Car reviews - Audi - R8
Spectacular engine, enormous character, superb build quality, undoubted rarity, quattro’s ride quality
Room for improvement
No manuals left, RWD model’s very firm ride, big price jump for V10 Performance
Audi R8 supercar gains in style and features, while losing nothing in driver appeal
22 Jul 2020
WHILE never a big seller in this country, or even globally, the R8’s very existence has long brought legitimacy to Audi’s ambitions as a premium car-maker, and it continues to do so in its latest form.
Primped and preened for a new decade to maintain its stature among an ever-changing and expanding competitor set, the R8’s calling card continues to be its naturally aspirated V10 engine – one of the few that remains in an increasingly turbocharged world.
But this is update is all about keeping the R8 looking fresh. The rest of this second-generation model was already pretty incredible – all that was needed was some range-tightening and price-sharpening.
First drive Impressions
As first reported by GoAuto way back in October 2018, Audi has given its supercar superstar, the R8, an extensive overhaul after just three years on the market.
And following a longer-than-usual wait, this facelifted R8 will finally go on sale in Australia on July 24.
What that delay has managed to do, however, is debut the 2020 R8 range as a united family, with a new full-production rear-drive model (dubbed V10 RWD, introduced in Europe earlier this year) opening the range while picking up where 2018’s limited-run R8 RWS (for ‘Rear Wheel Series’) left off.
The R8 V10 RWD will also be available in open-roof Spyder form and is joined by a pair of all-wheel-drive R8 V10 Performance quattro variants, also in coupe and Spyder body styles. This marks the return of the R8 model to Australia after a hiatus during 2019.
Like the TT RS, which hits local showrooms the same day as the 2020 R8, Audi has concentrated a large part of its effort in making the updated R8 look different.
As covered in detail by GoAuto back in February, both the V10 RWD and V10 Performance (replacing the former ‘V10 Plus’) debut a sharp new look with significant visual changes front and rear.
Audi says the aim of the overhaul was to achieve “a much more aggressive design” which is most prominent at the front end. A new single-frame grille appears to protrude from the car, topped by a trio of vents intended to pay homage to the Audi Sport quattro rally car of the 1980s.
And the outer air vents have been enlarged, with “Lear-jet-like” arrows and bladed bumper details creating a much edgier look.
If ‘hi-tech’ was the aim, then Audi’s stylists have nailed it.
New side-sill inserts lead to an enhanced rear end with a much more aggressive lower diffuser, huge new oval tailpipes and a full-width air outlet panel that extends across the R8’s entire tail.
And there are new 20-inch alloys on both variants, with the “milled” aluminium wheels on the V10 Performance weighing even less than the forged items on the RWD.
The V10 Performance also gets lighter carbon-ceramic brakes (380mm front with six-piston callipers, 356mm rear with four-piston callipers), saving 20kg in unsprung mass compared to the steel stoppers in the V10 RWD.
But the entry-level R8 is far from hard done by with 365mm vented and grooved front discs with eight-piston callipers, and 356mm discs at the rear.
Our first taste of the facelifted R8 is this new starter model – the R8 V10 RWD.
Audi has gifted its glorious 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 the same engine outputs as the old base quattro – 397kW at 7800rpm and 540Nm at 6500rpm – and that’s enough to thrust the RWD to 100km/h in a claimed 3.7 seconds.
It’ll even nudge 324km/h when given some derestricted road and sounds as magnificent as ever, with a tremendous blare that becomes exponentially intoxicating as it revs to beyond 8000rpm.
Looking at the R8 RWD, it’s almost impossible to tell it’s a base model, and I think its 20-inch alloys are prettier than those fitted to the V10 Performance.
But you can definitely tell the difference on the road as the RWD forgoes both front driveshafts and Audi’s magnetic-ride suspension dampers.
The former makes the R8 RWD feel a bit livelier in corners, even though the Performance model’s weight-saving measures minimise the overall weight difference. But the RWD works best with ESP Sport engaged and a relatively smooth road surface ahead.
In terms of ride absorbency, it’s much less forgiving than its adaptively damped sibling.
With its fixed rear wing and general air of overtness, the R8 V10 Performance may not be to everyone’s taste. But I think it’s a more cohesive R8 in its overall experience.
Sure, the manual-adjust fixed-back bucket seats might be too unyielding for some body types (though it does offer electric height adjustment), however the Performance quattro rides so much better on Australian roads, and it has more up its sleeve dynamically.
A carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) front anti-roll bar achieves “a more stable front end”, according to Audi, and actually lowered lap times during testing at Hockenheim.
And the breadth of its damping control, combined with the added ‘chequered flag’ button on the steering wheel that allows adjustment of both ESP and quattro drive split for dry, wet and snow conditions, expands what the V10 Performance is capable of.
Not only is it an easier car to drive hard, and more fluid when doing so, it’s also faster – 0-100km/h in a claimed 3.2 seconds, which is a record for an Audi product, along with a top speed of 330km/h.
As previously reported, Audi Australia chose to forgo the European exhaust spec, and a touch of power and torque, for greater acoustic reward. And given there’s already 449kW at 8250rpm and 560Nm at 6500rpm, surely no-one is going to complain!
Aussie buyers certainly won’t mind the added value in the 2020 R8 range, with the RWD starting at $295,000 and including LED headlights with Laserlight high beam, 20-inch alloys, metallic paint, a 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo, wireless phone charging, electrically adjustable and heated Nappa leather seats, plus a full leather interior package (covering virtually everything!).
The 2018 R8 RWS boasted none of those things.
The R8 V10 Performance quattro adds $100K to the RWD’s sticker but Audi says it’s $30,000 better off than the old V10 Plus in terms of equipment – incorporating all the features mentioned above plus magnetic ride suspension, carbon mirror caps and gloss-carbon interior inlays (the RWD gets piano-black).
In both instances, a Spyder variant adds $21,500 to the price.
In its last full year on sale in Australia (2018), the R8 range. achieved just 42 sales, down from 62 in 2017.
In Europe, the facelifted R8 achieved 949 sales in 2019.
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