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The Top Gear car review: Audi R8
For:Fast, easy to live with, lovely to drive, exceptionally good-looking
Against:Cabin looking a bit dated compared to rivals
4.2 FSI  Quattro 2dr
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Supercharged R8 V8 is expensive, but creates a very convincing car. You’d never know it was tuned, until it ate a V10
People expecting two extra cylinders to transform or ruin the R8 will be disappointed. The R8 V10 is just as civilised and brilliant as the V8 version.
What we say:
The only car to rival the Porsche 911 as an everyday marvel, made even better by a trick new gearbox
What is it?
The Audi R8 has been refreshed for 2013, finally rectifying its one major flaw: yes, the laughable old R-tronic robotised manual gearbox has been junked, in favour of a proper dual-clutch DSG transmission. Finally, supercar buyers who want two-pedal refinement won’t think their new six-figure purchase is broken. Audi has clothed this in a subtly polished new body (the key change is the headlights) and, well, taken off the polish with some new matt paint finishes. If that’s too subtle, there are some eye-popping new colours too.
Audi has also streamlined the model range. Now, it’s R8 Coupe with either 430bhp V8 or 525bhp V10: there’s little visual differentiation. This leaves space at the top for a new R8 V10 Plus. Packing 550bhp, it’s the fastest-accelerating Audi ever, with performance within a gnat’s crotchet of a Ferrari 458 Italia combined with the easy security Audi’s four-wheel drive quattro chassis does so well.
That R8 V10 Plus, despite shooting to 62mph in just 3.5 seconds, and on to a 198mph top speed, is entirely un-terrifying. Traditional R8 traits of being seriously rapid yet seriously approachable carry through here too – Audi hasn’t gone and built a road-racer. Despite its extra speed, the Plus is easy to drive slowly, its steering is light and clean while its standard ceramic brakes are beautifully progressive even when cold. Just note, the ride is appreciably harder than standard cars, albeit still not vertebrae-shattering.
The howling V8 and whirring V10 remain as they were, as does the clicking six-speed manual gearbox. Key for 2013 is the S-tronic DSG, which has become one of the best flappy-paddle systems out there. It’s silky smooth in normal mode when pottering through town, but ballistically quick when you engage Sport mode, banging through downshifts with a thumping woofle. Unlike many dual-clutch set-ups, it’s capable of dropping two, or even four gears in a single blip. No wonder three in four customers may now go for it.
On the inside
It’s a pity the facelift hasn’t done more to the inside. There are more chrome slivers and more leather covering the dash, but the layout is looking dated and the tiny sat nav screen is out of kilter with more modern alternatives. Be in no doubt though, it still feels special to sit in – low, wide, reclined, yet with superb visibility and brilliant aurals from the engine sat behind.
Prices are up around 4 per cent but equipment levels are more generous to compensate. The £126k V10 Plus gets specialist features such as CFRP body panels to justify the six-figure tag. With impeccable build and the reassurance of Audi’s large dealer network, there’s no more user-friendly supercar to own. No wonder you see so many: this is the real genius of the mighty R8.