Audi R8 coupe
- Head-turning looks
- Fast, with fine handling
- Surprisingly easy to drive
- Disappointingly impractical
- Thirsty engines
- Expensive options
“Mid-engined supercars don’t come much easier or fun to drive than the accomplished Audi R8.”
The Audi R8 was developed to take on sports cars such as the Porsche 911, Mercedes-AMG GT and the Nissan GT-R. Anyone who thinks that a company more used to building executive saloons can’t build a supercar will be pleasantly surprised when they drive the R8. It is just as much fun to drive as a Porsche and, while it lacks the outright pace of the Nissan GT-R, its quieter interior makes it easier to live with every day.
When Audi developed the R8 it gave it the looks to match a Ferrari but that does mean that, unlike in the Nissan or the Porsche, the R8 has no rear seats.
It does, however, have two engine choice that both sound great. You can choose between two powerful engines – a 4.2-litre V8 and a 5.2-litre V10 – and, whichever one you pick, you’ll get excellent performance, with the top-of-the-range V10 model sharing its engine with the Lamborghini Gallardo.
It's a fast supercar, so the Audi R8 isn’t cheap to buy, but when compared to models such as the new Lamborghini Huracan and the Ferrari 458, it starts to look very reasonably priced.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Thirsty, but servicing is reasonably priced
It won’t come as a massive shock to learn that neither the 4.2-litre V8 nor the 5.2-litre V10 petrol models are cheap to run. Of the two, the V8 is slightly better on fuel than the V10 and gets 19.9mpg compared to the V10’s 19mpg. Tax for both models is also in the highest group and will cost £500 per year.
One advantage in the R8’s favour is the Audi dealer network and, while maintenance for the R8 won’t be cheap, it will be reasonable when compared to the R8’s rivals from Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari, McLaren and Maserati.
Engines, drive & performance
The R8 is astonishingly fast, yet impressively user-friendly
Probably one of the biggest selling points of the Audi R8 is that it is very easy to drive, thanks in part to the car’s excellent four-wheel-drive system. Even the ‘basic’ V8 model gets a 4.2-litre V8 that has 424bhp, while the 5.2-litre V10 boasts 518bhp. The V8 model can sprint from 0-60mph in just 4.6 seconds, and has more performance than most people will ever want. We would however, spec the optional seven-speed automatic gearbox, which not only makes the R8 easier to drive in town, but also makes it quicker out on the open road.
The V10 Plus model gets an extra 25bhp over the standard V10 and comes with lowered and stiffened suspension, quicker steering and carbon ceramic brake discs for better performance on a race track. If you don't ever plan to take it on track, there's not much in point in paying the extra, as the firmer suspension doesn't deal as well with bumps and ruts as the setup on the standard V10 car.
The R8 LMX has now also been added to the range and is the ultimate version of the current model, introduced as a fond farewell before the current R8 is replaced next year. The LMX has the same V10 as the V10 Plus but it has been tweaked to produce 562bhp and can do 0-62mph in just 3.4 seconds. It's also one of the first production cars to feature powerful laser headlights but at £35,000 more than R8 V10 Plus, you'll have to be keen on the technology or the exclusivity to buy one of the 99 LMXs to be built.
Interior & comfort
The Magnetic Ride suspension feels very comfortable
We know from lesser models that Audis always have well-built, high-quality interiors, and that same thing is true in the R8. It looks sportier than other models from the range, but retains the high quality soft-touch plastics.
Audi has fitted the R8 with a clever exhaust that allows the car to sound really sporty under hard acceleration. But, once you’re on the motorway, it will also settle down to a quiet cruise. The interior is generally quiet, although you do get some tyre roar from the car’s huge wheels.
As well as a brilliant manual gearbox the R8 can also be specced with an excellent seven-speed automatic gearbox, which makes it lots of fun on a twisting back road, but also makes it easy to drive smoothly in town. Another option we would go for is the Magnetic Ride suspension, which smoothes out bumps better than most other cars of this type. This setup is standard on the V10 model, while the top-of-the-range V10 Plus model gets stiffer suspension that is better suited to a race track.
Practicality & boot space
You'll need to pack light for a weekend away
There are no rear seats in the Audi so you are limited to carrying two people, although they should be perfectly comfortable up front. The 100-litre boot is small but Audi will sell you a tailored luggage set, which gives some vital extra storage space, and fits behind the car’s seats. You will also find some storage spaces dotted around the cabin of the R8.
Reliability & safety
Expect reliability and quality to be first rate
Not enough R8s are sold for the car to feature in our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but the company did well in our manufacturers’ rankings, taking 12th place out of 33 firms, and owners ranked the brand well in areas such as build quality and performance.
Small sales numbers mean the R8 has never been tested for safety by Euro NCAP either, but it comes fitted with a host of airbags, electronic stability control, and advanced traction control. The R8 also benefits from a hi-tech construction that should be solid in an accident, while the car’s four-wheel-drive system means you’re less likely to have a crash in the first place.
Price, value for money & options
Supercar performance that’s surprisingly affordable
Compared to exotic supercar rivals, such as the Ferrari 458 and the McLaren 12C, the Audi R8 is tens of thousands of pounds cheaper and loses little in the way of performance.
All models gets LED headlights, a leather interior, and sat-nav. Spec your R8 wisely – with options such as the adaptive dampers, an automatic gearbox, and a premium stereo – and it will be a more attractive second-hand purchase come resale time.