A true, raw, maniacal monster more than deserving of the supercar title.
The Audi R8 entered the industry in 2008 with a huge bang. Constantly compared to its cousin, the Lamborghini Gallardo, the R8 was an instant hit with all types of crowds. This was the supercar to have if you were a success. All of this said, the first-generation R8 was getting long in the tooth by the end of its cycle, and we tested one of the last V10 manual transmission examples (reviewed here) last summer. Despite feeling a bit dated, the car still delivered supercar behaviour for a fraction of what a comparable Ferrari or Lamborghini would cost. We were eager to step behind the wheel of the new second-generation model, and Audi Canada happily obliged.
Our 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus, painted in a stunning shade of Vegas Yellow, arrived to us completely loaded. The new car is almost imperceptible from the outgoing model from a distance, though it offers the same aggressive stance, sexy profile and distinctive front end. The second generation is a modern, fresh take on the influential outgoing car, especially with the carbon-fiber wing on our V10 Plus, the rear diffuser, and sharp front lip. This is, undoubtedly and unequivocally the best that Audi has to offer, and it’s one of the most beautiful designs currently offered for sale.
What’s particularly surprising with the new generation is that Audi has done away with the 4.2L V8 completely. The ten-cylinder monster is the only motor currently available, albeit with two different tunes (with the V10 Plus getting a significant power bump). A twin-turbo V6 should be joining the lineup in the coming years, but for now, the R8 maintains its exclusivity by being a solely ten-cylinder vehicle. That’s just fine with us, because it’s this motor that provides an orchestra that’s akin to a dozen Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifles being fired into the air at the same time.
The standard R8 gets a 5.2L V10, naturally aspirated, that’s good for 540 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. The V10 Plus bumps these numbers to 610 horsepower at 8,250RPM and 413 lb-ft at 6,500RPM. It’s quick even on the bottom end, but as soon as you cross that 5,500RPM barrier the car barrels forward like a rocketship straight out of Satan’s backyard. Power delivery is very precise, and the car howls. There’s no fake noise piped into the cabin here, it’s pure unadulterated sex appeal. Let off the gas and you get the aforementioned gunshots from the optional Sports Exhaust. Don’t like them? Hit the exhaust-shaped button on the steering wheel to quiet it down.
This thing pulls, and the S-tronic seven-speed dual-clutch transmission bangs through shifts in an even more dramatic manner. Some points are taken away from the new R8 because the gated six-speed manual has gone away (probably for good), but such is the way of the industry now. S-tronic does such a good job of sending the car’s power to all four wheels (via quattro all-wheel-drive) that the third pedal in the outgoing model is all but forgotten. Seriously, this car is impeccable, and the paddle shifters are responsive enough – only tenths of a percent behind Porsche’s PDK (reviewed here), the gold standard for dual-clutch gearboxes.
How the new R8 significantly differs from its predecessor is how easy it is to drive in an everyday setting. The hydraulic steering has been replaced by an electrically assisted unit – it still feels good, but it requires much less overcorrection and the car is smoother to drive overall. With the Audi Drive Select set to “Comfort”, it’s almost as if the car grows up and simmers down, as opposed to the “wild teenager on sugar” demeanour it exhibits in “Dynamic”. If the low ride height and tight interior accommodations work for you, this just might be completely usable as a daily driver.
This isn’t a straight-line car, either. The Quattro GmbH engineers have put in every ounce of effort they have, and then some, to make this a world-class supercar. Over a long weekend, with seemingly the entire city out of town, I ventured on a solo drive out of the suburbs and through some favourite country roads. There’s no possible way to even approach this car’s handling limits without being on a track. That said, the R8 handles in a spectacular manner, effortlessly. Pushing it hard enough will get the rear end eager to dance, too, something not always possible in an all-wheel-drive car. The mid-engine layout helps keep the R8 balanced under every possible circumstance.
The R8 is also the only road-going production car currently certified in Canada with laser headlights. There’s a very Iron Man sticker under the “frunk” on top of the headlights that warns about laser radiation, which adds to the cool factor. The actual crispness of the lights is second to none, beating out current LED and bi-xenon technologies in depth, field of vision and sharpness. I’ll be honest though; most naked eyes will not be able to identify these laser lights from a solid LED unit. If anything, they just perform much better, and could easily be mistaken for the best LEDs available.
On the inside, Audi’s performance flagship is all business. Everything is centered around the driver-focused Virtual Cockpit, which, like in the TT-S (reviewed here), only has the one screen within the instrument cluster. This screen controls drive select settings, navigation, multimedia, Bluetooth, and basically everything else you would need. There’s a new shifter, a similar unit as seen in the new A4 (reviewed here). It requires a button press to engage “Park”, which can be a bit confusing at first. The runaway winner here is the pure supercar engine start/stop button, which is located right on the multifunction steering wheel – big, red, and impossible to miss.
Audi charges a base price of $184,000 for the standard V10 model, while the V10 Plus tested here starts at $213,900. The Carbon Sigma side blade, full carbon rear wing, rear diffuser and other ground effects are standard on this model, along with the Audi laser light technology. Adding to the V10 Plus package is the LeMans Package, which adds electric height adjustment for the bucket seats, Sports Exhaust, dynamic steering, unique 20” LeMans wheels, and a special steering wheel. Additional extras are the $1,600 Alcantara Headliner, $2,300 Bang & Olufsen sound system, $2,300 for Audi Magnetic Ride, and a few individual options. The sticker on our car was just below $230,000.
Perhaps the only disappointment to this car is the atrocious fuel economy, but some may say, you have to pay to play in this segment. Despite a good mix between city and highway, with perhaps 60% highway driving, we weren’t able to see any better than 20L/100km. This is a bit worse than the last V10-powered R8 we reviewed, in which the average was closer to 16L/100km in a similar cycle. From the reserve light, the car will accept 70L of premium fuel, and we recommend putting in Ultra 94 for optimal performance.
Fuel economy aside, the 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus is a maniacal monster and more than deserving of the supercar title. With fantastic colour choices such as this Vegas Yellow, or the launch colour Ara Blue, the car attracts positive attention wherever it goes. Over the course of my test, I legitimately couldn’t stop for groceries without the car attracting a crowd by the time I returned. The R8 has had a similar profile for almost a decade, but the magic hasn’t faded one bit. If anything, the latest model only rekindles the attraction that it has earned from the world.
2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus Gallery
*Some photography contributed by Andrew Zhang*