A few years ago, I reviewed the ‘entry level’ R8 from Audi. Although applying the words ‘entry level’ for an R8 doesn’t really work. It is (to all intents and purposes) a supercar. And a supercar is, by definition, super.
Needless to say, I was suitably impressed with the balance of power and control in the 4.2 V10 Non-plus. Now, faced with the newer model, with a facelift under its belt and a more potent power unit under the… err… boot… (mid-engined, as all good supercars should be), the questions I was really asking myself were whether my memory was accurate, and if the performance pack added to this review model, could actually add that much more in terms of power and, of course, performance.
I’ll come to my verdict on my memory later, but firstly I’ll answer the question about power and performance. Can the 4.2 engine really deliver that much bang for quite a lot of buck? Yes; yes it can. With slightly more than 600bhp being delivered to all four wheels thanks to Audi’s (let’s face it, somewhat legendary) Quattro system, the power is instant and, quite frankly, loud. Very loud.
The true sound test of any car, super or otherwise, is whether my five-year old daughter likes it – she has a thing for a roaring exhaust – and her approval was evident when I took her to a school-friend’s birthday party. For reference, every car I review now is compared to (and I quote) the loud blue one. This references the first time I took her out in a 5.0 Mustang. She loved that too, and it’s now the benchmark for anything I review.
So it’s fast and loud… what else?
Once again, Audi have made an incredibly good-looking car in my opinion. The R8 looks powerful, poised, ready; one might even say ominous – if you see that low, wide front fascia with accompanying aero parts appear in your rear view mirror, there’s a strong chance you’ll soon be looking at the flared twin exhausts as it roars past you. But that opinion on appearance was far from universal.
In the office there were two trains of thought. On the one hand (my side of the fence) it had a lot of support and appealed to most of my team. But there were one or two voices that suggested that it perhaps didn’t look quite ‘nice’ enough. I understand their argument; for a price tag north of £150k, which is hefty, it should be better looking, but on balance, I side with the majority who thought it was beautiful – in a powerful, hunkered down poised way.
From almost every angle, it looked ready to go. The two massive exhausts to the rear and the understated yet somehow menacing grille at the front complimented by the air intakes behind the doors (mid-engined cars need cooling that can’t come directly through the grille, obviously), all come together to make it look aggressive but sleek.
Inside, the cabin is a lovely place with lots of soft leather and one of my favourite dashboards in Audi’s virtual cockpit. It also adds a touch of drama with the giant red starter button on the steering wheel.
Another of Audi’s other innovations was present too, and as always, I couldn’t make up my mind on it. The German manufacturer often adds a tracepad on top of the primary control dial. The purpose of this is so that you can use it to ‘write’ your destination into the sat nav without having to scroll through a keyboard, or do anything as old fashioned as tap your finger on a touchscreen. The issue I have with this is that you have to use your left-hand… and I’m right-handed, so it didn’t feel that intuitive. I guess most of Audi’s sales come from the continent, or the USA, where left-hand drive is the standard, and the tracepad therefore falls under the right hand, but for the UK market, I’m not a fan.
But ultimately that’s a very minor niggle in what is otherwise a truly amazing car. So was I impressed? Yes – every time I got in it. It’s rare to have that amount of power with four-wheel drive control and the safety net of one of Europe’s most renowned engineering powerhouses, but that’s what you get with the R8… power, control and a lot of noise.
Model on test: £156,420