Audi has given its R8 supercar an almighty overhaul. The new car has been aggressively restyled and given a welcome boost in performance.
The German carmaker’s one and only mid-engine machine has gained a reputation in recent years for being “the everyday supercar”, meaning it offers all the thrills of a Lamborghini Huracan with the comfort of an Audi A5 coupe.
Over the past few years, however, the company has faced stiff competition from McLaren, the British supercar maker that produces the 570S.
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Both cars have similar price tags and power outputs. Keen to find out more about the rivalry between them we travelled to the Ascari circuit in Ronda, Spain, to see whether the new R8 lives up to its nickname – and how it compares to the 570S.
It isn’t difficult to see why people refer to the R8 as an everyday supercar.
Getting into a supercar is usually a tricky business. Their low ride height and crash structure, which usually sits in front of the door openings, means you need to develop an Olympic-level gymnastics routine just to get in and out of them.
That’s not the case with the R8. Stepping inside the supercar is as simple as sliding into the seats of an executive saloon or coupe, and there’s plenty of visibility to see the road ahead or – in our case – for spotting the fastest line through a corner.
Peer through the steering wheel and you’ll find the latest version of Audi’s digital dashboard, which is among the best in the business. The system allows you to customise certain aspects of the dashboard, such as swapping the speedometer for the car’s sat nav. And when you place the R8 in Performance mode, a large rev counter dominates the centre of the screen.
While the R8’s cabin is more akin to an RS4 than a GT3 racing car, it’s comfortable and spacious. As the car’s fans say, you really can use an R8 everyday.
Now, though, it’s time to see how the R8 performs on the circuit.
On the track
Conditions for testing supercars were hardly ideal at the Ascari circuit. It had been raining heavily before our session and while the sun was poking through the clouds the track was clearly slippery.
But that wasn’t much of a problem thanks to the R8’s all-wheel drive system. As soon as we edged out of the pit lane and onto Ascari’s undulating course, we found it relatively easy to use the car’s 612bhp naturally aspirated V10 engine.
With a gentle prod of the accelerator, the R8 quickly found traction exiting the track’s swooping bends before rocketing down the straights. This is a seriously fast car and the wonderful scream coming from the high-revving V10 engine will make drivers who take their R8 to a track want to go even faster.
Although the four-wheel drive system does a good job at providing grip in wet conditions, there were a few occasions where we were able to slide the car while accelerating out of a corner. That’s because most of the power is sent to the rear-axle. This gives it similar characteristics to a rear-wheel drive.
This is by no means an issue and many will be happy to know they can push the car to its limits.
But we did find the R8’s steering slightly lacking compared to that of its key rival, the McLaren 570S. We needed to correct the steering a few times, for example, when approaching corners at speed.
That’s because the steering is slightly numb, meaning that the steering wheel doesn’t always feel as though it’s connected to the front wheels. This is only noticeable on a race track and won’t have much effect when the car is driven on roads, but it may disappoint owners wanting to take their R8 to a circuit.
We came to the Ascari resort to evaluate how the R8 performs on track, but we left the circuit reflecting on how impressive it is as a road car.
The R8 isn’t quite as precise as its McLaren 570S rival, nor does its cabin offer the same sense of excitement as other supercars do.
But that’s because the R8 isn’t like other supercars. It may have a howling V10 engine and racing car looks, yet it’s the only vehicle of its kind that’s just as easy to drive as a family estate car.
Pricing and release
Orders for the new R8 and R8 Performance will open early next year, says The Sunday Times. Prices for the standard car start at £126,200, making it just over £23,000 cheaper than the £149,000 570S.
Image credit: Daniel Wollstein
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