CarPlay right in front of your eyes. Automatic climate control, Bluetooth, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system are all on board to cater to the driver’s needs.
The soft top retracts at the touch of a button, and can be operated at neighbourhood cruising speeds. With the top in place, visibility out of the R8 Spyder is questionable, with massive blind spots on either side. One exceptionally cool touch is a powered rear window that, when rolled down, brings in a nice breeze but also is positioned so that rain won’t trickle into the cabin. It also means the driver and passenger can both hear that V10 sing a little bit louder from behind the cabin.
As it currently stands, there are very few supercars left that can deliver the raw exhilaration of straight displacement and horsepower. The 2019 Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus is not only one of the only analog supercars left, but it’s one of the most engaging out there, and a car that promises smiles with every drive. Not only that, but with a car like this, just a trip to the grocery store for a carton of milk can be made into an adventure – a reason to be out on the road and drive. This is the kind of stuff that auto enthusiasts crave, and Audi is out there passionately building exactly what we want.