Audi R8 Review

Find out more about the Audi R8 in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Terrific engine noise
  • All-weather usability
  • High-quality interior

Cons

  • Small luggage space
  • Expensive to run
  • Pricey options
  • MPG

    21 - 21

  • CO2

    293 - 302 g/km

Model review

Built at first as a celebration of Audi's successes at the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Audi R8 is a high-performance, all-wheel drive supercar based largely around the same components as the Lamborghini Gallardo and Huracan.

The first version of the car was unveiled as a concept at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show, following the company's third successive Le Mans win. At the time the car was called the Le Mans quattro but, by the time it was released in 2007, it had its name changed to 'R8' in honour of the R8 race car that took the victories.

Originally released as a 4.2-litre V8 coupe, with the engine from Audi's RS4 saloon, the range grew to include a 5.2-litre V10 based on the Gallardo's engine and then a convertible bodystyle. A V12 diesel model was developed but never made it to market, along with an electric 'e-tron' model that saw a similar fate.

It was inevitable that a supercar named after a racing car would end up racing itself, and the first generation R8 had a very successful racing career in GT3 endurance categories. When it was time to create a second generation car, it was specifically developed with racing in mind and the car was campaigned throughout 2015 before being made available as a road car to the public at the end of the year.

Latest model

The second generation of R8 is, like its predecessor, available as either a coupe or a convertible, but exclusively as a 5.2-litre V10 model. Introduced at the end of 2015, the car was developed as a GT3 racing car before being put on sale as a road car.

In making a supercar, Audi has put itself up against one of the most enduring performance vehicles on the planet, the Porsche 911. This recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and it's no small task to beat it at the game it's been playing for so long. Other rivalries include the Ferrari 488 and McLaren 570S, while parallels will inevitably be drawn between the Audi and the other great, four-wheel drive, 600hp sports car with GT3 pedigree, the Nissan GT-R.

The second generation R8 is a sharper and more angular vehicle than the first but, like its predecessor, will often be mistaken for the smaller and cheaper Audi TT, at least until the characteristic side-blades – vertical pieces of contrasting bodywork behind the doors – come into view.

Unlike the first car, which had V8 and V10 power, the current car is V10 only, although a lower-output V6 turbo may be joining the line-up soon. It can also only be specified with a 7-speed automatic S-tronic gearbox – although the first generation was available with a manual, very few customers chose it.

The R8 is available in either regular V10 form or V10 Plus. The Plus model adds plenty of exterior decoration in carbon-fibre, including a fixed rear wing in place of the retracting one on the regular car, while also packing in almost 70hp more, which rockets the R8 past a 200mph top speed.

Value for money

It's by far the most expensive Audi you can buy, but even so the R8 doesn't represent poor value for money. Starting off at £123,330 (the convertible 'Spyder' is £132,020), the R8 is equipped with just about every conceivable modern amenity.

Standard gear includes Nappa leather seats (just two of them) which are electrically adjustable, with a memory function and heated. LED headlights are standard, as they should be since the R8 was the first production car in the world to use them, along with the Audi Virtual Cockpit.

This clever display system integrates entertainment (DAB is standard), phone interface (Bluetooth is also standard), satellite navigation (standard) and the selectable drive modes right into the instrument binnacle, along with the speedometer and rev counter.

While it's difficult to imagine what else you could add, the Plus model upgrades the suspension, brakes – to a carbon-ceramic system – and adds a few carbon-fibre trim pieces in addition to the power hike.

There is another one of Audi's famously expensive options lists though. You can add some novel laser headlights for £6,000, or have a diamond stitched headlining for £2,400 – but crucially it does show up a strange omission. Cruise control and a reverse parking camera are only available as option extras, even on the Plus model!

Running costs are generally high but not by the standards of most supercars. The 23-25mpg fuel economy ratings are just about achievable in the real world, servicing costs are expensive but the intervals are as long as any other Audi and the first-year VED rate and insurance are in the highest possible brackets.

Looks and image

While drivers of Audi's saloons and crossovers do not have the best of reputations, the Audi brand itself is relatively cool and the R8 may get something of a free pass as it's unusual and clearly a high-performance car but not quite as vulgar as a scarlet Ferrari or as unimaginative as a Porsche.

Audi has been working hard on cultivating a rebellious playboy image for the R8 in particular, with the convertible model of the car actually revealed through being the personal vehicle of Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel films.

It's certainly a handsome car, and while many prefer the softer lines of the first version to the angular modern car, it has a lot of road presence and you're likely to draw more admiring glances than if you were in the equivalent Ferrari. It's going to be mistaken for its cheaper sibling, the Audi TT, quite a lot of the time and that may not be a bad thing – the TT itself is a good-looking vehicle and the R8 is less likely to be regarded as an ostentatious display of wealth as a result.

Space and practicality

The R8 doesn't have all that many family-friendly credentials. Ultimately, it's a two-seater supercar, so only really suitable for an exceptionally small family – although the sports seats of the regular V10 do have ISOFIX mounting points on the passenger side. The doors are absolutely huge too, so not eminently suitable for propping open while you're struggling to strap a toddler into their car seat.

Space is at a premium too. There's a decent few storage spaces in the cabin for keys and phones, but when it comes to luggage space it's not the best. A parcel shelf behind the seats provides the greatest single area of storage space, at around 200 litres, while there's a boot in the nose of the car good for only 112 litres – or about half what you get in the back of a Volkswagen up!

