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Car Review

Audi R8 review

£124,585 - £160,690
910
Published: 22 Mar 2024
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Its engine and huge breadth of ability make it feel increasingly special. A supercar that fully deserves its spot at the top table

Good stuff

The engine, the gearbox, the quality, the cabin design, the noise, the refinement. We could go on

Bad stuff

Slightly dead steering compared to a Porsche or McLaren

Overview

What is it?

It’s dead, that’s what it is. Yep, Audi finally ended production of its last petrol-engined supercar in March 2024. RIP, R8. Whatever replaces this V10 banshee as the firm’s fast flagship will be stuffed with batteries and powered by electricity.

But the R8 is perhaps the most everyday of the everyday supercars. Because it’s an Audi, because the cabin will contain 95th percentile people, because it’s ergonomically sound, because it’s reliable and well-built and comes from a company that builds approximately 1.8 million other reliable, well-built cars every year.

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What's the highlight?

Without question the screaming 8,700rpm V10. Unusual juxtaposition. Audi, righteous doyenne of the Waitrose class, being one of the last bastions of natural aspiration. When all others were downsizing and turbocharging (to the detriment of noise and response) the R8 persisted with a free-breathing 5.2-litre V10. Now that the R8 is on its way out and new ones aren’t being stuck together, it’s time to make the most of this splendid engine while you can.

What changed at the last facelift?

Outwardly the final 2018 facelift brought with it new, sharper bumpers at both ends, larger exhaust pipes and those three slots across the nose that hark back to the 1984 Sport Quattro Group B rally car. They’re also on the A1 supermini. Elsewhere the plan was to fractionally sharpen the driving experience by stiffening the suspension, fitting a new carbon anti-roll bar at the front (40 per cent lighter than the old steel one) and recalibrating the steering – especially the optional variable ratio Dynamic Steering.

What versions were there?

At the end of the R8’s life there was a two-model range, with the Plus moniker from pre-facelift cars making way for 'Performance' badging. The top-spec car (Performance quattro) saw power rise from 604bhp pre-facelift to 612bhp, while the entry-level model (Performance RWD) was up from 533 to 562bhp. 

Prices started at £142,725 for the RWD version, with the quattro commanding £158,830. Of course that’s a huge heap of money. And yet, for a supercar, especially one with an engine as special as this one, it's a bit of a bargain.

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You'd need tens of thousands more for an equivalent new McLaren or Porsche and the rear-drive cousin car to this (Lamborghini's Huracán Evo RWD) was the wrong side of £160k. So, the R8 wasn’t just unusually fun to drive for an Audi: it was also surprisingly well-priced.

Were there any run-out specials?

Well, if you were hoping to snap up one of the 333 R8 GT special editions, we hope you got in quick with your £200k. They were all sold out before most of the world knew of its existence. You can click here for TG’s full review of that car or carry on to the driving tab here for more about the R8. 

What's the verdict?

The most everyday of the everyday supercars. With a screaming, naturally-aspirated V10. Good

Audi’s persistence in sticking with a large capacity, naturally aspirated V10 gave it a real point of differentiation when almost all its rivals were motivated by twin-turbo V8s (or a flat six, obvs). The 5.2-litre unit was only very lightly tweaked for the facelift, the extra handful of horsepower barely noticeable, but this is still a stand-out, hands-down stunning engine.

And it’s the centrepiece of what remains a very complete supercar. The visual changes in 2018 gave the front end a sharpness that was copied by the mechanical alterations underneath. It still wasn’t as direct and precise as a McLaren Sports Series or Porsche GT3, but there was added bite on turn-in and notably improved steering feel (we’d also not blank you if you insisted on having the variable ratio Dynamic Steering post-facelift).

It’s easy to overlook the R8 among newer, fresher, more dynamic rivals with more exotic badges, but rather than feeling outdated, its engine and huge breadth of ability make it feel increasingly special. A supercar that fully deserves its spot at the top table.

The Rivals

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