It’s the first significant refresh we’ve seen since the current generation R8 launched in 2015, but wisely Audi has shied away from significant changes, preferring instead to bring the styling slightly further in line with other recent Audi trends and realise detail improvements.
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The 5.2-litre V10 is retained, now producing 562bhp in its basic form (up from 533bhp) with 406lb ft of torque. This makes it a true 200mph car in Spyder form, and goes 1mph better as a coupe. 0-62mph takes 3.4 seconds in coupe form and 3.5sec for the Spyder.
The R8 V10 Performance – rather than “Plus” – also gets a power increase, climbing from 602bhp to 612bhp and 428lb ft instead of 413lb ft. The coupe reaches 62mph in 3.1sec with the Spyder a tenth slower, and the Spyder is also 1mph off the coupe’s 205mph top speed.
A titanium valvetrain with higher valve lift is partly to thank for the extra performance, while both engines now get a petrol particulate filter, and breath through large oval tailpipes with a jet engine effect design.
Subtle changes to the suspension are said to give the car a sharper feel. The electromechanical power assisted steering has revised software, as has the optional dynamic steering setup, both supposedly offering more precision and feedback. Up front, a CFRP and aluminium anti-roll bar is available, shedding 2kg from the standard unit.
Audi says there’s also more distinction between the comfort, auto, dynamic and individual driver modes, while Performance R8s get new dry, wet and snow modes with traction optimised to different conditions.
Steel brakes remain standard with ceramics an option, behind 19-inch cast alloy wheels with a 19-inch milled alloy wheel design optional. 20-inch forged alloy wheels are also an option, as are Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres. Michelin Pilot Sport 4s are now the standard tyre. Tweaks to the electronic stability control system on the Performance cut braking distance by 1.5 metres from 62mph and up to five metres from 124mph.
While these changes are welcome, most will note the styling before they get behind the wheel, and here too there are improvements – at least to our eyes. Changes to Audi’s singleframe grille, sharper front air inlets, splitter, honeycomb rear grille and diffuser are designed to make the car look wider than before, and there are new side skirts.
Three slots above the front grille are, like the recently-unveiled Audi A1, designed to evoke the ur-Quattro. The grille itself is a new honeycomb design, while a more subtle change is the addition of a dark "eyelid" next to the headlights that has the effect of elongating each unit, further contributing to the wider, lower look.
There are three exterior packages available to customise the R8’s styling too, which change the colour of the front splitter, side trim elements and diffuser. Gloss black elements are standard with the R8 and titanium grey for the Performance, but high-gloss carbonfibre is available on both.
Buyers can also specify the exterior badging in high-gloss black, while Audi has added two new colours to the R8 range: Ascari blue and Kemora grey. The interior remains largely unchanged, save for new colour stitching options, but not a great deal needed fixing in there in the first place.
Audi is keen to link the R8 to its racing activities, stating that 50 per cent of the road car is shared with the GT3 racing variant and 60 per cent with the GT4 – not least the engine, and the transmission too in the case of the GT4. It should remain a great road car though, but we’ll have to wait until early 2019 to find out.
Full pricing and specification information should also drop before then, and Audi is yet to confirm whether the Rear Wheel Series will continue with this model.