You'll fit a couple of rucksacks or a few bags of shopping (if you don't mind it mixing), but little else. Taller drivers may also want to think twice about the convertible as the mechanism reduces the available space for occupants.

The R8 has never been officially crash-tested, so it has no EuroNCAP rating. However, the car is built for racing, and is constructed around an 'Audi Space Frame'. This combination of a carbon-fibre firewall between the cabin and the mid-mounted engine, and an aluminium safety cell is purpose-built to make high speed crashes survivable. The R8 is also fitted with quattro four-wheel drive as standard and all cars are fitted with traction control, stability control, ABS, electronic differential lock, and front, side and curtain driver and passenger airbags.

Engines

There's just the one engine available in the R8, a 5.2-litre V10, though it can be selected in two different states of tune.

In the ordinary R8 this engine produces 532hp, which is sufficient to send it to 60mph in 3.3s (3.4s for the convertible) and on to 199mph. Although a CO2 rating of 272g/km comfortable puts it into the highest VED bracket, the combined fuel economy of 24.8mpg isn't bad.

The Plus version of the R8 turns the engine up further, to 601hp. This brings the 0-60mph time down to just 3.0s and nudges the top speed north of the magic 200mph mark, at 205mph. Emissions and fuel economy suffer somewhat from this extra pace, but even so, a combined 23.0mpg is impressive and there's no additional VED penalty from a 287g/km CO2 rating.

Running costs

There's not really any escape from the fact that the R8 is a bona fide supercar and comes with appropriately super running costs too.

Whichever model you pick, your first year VED will cost £2,000. Every car is firmly entrenched into insurance group 50, the very top of the insurance ladder. The 23.0mpg of the Plus model will see you needing a full, 16-gallon tank of fuel less than every 400 miles, and that's going to add up quickly. Nevertheless, without relying on turbochargers, the R8's fuel economy is at least realistic, which is more than can be said for its rivals. Cylinder-on-demand technology, where the engine shuts down cylinders it doesn't need to preserve fuel, helps it meet its goal.

Servicing is again pricey, at least compared to more ordinary performance cars. Brake discs and pads are upwards of £1000 per axle, and a clutch is £2,500. A major service is nearly £1,000 on Audi's service plan, but then the major service interval is at 19,000 miles/2 years, which does keep costs reasonable.

Things to look out for

As you'd probably expect from a car specifically designed to win 24 hour endurance races and inspected for millimetre-precision tolerances by lasers before it leaves the factory, there's not even any common minor faults that can be aimed at the current R8.

The R8 does share a lot of its technologies and components with other Audi models – most of the interfaces, buttons and even the steering wheel will be very familiar even if you've driven an A1 – so while this may be a £100,000 car you'll need to be aware that it may suffer the same faults as a £15,000 one. The key thing to check would be the state of its 'right-foot consumables' – brakes and tyres particularly – and that its servicing is up to date.

Rivals

There's almost no end of rivals for the R8, with plenty of exotic machinery to tempt you away. Perhaps the rival Audi is most directly looking at is the Porsche 911, particularly in Turbo and Turbo S form, which also comes with four-wheel drive, low 3-second 0-60mph times and convertible or coupe body styles.

Other alternatives may include the Nissan GT-R, McLaren 570S, Honda's new hybrid NSX and the Ferrari 488. A choice a little more from left-field would be Jaguar's F-Type SVR, and of course the Audi does have an in-house competitor in the shape of the Lamborghini Huracan, with which it shares some major components.

Depreciation warning

Depreciation is tricky to judge on specialist vehicles like the Audi R8 as, even with a relatively high production volume of around 15 cars a day, it's less likely that supply will outstrip demand for these cars. The standard 'average mileage and condition' notes aren't relevant either, as supercars are rarely driven and exceptionally well-cared for.

It's likely that most of the car's depreciation will be inside its first year. If it's looked after and mileage doesn't exceed 5,000 a year, it's unlikely that it will ever go below 50 per cent of its original value and indeed may start appreciating again in as little as 15 years' time.

Which R8 to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

5.2 FSI V10 Quattro 2dr S Tronic

Most MPG

5.2 FSI V10 Quattro 2dr S Tronic

Fastest Model (0-60)

5.2 FSI V10 Quattro Performance 2dr S Tronic

Trims Explained

The R8 comes in just two flavours, although the convertible is not available in the enhanced upper tier package

V10

The regular V10 comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, electric adjusting sports seats with heater, memory function and Nappa leather upholstery, standard LED headlights, satellite navigation, DAB radio and Bluetooth connection. The excellent Audi Virtual Cockpit, which replaces the instrument binnacle with an interactive display for all vehicle information and functions is also standard.

Prices start from £123,330

V10 Plus

Upgrading to the Plus adds the high-output, 601hp engine along with upgraded sport suspension, ceramic brakes with six-piston calipers on the front and four-piston on the rear, fixed back bucket seats with electric height adjust and a number of exterior cues including a carbon-fibre finish on the sideblade, mirror housing and spoiler lip and a carbon-fibre fixed rear spoiler instead of the extending one of the normal car.

The size of the fuel tank is also reduced by 10 litres to 73 litres.

Summary

  1. Virtual cockpit is standard
  2. Expensive options list
  3. Automatic gearbox only
  4. Quattro four-wheel drive is standard
  5. Small, 112-litre 'boot'
  6. Prices start at £123,330
  7. High-performance Plus model
  8. Coupe and convertible models
  9. Cruise control is only an option
  10. Plus model has a smaller fuel tank, by 10 litres

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