2019 Audi R8 review - updates keep R8 sharp against incoming 911

Audi hasn’t messed with a winning formula, while that V10 remains a masterpiece

Evo rating
  • Stunning engine and performance, biddable handling, everyday usability
  • Dynamic steering best avoided, it’s still too heavy

There’s a new Porsche 911 lurking around the corner, so it’s no surprise to find Audi has given its R8 a bit of a midlife refresh. It hasn’t gone mad with this update, limiting the mechanical changes to a fraction more power and a sharper steering set-up. There are some visual changes too, with the already eye-catching aggressive design given extra edge.

So subtle have been the styling tweaks that externally new R8 looks much the same as the old one. Look closely and you’ll spot the trio of vents above the grille and the reprofiled bumper that features larger air intakes and more prominent strakes and turning vanes – all allegedly inspired by its GT3 racing counterpart. As before, the standard car gets an electrically operated rear spoiler that rises and speed, while the Performance model (which replaces the Plus) gets a fixed unit. There’s a similarly subtle update at the rear, where the LEDs get a new light signature and there’s a full width gloss black grille.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to our exclusive new offer and SAVE 39% on the shop price, get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £20!

> Click here for our review of the McLaren 570S

Technical highlights

Essentially, the new R8 is largely unchanged over its predecessor, which means its still underpinned by the same Audi Space Frame (ASF) structure that employs aluminium and carbon fibre reinforced polymer for greater strength and lightness. Off this hangs the familiar double wishbone suspension that’s enhanced with standard adaptive dampers. The revisions made to the chassis are geometry based rather than spring and damper rates, which are untouched.

Advertisement - Article continues below

What has changed is the steering, with both the standard electro mechanical and the optional dynamic set-ups getting a faster rack. The latter has been extensively recalibrated, but retains its variable ratio nature, quickening or slackening its rate of response depending on speed, load and a number of other factors. Interestingly, when you lock the car in its Performance mode (there’s also Auto, Efficiency, Dynamic and Individual) it locks the rack into its quickest setting.

Available for the first time as an official option is a Michelin Cup 2 tyre, the standard rubber is Pilot Super Sport 4S. Developed specifically for the R8, the extra sticky rubber required a subtle remap of the ESP, as much to take account of the extra braking performance as for any increase in lateral grip. Carbon ceramic brakes remain an option, the 380mm front discs replacing the standard 365mm cast iron items (the rear diameter remain 356mm regardless of material) and saving just over 15kg of unsprung mass. Speaking of which, there’s now the option of an aluminium carbon fibre reinforced front anti-roll bar that shaves a further 2kg of the overall weight – although it’s no stiffer that standard steel item.

Engine, transmission and 0-62mph

Carried over from the old car is the stunning naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10, but some rummaging around in the ECU has liberated an extra 10bhp, taking power to a heady 613bhp (564bhp in the non-Performance model) delivered at 8000rpm, it will rev to 8700rpm before the limiter steps. Peak torque is 428lb ft at a heady 6500rpm, but short gearing means this isn’t the problem you’d think.

Of course it’s fast, rocketing form standstill to 62mph in 3.1 seconds, while the top speed is an impressive and yet irrelevant 205mph - although these are the same figures as the old car.

The mighty V10 is matched to a transmission that’s happy to help you indulge in the engine’s insatiable appetite for hard work. The seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch fires home ratios fast and slickly, while downchanges are reported with neatly executed blip of the throttle – it’s a shame the paddles are so small and cheap feeling. Leave it to its own devices and it will mooch with the best of them, shifting up early and smoothly.

Connected to this is the brand’s quattro four-wheel drive. Effectively a back-to-front Haldex set-up, it can vary torque to suit conditions, even sending plenty to the back axle for some lairy corner exit entertainment if that’s your thing. 

What’s it like to drive?

I’d be lying if I said a few laps of the Ascari circuit was enough to deliver a definitive verdict on the new R8, but it was enough to confirm that it feels a lot like the old one. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the R8 has always been an entertaining Audi.

Advertisement - Article continues below

It hares down the straights, the V10’s spine-tingling war cry trailing in its wake. Throttle response is instant, helping you dish out just as much power and torque as you need – there’s no sudden, unwelcome rush of turbocharged torque here. It helps you to make the most of the R8’s natural balance as you ask it to tuck in here and step out a little there. What you do notice is the quickness of the steering, particularly with the dynamic set-up that changes ratio and response depending on load, speed and so on.

If anything it’s too quick to respond, combining with the Cup 2’s sticky grip to unsettle the balance and creating some nervousness on turn-in that’s compounded by that pendulous V10 behind your shoulder. Better bet is to stick with the standard steering, which offsets its fractionally slower reactions with a more natural rate of response that allows you to load up the car progressively.

Trail the brakes on corner entry and the rear will move round nicely and a bootful of throttle gives the four-wheel drive a chance to send torque rearward and have you exiting the bend with a lovely flourish of oversteer. 

