Audi R8


Debut: 2015
Maker: Audi
Predecessor: R8 Mk1



 Published on 21 Sep 2015 All rights reserved. 


The original Audi R8 was one of the very few in our memory managed to beat Porsche 911 – the last time was probably Honda NSX in 1990. It was head-turning beautiful and made with impeccable quality. It had some of the best engines in the industry, no matter the base 4.2 V8 or flagship 5.2 V10. It accelerated, steered and braked exactly as a junior supercar should – and that was a huge surprise for something wearing the 4-ring badge – yet it was comfortable and practical for everyday use. Like NSX, its place in automotive history is guaranteed. In fact, the bar it set was so high that I’m afraid the new generation R8 could struggle to match.

By numbers, the new R8 is unquestionably superior to the old car. Given 8 more years of progress, it gets more powerful, it goes faster, corners swifter and uses fuel more efficiently. Every objective measure points to the positive direction. However, is it more attractive to our eyes? I'm afraid not.

In pictures, the new R8 looks even a little bit odd. It seems like the designer could not improve over the old car but he needed something different, so he abandoned the elegant details and replaced them with exaggerative ones. One of them is the pair of trapezoidal headlamps. Their angular shapes look at odds in relation to the smooth body profile. Ditto the square intakes underneath them and the hexagonal front grille. Other nice features could not escape from the axe, too. The best visual element of the original R8 was its black side blades which bridged the quarter windows and side intakes. The new car has them replaced with ordinary-looking separate elements. Why does it change for the sake of change?



However, the most disgusting to me is not the design details but the side profile. Gone is the old car’s subtly sexy, gently curving waistline. Enters a straight line which looks as if drawn by a lazy draftsman using a ruler. Curves also lose place at the tail, which becomes flat and rectangular. The resultant shape becomes closer to a Bugatti Veyron, or simply a big cockroach!

Well, some say the new car looks better in person under natural sunlight. Maybe they are right, but the fact that it can’t match the aesthetic of the original R8 is not an amusing starting point, especially when the high-end sports car segment is crowded with many great rivals these days.

The cockpit is typical Audi: high-quality, ergonomically sounded and packed with technologies. The main instrument now becomes a large, 12.3-inch TFT screen which is shared with the smaller TT. It can display Google map and satellite navigation info at the background of the dials, so you don’t need to switch your sight between instrument pod and center console. Space is abundant in the cabin, with extra space behind the seats for a couple of soft bags or briefcases. Visibility all-round is good for a mid-engined sports car. On the downside, the interior design looks somewhat ordinary for a car of this class. It lacks the theatrical effect of Lamborghini Huracan or AMG GT. The materials, while high-quality for an Audi, are not as special as McLaren or Ferrari. For example, the shift paddles are aluminum-look plastics instead of real aluminum, and we can’t see any signs of carbon-fiber.



Carbon-fiber does exist in the chassis though. Like sister car Lamborghini Huracan with which it shares platform (if not exactly the same chassis as the Audi’s wheelbase is 30 mm longer), the aluminum spaceframe chassis is now reinforced by a carbon-fiber transmission tunnel and rear bulkhead. This hybrid structure lifts torsional rigidity by 40 percent and cuts weight by 15 percent compared with the last generation. Size-wise, the new body changes little – merely 20 mm shorter, 10 mm wider and 10 mm lower – but the whole car is now 40 to 50 kilograms lighter.

As before, the R8 rides on classic double-wishbone suspensions at all corners and magnetorheological adaptive dampers are optional. Like Lambo Huracan again, it abandons hydraulic power steering for a variable-ratio electrical rack, and the old-fashioned viscous-coupling 4WD hardware is replaced with modern computer-controlled one using Haldex multi-plate clutch to engage the front axle. This quickens response and allows more torque to be transferred to the front wheels when required. The rear axle is served with a mechanical LSD only. I think an active differential would have been more effective to tame the 4WD’s understeer.



The last R8 was originally designed to rival 911 Carrera S, so initially it was powered by a high-revving 4.2-liter V8. We loved that motor very much, but the market seemed to prefer more power as the all-aluminum Audi commanded higher prices than its rival. Therefore, the Lamborghini V10 (actually built by Audi) was introduced a couple of years later and it gradually took over the majority of sales – BTW, the dream of repeating the sales success of 911 never materialized. Perhaps this is why the new R8 is launched with only V10 engines. Inevitably, its market position is lifted to the league of 911 Turbo or Aston Martin V12 Vantage, as you can see in the AutoZine Rating page.

The new 5.2-liter V10 is a development from the old one, or basically the same unit as Huracan. It is equipped with dual-mode (direct and port) injection, variable intake, automatic stop-start and cylinder deactivation, which shuts down 5 cylinders under light load. There are 2 states of tune: the standard R8 V10 offers 540 horsepower and 398 pound-foot of torque, marginally more than the old car, whereas R8 V10 Plus pumps up the figures to 610 hp and 413 lbft, or exactly the same as its Lamborghini cousin. Audi quotes 205 mph and 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds for the Plus model, so it is virtually as fast as the Huracan, Ferrari 488GTB or McLaren 650S. The 7-speed S tronic twin-clutch gearbox is carried over from the old car.



