The R8’s approachable nature is no more apparent than when on the road. Despite the supercar shape, the relatively upright windscreen and low scuttle make it an easy car to place, whether on a narrow, winding B-road or inner-city street.
Up the pace and the R8’s friendly demeanor remains, inspiring confidence even when you begin to explore the full firepower on tap. The steering, although not feelsome, is more accurate and faithful to inputs than previous dynamic steering racks, but is susceptible to tyre pressure variation and temperatures, requiring just the right circumstances to feel properly keyed in to the road surface.
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Unleash the full potential of the V10 though and the chassis’ underlying balance comes to the fore, making the R8 friendlier than any 600bhp mid-engined supercar should be. Thanks to the gradual build of torque, the R8 always feels manageable, helping you meter in power delicately enough to keep within the front axle’s grip threshold.
This is still a wide car though, and at road-friendly speeds the R8 lacks a Vantage’s playfulness, or a 911’s ultimate precision. Get it on track though and you’re able to more flamboyantly explore the R8’s limits, as we found out over six months of trackdays with our previous R8 Performance long-termer.
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.