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In-depth reviews

Audi R8 review – ride and handling

Huge grip and adjustability make the R8 as sweet to drive as ever, with the hardcore GT RWD adding more bite and precision

Evo rating
Price
from £128,200
  • Drivetrain, performance, dynamics
  • Not as pretty as the original

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 demeanour 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.

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The RWD GT run-out special takes a significant step forward on a circuit, particularly when specified with Audi's adjustable coilover suspension kit. It turns in with more bite and its Michelin Cup 2 tyres find more traction, but you can fully explore the GT's rear-drive balance by using its bespoke Torque Rear drive mode. Offering 7 levels of electronic intervention, the system allows the rear to smoothly break away under power, with the more lenient settings enabling large drift angles. The GT is more urgent and accelerative thanks to its shorter gear ratios, too, and it feels organic and approachable where newer alternatives from Ferrari and Porsche can feel a touch hyper active at times. 

'The GT RWD is a formidable farewell to the big banger R8', said Dickie Meaden. 'Given the R8 has always been a mature and very much road-focused supercar, the fact that the GT remains relatively tame on-track suggests it should deliver on UK roads where cars like the Cayman GT4 RS and M4 CSL are far too stiff. We’ll know for sure when we drive one of the 15 cars destined for the UK on our preferred roads, but this first taste suggests the best really has been saved until last.'

The carbon ceramic brakes, which cost £7700 on the RWD model and are standard fit on the Quattro, 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.

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