Audi R8 Coupe (2015 -) Driving & Performance

Review by Gareth Evans on
4.8
When the Audi R8 Coupe was launched back in 2007 it quickly became known as the user-friendly supercar. It was fast, reliable and easy to drive.

5 out of 5

Performance

Unlike the previous model, there’s just the one engine on offer here but it comes in two power outputs. It’s a 5.2-litre V10 petrol powerplant which goes without the turbocharging or supercharging assistance many rivals use to boost efficiency. That means pin-sharp throttle response and a pure, unadulterated engine note. It features cylinder-on-demand technology, which allows it to shut down five of the ten cylinders when not required, saving fuel and lowering CO2 output. It also means this isn’t a difficult car to drive slowly through town. Its gentle application of throttle and high-revving nature put pay to any preconceptions of a razor-sharp, bone-jarring experience.

It comes coupled with one of two versions of Audi’s seven-speed S tronic gearbox – featuring a longer seventh gear for better cruising manners (and fuel economy) or one with much closer gear ratios for sportier driving.

You’re able to tweak the R8’s performance characteristics through the Drive Select system, which alters throttle response, engine sound and gear-change ferocity between Sport and Comfort. There’s also the facility to configure your own Individual setting.

Standard Audi R8 V10 performance

Its maximum power is 533bhp available at a heady 8,250rpm but it’ll rev to a maximum of 8,700rpm, which makes it the highest-revving engine in its class. Its maximum torque figure is 540Nm, which is available relatively high in the rev range at 6,500rpm.

Those figures enable a sprint from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 198mph.

This configuration is best for cruising rather than outright performance. It feels best driven at eight-tenths, because if you wind it up further you’ll find the gearbox can occasionally struggle to find the right gear, ultimately slowing you down again. The power deficit is most noticeable at higher revs, where the Plus model sings and the regular R8 isn’t quite so sonorous. That isn’t to say this is a slow car, though. The figures prove it isn’t, and we can’t imagine many buyers feeling hard done-by whichever model you pick.

Audi R8 V10 Plus performance

With power ramped up to 602bhp and torque at 560Nm (both achieved at the same rpm as the standard engine), the R8 V10 Plus manages the same 0-62mph dash in 3.2 seconds and its top speed is 205mph.

In this configuration the R8 is an absolute monster. It has huge amounts of power and will pull from almost any rpm in any gear. Just when you think you’re going to run out of revs, it gets even more exciting past 7,000rpm as you approach the redline.

It sounds fantastic too – especially in the sportier settings on Drive Select. Plus models get a special satellite button on the steering wheel which puts the car into Performance Mode, further amplifying the impression that this is a genuine supercar. You can pick between optimum performance settings for snow, wet or dry conditions. In the dry in this mode the R8 is spectacular, accelerating savagely through the gears with an accompanying urgency from the exhaust. Lifting off the throttle provokes pops and bangs which are incredibly loud from outside the car

. There’s a launch control function installed, and it’s one of the easiest systems of its type to operate. Simply select Performance Dry mode and at a standstill, hold your left foot on the brake and plant your right foot firmly on the throttle as far as you can. The engine’s revs will rise to the optimum level for the quickest getaway, and when you let your foot off the brake the R8 fires towards the distance with unbelievable acceleration. This is where the car feels its fastest – all four wheels seem to dig into the tarmac as the quattro meters power out accordingly, the rear of the car squats and then it rockets away. You won’t lose many races in the traffic light grand prix.

5 out of 5

Handling

This mid-engined sports car handles with a balance not many rivals can manage. We’ve driven it on road and track, and the result was a car that surprised us with just how involving the chassis was.

But how is track driving relevant? While we’re pre-disposed to be wary of marketing talk, Audi proclaims this a race car for the road and to be fair, the firm has a point. The racing version of it – called R8 LMS – was winning races before we’d driven it, and the road car uses around half of the same parts; including the entire frame the car is built around.

It uses the very latest version of Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, which shuffles power between the wheels almost instantly and pretty much seamlessly. What this means it you’ve always got grip when you need it, but the car also allows you to tweak the balance for the sort of driving you want to do.

This version of the R8 uses a variable steering system, which we found slightly light in weighting (even in sporty driving modes) but incredibly accurate. It’s a very responsive set-up for fast driving, and while you’re missing that final level of feedback, the car makes up for it with precision and also far better low-speed manners. It will be as at home in the supermarket car park as it is on the race track.

Hitting the Performance Mode button on Plus models shuffles the handling bias rearwards in Dry configuration, and it’s in this set-up you’re able to fully exploit what the R8 has to offer. Head into a corner on the brakes and you can feel the car pinching the inside wheels, tightening your line, and if you apply full power early you’re treated to a progressively rewarding slide as the rear pushes wide. It’s not intimidating when this happens, but because of the amount of grip on offer, you’re going seriously quickly by the time the tyres lose traction, so this sort of tomfoolery is probably best left to the race track.

We only tried cars fitted with Audi’s Magnetic Ride damper system on the road, which allows the driver to adjust how firm or soft the ride quality is, and also how well the R8 will go around a corner. Even in its softest Comfort setting there isn’t a huge amount of body roll, but you can tell that just by looking at how it sits on the road. What is most impressive in this respect is how comfortable it manages to be, but if you sharpen up the suspension all of a sudden you’ve got a chassis that feels as stiff as a race car.

There weren’t any cars to sample with standard brakes, either – we could only try the carbon ceramic items that are optional on the normal R8 and standard on the Plus model. They need a little bit of waking up when cold – they can feel a little ‘grabby’, when the pedal feels too sharp and you tend to slow the car down far too much – but once warm they’re simply outstanding. We gave them some serious abuse on a race track and the harder you work them, the better they become. When in the midst of a spirited drive they offer huge amounts of feedback (unusual in modern cars) and stopping power you have to experience to believe.