Audi R8 Performance RWD – Review
By Liam Bird
I have perhaps, over the years, been a little bit hard on the Audi R8. But, I hasten to add, in my defence, so too have far more well-known motor-noters than me.
The R8 has always been considered the “useable” or “everyday” supercar. And I suppose, if you can live sub 20 mpg, no-doubt huge servicing bills – how much is one of those whopping back tyres? – and, just two seats and limited luggage space, it might very well fit that role almost perfectly. Besides, if you can afford the car…
Conversely however, it’s that very day-to-day usability and its effortless refinement that have left me questioning on more than one occasion whether or not the R8 lacks a certain indefinable something that separates the best from the rest? Where’s the brutality? I asked. There’s not the precision of a Porsche, the finesse of a Ferrari, An R8 doesn’t scare you or make you tingle all over like you’re led to think supercars should. It’s as if, somehow, it’s almost too easy to live with.
“Comfortable for hour after hour”
And then there’s the interior. The R8 shares most of its interior with Audi’s other sleek (and considerably cheaper) coupe, the TT. Now usually that would in no-way be such a bad thing. As usual everything you touch has been constructed to the same fastidious and near bomb-proof Audi tolerances as always. But, it’s all a bit too familiar. The R8 gets the same TFT dashboard, the same aluminium heater knobs, the same flat-bottomed steering wheel, and even the same VW Group sourced indicator and wiper stalks. In the TT, said knurled aluminium and thick leather clad interior furniture and fixings feel rather special, however in the £150,000+ before options R8 they make Audi’s mid-engined flagship feel… well… very much like a TT.
That said, the R8’s interior is remarkably comfortable for hour after hour, plus the visibility, whilst going forwards at least, is as good as that of many a hatchback – albeit a somewhat low-slung one.
It’s surprising too, just how many compliments the R8 receives when it’s parked-up. Yes, it’s instantly recognisable as an Audi; it’s all smooth surfaces, devoid of any wings or spoilers. However, clearly people like it – a lot. It’s gorgeous, one lady told me. Praise indeed. Nevertheless, even this old cynic will admit that Audi’s press demonstrator, resplendent in Tango Red Metallic, with a white leather interior, and sitting on gold wheels no less, does have a certain ability to brighten-up many-a-supermarket car-park on a dull Saturday morning.
And that very instance is, perhaps, where the R8 really comes into its own. It’s the usability of R8 that makes it what it is; it somehow has accessibility that others relate to. Drive a Maserati to the shops and they’ll say you’re just doing it for the attention; a McLaren says you’ve clearly got too much money; take a Ferrari, and it’s both. But in an R8, apparently, you’re O.K – even if some of the know-it-alls then proceed to tell you that you’ve bought the “small one”.
However, what those “experts” will probably never appreciate is just how good the “small one”, which in this case is just happens to be the V10 Performance RWD Edition, is to drive.
There’s a genuine turbine-like smoothness to Audi’s naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10. It will happily pootle along in traffic, and it will happily howl like a banshee while simultaneously shoving you towards the horizon at warp speed. In these days of near-800bhp SUV, a mere 562bhp might, on paper, appear lacking. It is anything but. It sounds glorious despite the fitment of particulate filters, and do you really need to go faster (if ever you found the space) than 204mph?
“Seamless in traffic”
The gearbox too, is lovely. Yes, I know… “Real supercars have manual gearboxes”, (trust me, I’ve heard it all before), nevertheless Audi’s seven-speed twin-clutch ‘box is such a clever piece of engineering you can’t help but appreciate it. It’s seamless in traffic, and yet it’ll make you sound like a Le Mans legend, blipping the throttle on downshifts, when you’re out in the open. It doesn’t make your left leg ache either.
And then there’s the steering, which to put things simply, is much, much better in a rear-wheel drive R8 than it is in a Quattro equipped one. There’s more feel. It’s not as numb. It’s just nicer.
Perhaps my previous criticisms of the R8 were based on the fact that essentially I’ve been driving the wrong ones. Fitting four-wheel drive made Audi faster, and thus famous. Ironically, it turns out that one of the fastest Audis you can buy feels better without it.
In another year or so the R8 as we currently know it will come to an end – the “Let’s Make Everything Electric” Lobby will see to that. I’ll certainly miss it when it’s gone.
Audi R8 Coupe V10 Performance RWD Edition S-tronic
Engine: 5,204 cc V10 Cyl, 40V petrol
Transmission: 7-speed S-tronic dual clutch auto with sequential manual paddle-shift option. Rear-wheel drive.
Power: 561 bhp @ 7,800 – 8,000 rpm
Torque: 405 lbft @ 6,400 rpm
0-62MPH: 3.7 Sec
Max Speed: 204 mph
CO2: 291 g/km
MPG: 22.1 combined
Price: From £150,075 (as tested £165,285)