Price and rivals

Currently there’s no official word on pricing yet, but expect to pay £128,000 for the standard car and £141,000 for the Performance. These prices are for the coupe, so you can expect around a £10,000 premium for both if you opt for the open-topped Spyder.

Arguably the closest rival in terms of performance and conception is the McLaren 570S, which weighs in at a whisker under £150,000. It’s twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 sounds just a tad agricultural alongside the Audi’s V10, plus at 562bhp it’s down on power. Yet factor in its thumping 443lb ft torque and the McLaren is the faster sprinter.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Closer to home is the Porsche 911 Turbo S. The combination of its 572bhp twin-turbo 3.8-litre flat-six, four-wheel drive makes it a devastatingly fast car, and at £137,533 it undercuts the competition here, too.



Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 RWS vs BMW M4 CS

1 Jun 2019

More on R8 coupe

Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 RWS vs BMW M4 CS - Audi's mould-breaking supercar takes on BMW's driving hero

How will Audi's first rear-drive R8 stack up against the mighty BMW M4 CS?
1 Jun 2019
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 review – a scintillating V10 supercar

Standard or Performance, coupe or Spyder – the current R8 is a quality, exciting and thoroughly involving supercar
28 Mar 2019
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 review – a scintillating V10 supercar

Standard or Performance, coupe or Spyder – the current R8 is a quality, exciting and thoroughly involving supercar
28 Mar 2019
Audi R8 coupe

New Audi R8 revealed: More performance, more precision

Audi's R8 supercar has undergone a mid-life update, with more power from its V10 engine
24 Oct 2018
Audi R8 coupe

Audi’s new R8 LMS GT3 race car unveiled at Paris motor show

Audi Sport’s latest GT3 racer could preview facelifted version of the road car due later this year
2 Oct 2018
Audi R8 coupe

Audi Sport Performance Parts R8 – the most focussed R8 yet

A motorsport-inspired suite of upgrades delivers a limited-edition hardcore R8
10 Jul 2018
Audi R8 coupe

Subtle Audi R8 facelift spied possibly hiding bigger changes under the skin

Audi’s R8 is poised to get a shake-up. Is this facelift the start of its transformation?
26 Apr 2018
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 RWS review – does rear-wheel drive add to the appeal?

RWS has rarity on its side, but for the most part it doesn’t feel different enough from the already excellent standard car
27 Feb 2018
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 V10 Plus Spyder – the best open-top supercar?

More power provides Audi’s R8 Spyder with the ultimate performance, but we’d be hard pushed to take one over a McLaren 570S
25 Oct 2017
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 V10 RWS – Audi's first ever rear-driven production model

Audi R8 RWS unveiled at Frankfurt motor show - the beginning of a new era of performance Audis?
13 Sep 2017
Audi R8 coupe

Audi Sport launches new Performance Parts upgrade package

Lightweight components and improved aero for TT and R8
11 Jul 2017
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 gets an 'Audi Sport' makeover

A special edition Audi R8 is set to be produced in limited numbers by Audi Sport honouring the company's motorsport success
12 Apr 2017
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 LMS GT4 debuts at New York auto show

Production-based race car will compete with Corvettes and Caymans in GT4 series worldwide
12 Apr 2017
Audi R8 coupe

Best used sports cars for £50k

If a brand new car doesn't flick your switch, here are three alternatives for £50k
13 Mar 2017
Audi R8 coupe

Just looking – Audi R8

There's a new Audi R8 on the way soon - but the current car still makes a fantastic performance car purchase
12 Jun 2015
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 e-tron confirmed: 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds from all electric supercar

New addition to the R8 family waves goodbye to V10 in favour of electricity
2 Mar 2015
Audi R8 coupe

Listen - Audi R8 GT3 exhaust note

Prepare yourself for the incredible sounds of that V10
30 Jan 2015
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 LMX debuts laser headlights

The new Audi R8 LMX is the most powerful R8 yet, and it beats the BMW i8 to production laser headlights
12 May 2014
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 e-tron 'not dead'

Audi’s R-and-D boss Ulrich Hackenberg has confirmed that work has resumed on the all-electric R8 e-tron. Details here
13 Jan 2014
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 e-tron prototype drive

Audi has let us have a go in the electric R8 that it developed, but then decided not to put into production. Have green supercar buyers missed out?
28 May 2013
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 GT to the Grossdeutschlandring

In the 1930s, Nazi Germany built the ultimate racetrack, with predicted average lap speeds of 100mph and the fastest corner ever seen. But the outbrea…
8 Mar 2013
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 e-tron shelved

Development of Audi's fully-electric supercar has been put on ice, due to concerns over the limited range current battery tech offers.
8 Jan 2013
Audi R8 coupe

Audi R8 e-tron Nurburgring lap

Audi's R8 e-tron prototype has lapped the Nurburgring in 8:09 seconds, just five seconds slower than the V8 petrol
29 Jun 2012
Audi R8 coupe

evo races Audi R8 LMS at the Nurburgring

evo's John Barker reports on a well-earned top 20 finish at the Nurburgring 24 hours in an Audi R8 LMS
2 Aug 2011