Naturally, the R8 rides with the stiffness you’d expect of a low-slung supercar, but with optional switchable dampers – or Audi Magnetic Ride, £1600 – there is enough pliancy and cushioning of the biggest intrusions that it never feels uncomfortably crashy. In fact, the ride quality is perfectly acceptable for everyday use, given the performance and dynamic ability on offer.
What defined the previous version’s eye-popping handling was a lightness of touch and pliancy over an uneven surface, very cleverly combined with the tautest of body control and immediate response to steering inputs. This latest version simply picks up where the old car left off. Turn-in and mid-corner grip is massive, although there is a slight understeer window to work with – on the road you trail brake to keep the front axle loaded on the way into a corner, and on the track you exploit the mid-engined balance to rotate the car slightly and enter the bend in a neutral-to-oversteering stance.
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These traits are more obvious and easier to take advantage of when the R8 is equipped with 19-inch wheels rather than the optional 20s. Not only do the smaller wheels make the R8 more enjoyable over a broader window, the car also feels more robust and rides with greater pliancy.
Traction is so resolute that you’ll need to drive very hard indeed to get the car up on its toes and enter the window of on-throttle adjustability that was more readily accessible in the previous model. There is still engagement and interaction in this chassis on the road, but short of the absolute limit it does feel completely locked down rather than playful.
On a circuit the R8 can be coaxed into a drift, thanks in part to the locking differential in the rear axle. The four-wheel-drive system shuffles torque to arrest an initial slide if you do pitch it in early, so mid-corner you can have the car practically pointing straight again – great if you want a quick exit. Be brutal with the throttle in the latter part of a corner and you can instigate another slide as you peel away from the apex. It does allow the R8 to be wild and playful when you want it to, it just doesn’t allow long and continuous drifts, and that’s hardly an issue.
The carbon ceramic brakes, which cost £7700 on the base model and are standard fit on the Performance, do offer very strong retardation with decent pedal feel and progression, but they did begin to fade on track after a handful of quick laps. On the road there’s a minor perceptible difference between the two brake options, the steel brakes offering just as much stopping power as the carbon ceramics. However, the ceramic brakes did resist triggering the ABS on rougher roads better than the steel ones.
Audi’s Drive Select system allows the driver to choose between various parameters for the engine, dampers and steering – all of which can be adjusted independently – which widens the car’s operating window. This really is a supercar that can be used everyday thanks to its refinement, relatively pliant ride, cabin quality and front stowage compartment.
The R8 Performance can further be adjusted for the prevailing conditions via the performance mode dial on the steering wheel, which allows the driver to choose between wet, dry and snow and ice settings.