Volkswagen Group will say its hero cars are the Bugatti Veyron or Lamborghini Aventador, but their production numbers are so small we’re voting for the Audi R8.
Audi is a remarkable company, with many weapons in its arsenal (we thinking of the RS 4 Avant for starters) and since its launch in 2006 the R8 has well-and-truly stamped its mark on the supercar landscape with strong global sales. Understandable on several fronts – the R8 comes with blistering performance (of course) but also Audi’s bulletproof engineering and, in this league, it’s somewhat of a bargain (starting at $279,500 in Australia).
Audi has just freshened the R8 with some styling changes, adoption of the 7-speed S tronic for all variants and the launch of the range-topping V10 plus S tronic model ($408,200).
Audi R8 Coupe V8 Overview
The good news was Audi handed us the keys to the latest R8 Coupe 4.2 FSI V8 S tronic (priced at $287,000) at Sydney Airport and said: “See you in the Hunter Valley.” The bad news was low, dark clouds were hosing down rain and as a result Sydney’s traffic was in gridlock.
Of course the two-seat R8 is well-known, a technical masterpiece employing an aluminium body and Audi Spaceframe so the body on the Coupe we drove is just 210kgs in weight.
New for 2013 is the seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch automatic transmission (replacing a sequential six-speeder) and styling changes. At the front is new single-frame grille and re-designed LED headlights which now incorporate static turning lights. And at the rear, the R8 has gained new LED indicator lights with a dynamic display which ‘moves’ in the direction you’re turning (looks brilliant).
Underneath, Audi has fitted new front and rear diffusers to improve the R8’s aerodynamic performance.
And there are new-design 19-inch forged aluminium wheels.
Audi R8 Coupe V8 Engine
The masterpieces included in the Audi R8 start with the 4.2-litre FSI V8 engine which is hand-built at Audi’s engine factory in Gyor, Hungary. It’s a high-revving (rev-limiter arrives at 8250rpm), 90-degree V8 with dry sump lubrication and tips the scales at just 216kgs.
Maximum power is 316kW at 7900rpm and peak torque of 430Nm achieved between 4500rpm-6000rpm.
Fuel consumption is rated at 12.4l/100kms.
New for 2013, the Audi R8 gets the seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission – another technical masterpiece which is just 60cms in length and delivers virtually imperceptible up-shifts within hundredths of a second as well as throttle-blipping down-changes.
Drive is to all four wheels via Audi’s acclaimed Quattro system with a mechanical differential lock.
Audi R8 Coupe V8 The Interior
You’re left in no doubt about the intent of the Audi R8 when you open the door – entering over a wide sill you slide down very low into glorious figure-hugging seats trimmed in glorious Nappa leather.
Once inside, things are surprisingly spacious, especially considering the mid-engine layout means the powertrain is included in the 2.65-metre wheelbase. However smart Audi engineering and a width of 1.39-metres means even larger bodies can find comfort in the R8.
There’s a glorious race car feel inside the R8 with the driver surrounded by a ‘monoposto’ – a single arc from the centre console, sweeping through the steering wheel/instruments to the door – to provide a cockpit with everything at your fingertips. The beautifully finished centre console is again race car like – quite high so the gear lever falls perfectly to hand.
You grab the usual Audi RS steering wheel which is thick, leather-wrapped and flat-bottomed and the instruments are superbly sporty with a digital speedometer. Trim highlights are mostly aluminium.
Luggage space is surprisingly abundant with 90-litres of capacity available behind the seats, ahead of the engine and another 100-litres available under the front hood. Audi says the R8 can accommodate two golf bags but on this day of driving golf wasn’t on our minds to be honest!
Oh and there’s Audi’s Navigation Plus and Music Interface. We didn’t even turn-on the audio system – the high-revving V8 at work was our preferred sound-track.
Audi R8 Coupe V8 Exterior & Styling
Styling of the Audi R8 was largely the work of Audi’s sports car racing team and has always been highlighted by the twin ‘sideblade’ intakes just behind the doors which direct air to the mid-mounted engine. That mid-engine layout dictates a cab-forward look which is very elegantly executed and the proportions are perfect – no wonder the design won a “World Car Design” award.
You struggle to find any flat surfaces on the body of the aerodynamically-efficient (drag Cd 0.36) Audi R8 – everything is sculptured and curved and the roof flows beautifully into the rear glass and engine cover.
Front intakes provide air for the radiator and brakes only - engine air comes via the sideblades – and they’re clean of adornment as the four-ring Audi badge is mounted on the front hood.
The LED headlights look brilliant but they’re also technically sophisticated with individual fan-driven coolers as the LED chips do heat-up and operate best within a strict temperature range.
At the rear, the Audi R8 adopts a business-like look with the sloping rear glass, aero bumper and those marvellous new LED lights all combining for a mucho sports-racer appearance befitting this supercar.
Audi R8 Coupe V8 On The Road
Well one thing’s for sure – the wipers on our Audi R8 V8 worked just fine as Sydney’s autumn weather turned-on torrential rain and flash flooding for our drive to the Hunter Valley.
But first it was a grid-locked Southern Cross Drive which got our attention as we tagged onto the back of the peak-hour crawl. Some have said Volkswagen Group’s twin-clutch transmissions are ‘clunky’ in this environment as they go up and down gears at low speeds. There’s an element of truth in that, but honestly, as our crawl from Sydney Airport in the R8 showed, you just get used to it and within a few minutes you don’t notice this trait.
Once out of the city, we just revelled as the Audi R8 opened-up with some raucous bellows from the high-revving V8 and serious work for the Quattro system getting traction sorted-out on the flooded roads.
And here’s the thing with those twin-clutch autos, in the serious driving environment they’re hard to beat, snicking the paddle shifters up under acceleration with lightening fast shifts which saw little reduction in rpm and marvellous automatic throttle-blipping downshifts.
Even in the tough conditions we encountered the Audi R8 was astonishingly good – turn-in, balance and response was just brilliant and the acceleration thanks to Quattro was beyond belief. We can’t think of any car which would have been quicker over those roads in those conditions.
Another massively impressive part of the Audi R8 over those flooded roads was the brakes. All electronically managed of course but the R8 delivered stunning stopping power into some hairpins.
Audi R8 Coupe V8 Challenges
Erm, nope…we can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t file the Audi R8 under ‘S’ for ‘Supercar’.
Audi R8 Coupe V8 Verdict
Naturally the Audi R8 scored our maximum five-star rating – driving cars like this is one the highlight of our job.
And one of the really impressive things about the Audi R8 is its everyday ‘liveability’. Unlike some more expensive Italian rivals, the Audi R8 could be used as you daily drive (just be careful over speedbumps and when parking make sure you don’t ‘curb’ those 19-inch alloys.
Audi R8 Coupe V8 The Competition
Ferrari and Lamborghini models are mostly twice the price of the Audi R8 so let’s rule them out of the picture. And at $493,100 the McLaren MP4-12C is also not a fair comparison.
Then we’re into ‘2+2s’…
Aston Martin Vantage isn’t a pure sports car like the Audi R8 (it’s got a useable back seat for starters) but some of the V8 versions can be had for under $280,000.
Same for the Jaguar XK (a Car Showroom favourite).
With 316kW, the Audi R8 is more powerful than any naturally-aspirated Porsche 911. Against that, several Carrera models undercut the Audi in price and they do offer something of a rear seat.