2020 has been a crappy year, but even between the domestic political turmoil and the global pandemic-related disruption to normal life, there have been occasional bright spots. Like the long weekend I spent with a $ 195,900 Audi R8 V10 performance Coupe quattro. After all, every day that I am allowed to drive something with a mid-engine is a good day. Especially when it comes to the kind of car that may not be with us for very long.
Our first encounter with the second generation Audi supercar was back in 2017. Mechanically speaking, the R8 V10 Performance Coupe quattro looks a lot like the R8 V10 plus back then. The centerpiece is that atmospheric 5.2L V10, shared (as with many other subcutaneous) with the Lamborghini Huracán. (Audi purchased Lamborghini in 1998.) Hand-built in Hungary, the V10 generates 602 hp (449 kW) at an intoxicating 8,100 rpm, with maximum torque of 413 lb-ft (560 Nm) arriving at 6,700 rpm. This is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and in the case of the rear axle via clutch-based torque vectoring that takes the place of a traditional differential.
Externally, the R8 has undergone a slight facelift. There are a few more vents that allow cooling air to enter the car and a few more that help it make its way out, but the adjustments are subtle.
Perhaps the biggest functional upgrade from an owner’s perspective is the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the infotainment system. Unlike the Huracán, the R8 does not have a separate infotainment display, only the 12.3-inch virtual driver’s cockpit display. And so here we find the smartphone casting interface, which makes using your phone’s navigation a lot more user-friendly than in most cars, where you have to look at the center console to get your directions. (Note: this is not a touchscreen, you navigate through the infotainment with the multifunction steering wheel or the jog dial in the center console.)
The other notable technical upgrade is the addition of laser high beam headlamps. First developed for Audi’s all-conquering Le Mans prototypes, the company had to wait several years for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to allow them to be fitted to a US market vehicle. The rays can still throw their light only half as far as the European regulators allow, but it’s a significant improvement over traditional high beam, especially if your night vision is affected by something like astigmatism.
I even made good use of the laser lights. Something about the pandemic had a jet lag-like effect on my sleep cycles, waking me up long before dawn. Some may have found this annoying, but traffic is the supercar’s natural enemy, and the roads are empty before dawn, so I didn’t pay too much attention – at least if there’s a nice car parked outside.
And the R8 is a nice driver’s car. As with most mid-engined machines, from the driver’s seat it makes you feel like you’re on the pointed end, where you’re pushed by the mass and power of that engine behind you.
It’s a more civilized experience than driving a Lamborghini Huracán. Comfortable, with the transmission that shifts for itself, it is an easy car to drive slowly or even slowly. But it feels a little too special to be put into use as a daily commuter car or grocery store, and like most 600 horsepower cars, you’re lucky enough to hit a two-digit MPG when driving it around town. (The EPA rates the R8 at 16 mpg (14.7 L / 100 km) combined.)
It also sounds less raw than the Huracán, although the naturally aspirated V10 still sounds orders of magnitude better than all of the R8’s other turbocharged rivals to these ears. It’s not quite F1 level – the red line is 8700rpm, not 19,000rpm – but it’s a beautiful howl nonetheless. (Sorry, I’m not sorry if I woke you up on one of my predawn drives.)
While the R8 doesn’t feel as sharp as the Lamborghini (especially the Huracán Evo model), that doesn’t mean it feels sluggish or sluggish. In dynamic mode, zero to 100 km / h takes 3.2 seconds, just as fast as a McLaren F1 but easier to use thanks to the paddle shifters and all-wheel drive. You can break traction and wiggle his hips if you provoke him with too much throttle while cornering. But it’s predictable and easy to catch, something you can summon on demand rather than a malicious trait that keeps you constantly on your guard.
In 2017, I stated that the R8 was our pick of the junior supercars (think 600 horsepower and ~ $ 200,000). None of my time with the refurbished R8 makes me think that’s wrong – it’s practical for a mid-engined supercar, and like its Italian cousin, it sounds better than the competition due to the engine’s naturally aspirated engine.
However, there is a reason that just about every other manufacturer has turned to forced induction for their exotica. It’s much easier to meet modern emissions regulations with a turbocharger, and so they really won’t make it that way for much longer.
Frame image by Jonathan Gitlin