Audi's concept seems anything but ideal for a sports car. A sports car simply has to have an oversized engine and the simpler the technology, the more control the driver has over all that power. Extravagant looks make a sports car that much more interesting. The Audi R8 certainly looks special, but it does not have the rugged macho look that characterises super sports cars. Instead, Audi opts for clean lines for the R8 too. For the 2019 model year, the grille has been made even wider, making the R8 appear lower. There are also small openings between the bonnet and the grille, just like on the latest Audi models.
Space and equipment
The sleek lines are not only characteristic of the exterior. Inside, the R8 is at least as sober and businesslike as Audi's other models. That is to say: in the basics. Because in this clean-lined cocoon, the driver and pilot lie low and down in bucket seats. In doing so, the R8 gives off a distinct, secure coupé feel. At the same time, this is certainly not a cramped sports car; head and legroom are very decent. Interior storage space is also good. The R8 offers a modest glovebox and substantial storage space behind the seats. The boot is located under the front lid. Under the largely glass tailgate, the engine shines as the R8's crown jewel.
Like the more businesslike models, the R8 offers a complete infotainment system and a "virtual cockpit". The latter manifests itself much better in the R8 than in business models, because this time all functions are controlled via the display behind the steering wheel (no second display in the centre console) and that is precisely the charm of the virtual cockpit. The navigation system in the R8 also has knowledge of race tracks, so the driver can see on the screen in advance how sharp the upcoming curves are. The B&W audio system sounds a bit flat and is not comparable to that from the Audi A6 and A8.
The steering wheel has a flat bottom and on the steering wheel is the button to start the engine. This is a 5.2-litre 10-cylinder that, since the facelift for the 2019 model year, now delivers 610 hp / 560 Nm. Audi opts for a 10-cylinder because a smaller engine needs a turbo to deliver such power (it gives a different experience) and because the 12-cylinder is too slow to respond to the throttle. This powerhouse starts, not entirely unexpectedly, with a deep roar. If you live in a quiet neighbourhood, you are guaranteed to betray the R8 at the start of every drive.
Audi's goal when designing the R8 was to build the ultimate sports car that is also usable on a daily basis. Those who don't provoke the R8 will therefore have a fine travel car in this super sports car. It is always noticeable that the suspension is capable of a lot and that the engine can burst out in a terrible way at any moment, but the R8 is not intrusive and can be driven very calmly if desired. This is partly due to the fact that when driving calmly, the R8 accelerates from standstill in second gear; this avoids "jittery effects". Even when the accelerator is gently stroked, the R8 gives a tremendous feeling of superiority and that too makes driving this top Audi model very enjoyable.
But of course it's the performance that matters! Because this is an atmospheric engine, the R8 builds up power to a peak (unlike a turbo engine that "bursts"). From 6,000 rpm, the full power is delivered, showing this initially good-natured touring car in a hellish aggression reserved only for true super sports cars. The engine sound is then somewhere between a beastly roar and a howl (or was that the test driver's irrepressible emotion?). Those who want to experience maximum acceleration can "launch control"activate it. Then the R8 sprints from standstill to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds. Because the engine builds up the optimum RPM before launch and because the clutch plates of the dual-clutch automatic are closer together and already pressurised, this sprint is much more brutal than simply full throttle. In a downright violent manner, the occupants' heads are rammed against the headrests ("pressed" is inadequate here) and shifting is much more blunt. The 100 km/h is on the counter so quickly that 200 km/h is already on the clock when the average driver has recovered from the initial shock.
Despite all the violence, it is noticeable that the R8 is a modern sports car and not an untamable beast. This is even more so for the 2019 model year, as the drivetrain software has been further refined and, thanks to Michelin PS4 tyres developed especially for the R8, grip has been increased.
As ever, the Quattro all-wheel drive system ensures that power is converted into acceleration optimally and wheel spin only occurs when the driver deliberately forces it. To keep the feeling in the steering as pure as possible, the emphasis is on rear-wheel drive. The front wheels only get extra power when the rear wheels cannot handle it. This makes the R8 less brutal than some other super sports cars. It seems less spectacular, but as if a certain amount of noise is missing, the R8 driver feels the mechanics even better. Then it is noticeable how the R8 is not raw, but rather sharp. When cornering, it is wonderfully noticeable how the R8 builds up lateral forces and therefore it is easy to make just the right steering movement and maintain maximum grip. The electronic safety nets never interfere with this, but for those who want, they can be switched off incrementally.
Not only handling gives a lot of confidence. For the 2019 model year, the brakes have been improved, giving the R8 and almost spectacular stopping power. From 100 km/h the braking distance is reduced by 1.5 metres, from 200 km/h even by 5 metres. Moreover, the brakes communicate with the driver as well as the engine and steering, so the driver can really get the most out of the R8.
A sports car should be brutal, lavish and bold. So how then can an Audi that is polished and perfected be a good sports car? The answer is that it is precisely the refinement that sets the R8 apart from other super sports cars. Because there is less "noise" on the line, the mechanics communicate better. This makes the Audi R8 different, but certainly no less exciting. In addition, the many safety systems ensure that this super sports car is usable on a daily basis and that less talented drivers can also drive the R8 fast. Audi has therefore succeeded in its aim, setting a true instrument of precision against the blunt axes of the competition.
- Sporty, but also luxurious
- Extremely fast, but also daily usable
- Driving assistance systems make racing easy, but can also be off
- Awkwardly large turning circle
- Considerably more expensive than first-generation R8