Apart from engine, the V10 Plus differs from the lesser model by using larger wheels, wider rear tires, standard ceramic brakes and a fixed carbon-fiber rear spoiler (instead of pop-up one). Its suspension tuning is sportier, and the 7-speed S tronic has close ratios instead of the lesser model's 6-speed plus an overdrive. In UK, the V10 and V10 Plus cost £120,000 and £135,000 respectively. Obviously, they target at 911 Turbo and Turbo S respectively. There might be an entry-level model to be added in a couple of years. If it really happens, I suppose the most likely powerplant will be a twin-turbo 3.0 V6, which has been introduced to S4 last week and will be upgraded to serve RS4. Expect something in the region of 450 hp. Sorry, the good old naturally aspirated V8 is dead.

On the Road

Fortunately, the V10 remains naturally aspirated. And what a gem it is! In terms of outright punch it might lose a little to the turbocharged McLaren or Ferrari, but its throttle response is instantaneous, without troubled by the slightest lag. Its power delivery is creamy linear and it loves to rev. Peak power does not arrive until 8250 rpm, and it keeps revving eagerly towards the 8500 rpm redline. The thunderous howl it produces at such revs is addictive, although the sound insulation doesn’t let as much to propagate into the cabin compared with its Lamborghini cousin. Meanwhile, the gearbox works seamlessly together with the high-revving motor. Its gearshifts are markedly improved, being fast yet smooth, without the slight brutality of Huracan. The powertrain combo has to be the best element of the new R8. It makes you feel more engaged and more in control than its turbocharged rivals. Yes, it won’t be as quick on a race track, but who cares?


As before, the R8 is a good companion for everyday driving. It rides pretty good, even without the optional adaptive dampers. With them equipped and set in Comfort mode, it cruises on motorway as good as a saloon. It is noticeably more supple and quieter than Huracan.

The handling is also easier. As in the Lamborghini, there’s a hint of initial understeer in a bend, which makes it feel safer but less sharp than rivals like Ferrari 488 or Porsche 911 GT3 RS. The 4WD system is perhaps too effective. You need to keep pushing it brutally by a late brake and an aggressive counter steer to induce some oversteer, yet the slide angle is subtle and it won’t last long. It is by no means a sideway hero. I think the problem lies on Audi’s tuning rather than the inherent characteristics of 4WD, as a Nissan GT-R can drift more beautifully. In our memory, the old R8 V8 was also more adjustable in corner. Sadly, while the new car rides better and corners faster, it is no more entertaining.

The same can be said to the actively variable-ratio electrical power steering. It is calmer on the straight ahead and more direct in corner, but it is no longer as feelsome as the old car’s hydraulic rack, and it falls behind the standard of Porsche’s electrical rack. Moreover, the variable-ratio thing is inconsistent, so you have to guess how much lock to apply in every corner. Maybe it is already improved from the last one introduced to Huracan, but it is still counterproductive thus best to be avoided.

All these mean the second generation R8 is not going to catch the hearts of car lovers as much as the original. Not only it breaks no new ground, it is neither as head-turning nor as entertaining to drive. It is still a highly talented machine, especially on the basis of daily use, but it is no longer an all-time great.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis

Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
0-150 mph (sec)
R8 V10
2015
Mid-engined, 4WD
Aluminum spaceframe + carbon-fiber
Aluminum, carbon-fibger
4426 / 1940 / 1240 mm
2650 mm
V10, 90-degree
5204 cc
DOHC 40 valves, DVVT
VIM
DI, cylinder deactivation
540 hp / 7800 rpm
398 lbft / 6500 rpm
7-speed twin-clutch
All double-wishbones
Adaptive damping
F: 245/35ZR19
R: 295/35ZR19
1595 kg
199 mph (c)
3.4 (c)
-
-
R8 V10 Plus
2015
Mid-engined, 4WD
Aluminum spaceframe + carbon-fiber
Aluminum, carbon-fibger
4426 / 1940 / 1240 mm
2650 mm
V10, 90-degree
5204 cc
DOHC 40 valves, DVVT
VIM
DI, cylinder deactivation
610 hp / 8250 rpm
413 lbft / 6500 rpm
7-speed twin-clutch
All double-wishbones
Adaptive damping
F: 245/30ZR20
R: 305/30ZR20
1555 kg
205 mph (c)
3.1 (c) / 2.9* / 3.1** / 2.8***
6.5* / 6.7** / 6.4***
15.6* / 15.3***





























Performance tested by: *C&D, **Autocar, ***R&T





AutoZine Rating

R8



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