The Audi R8 first appeared on the scene in 2007 and was instantly a class disruptor. Designed to rival the Porsche 911 and Aston Martin Vantage with a cutting-edge mid-engined aluminium platform and crisp naturally aspirated engines, the original R8 paired this technical brilliance with a level of quality and useability unusual for a supercar.
But only one generation later the R8 has a rather different image, one under the shadow of its threatened mortality. Why is its end near? Audi’s investment in electric powertrain tech, plus the constant need to weed out heavy polluters, even in a model range as diverse as Audi’s, is forcing its hand.
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The current R8, itself a mild update of the second-generation model first revealed in 2017, comes exclusively with a 5.2-litre V10 engine and dual-clutch transmission, and is available in four trims: RWD, V10 quattro, Performance and Performance Carbon Black.
Amongst new-generation rivals such as the Porsche 911, McLaren’s Sports Series models and the Aston Martin Vantage, its unique cocktail of a high-revving naturally aspirated engine and friendly demeanor still appeal deeply, but is the R8 now a case of ‘best get it while you still can’, or is this just natural selection that Audi’s been shrewd enough to acknowledge?
Audi R8 in detail
- > Engine, gearbox and technical specs - A single 5.2-litre V10 engine is the jewel in the R8’s crown that’s perfectly matched to a slick dual-clutch box
- > Performance and 0-60mph time - It might lack turbos or an ocean liner-like torque figure, but the R8’s performance is still electric
- > Ride and handling - Its weight figure is still a tad on the high side, but huge grip nuanced with a delicacy and adjustability make the R8 as sweet to drive as ever
- > MPG and running costs - Fuel consumption is not a strong point, but then long runs can squeeze over 25mpg, which realistically is about what a supersaloon is able to achieve
- > Interior and tech - Lacking the wow factor of its predecessor maybe, but it’s clean, well built and functional
- > Design -This is where the R8 falls down, as the second take on the original R8’s innovative aesthetic is contrived and sometimes awkward
Prices, specs and rivals
The R8 has just the one engine and transmission option available, but prices between the entry-level RWD and Performance Carbon Black edition vary by nearly £40,000. The RWD model is new to the R8 range for 2020, and along with its lack of front driveshafts it also has a lesser 533bhp power figure, 19-inch wheels and body-coloured side blades. At £115,890, it’s less expensive than the Aston Martin Vantage, but a decent chunk more than a 911 Carrera S.
Next up is the £129,695 R8 V10 quattro which, on top of its all-wheel-drive system and higher 562bhp power figure, also adds diamond-cut wheels, full phone integration, nappa leather trim and some contrasting black side blades to the package.
At £142,695 the V10 Performance is firmly in supercar price territory, but then this top-spec 611bhp version of the V10 and a new Performance mode make it the most dynamic and capable R8 so far. Larger 20-inch wheels, a selection of grey styling elements and carbon-ceramic brakes help explain the price rise too, but for the ultimate R8 there’s the UK-market R8 Performance Carbon Black edition, which swaps out the grey elements for carbonfibre and includes Audi’s magnetic dampers as standard. At £155,595 it’s nearly double the price of the original R8 4.2 FSi at launch in 2007.
It’s impossible to overlook the Porsche 911 as the R8’s core rival, despite the Audi’s supercar-like price tag and mid-engined body type putting it in the class above. At just under £100k in Carrera 4S form, the Porsche’s price advantage over lesser R8s isn’t quite as stark as it once was, but then it’s not that far behind in performance terms. Aston Martin’s Vantage is between the two when it comes to power at 503bhp, and priced somewhere between them at around £120k.
More exotic offerings include the Lamborghini Huracán Evo which starts from £165,256 in RWD form, while the Ferrari Roma should command a similar price when it arrives in the UK later this year. The Porsche 911 Turbo S is priced from £155,500, so too the McLaren Sports Series models that hover between £130k and £160k depending on the myriad of versions available. Meanwhile, McLaren’s GT is £163k