When the original Audi R8 debuted here in 2007, it made waves but ultimately fell short in terms of pure supercar performance. Back then, the numbers posted by the R8 weren’t much better than other Audi models fitted with the same 4.2-litre V-8 engine; this made critics question if Audi’s first supercar was worth the effort or the money. To cap it off, the quattro all-wheel drive system, when placed in a mid-engine layout, did not produce the necessary levels of dynamic handling in all conditions.
Over the past decade, changes have been made, incremental improvements designed to give the R8 higher levels of performance and bring new levels of respectability along the way. The 2020 Audi R8 is the end result of that effort – and it’s been time well spent.
At launch, there will be two versions of the new R8 available, both powered by a 5.2-litre V-10, each in a different state of tune. The engine in the R8 V10 quattro develops 562 horsepower, 30 more than the outgoing model. Meanwhile, the version now called the Audi R8 V10 performance quattro (formerly the V10 plus) features 612 horsepower, an increase of 10. Both versions will be offered in Coupé and Spyder body styles; more iterations of the R8 could be forthcoming.
There are certain attributes expected of a world-class supercar:
- Violent acceleration is the start.
- The shifts, from whichever transmission is fitted, must be rapid and seamless.
- Cornering grip should be high, enough to strain the neck after, say, an hour behind the wheel. When pushed toward the limits of adhesion, the hope is that all four wheels slide together in unison.
- The steering effort and angle must correspond to the physiology of the human brain, making a direct link to how the front wheels respond.
- Finally, when you blast into a corner with too much speed, the brakes must be powerful and reliable enough to shed that excess speed, incurring as little panic as possible.
The above criteria encapsulate the Audi R8 V10, especially the performance quattro version. In a number of high-speed laps of the Ascari Race Resort, the more powerful model proved easy to control at the limits, yet fast enough to be terrifying. The car slid readily under conditions that change as the day progresses from warm to cool and the track devolved from clean to gravel-splattered.
The all-wheel drive system can shuttle 100 per cent of engine torque to either the front wheels or the back wheels. The handling of the R8 is further helped along by a limited-slip mechanical rear differential and torque vectoring by brake; these touches combine to help bend the car into turns more readily.
The performance quattro version also features a direct steering system, which feels more natural and precise, and carbon-ceramic brakes for increased stopping power.
The 2020 Audi R8 V10 is now a genuine superstar of the supercar set. Pricing for the car has yet to be announced, but it should be close to figures for the outgoing model: $185,000 for the R8 V10 and $214,900 for the R8 V10 plus. The new model will be in dealers in Canada in the second quarter of 2019 – best place your order now.
- Base price/as tested: TBA/TBA
- Engine: 5.2-litre V-10
- Transmission/drive: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic/All-wheel
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): TBA
- Alternatives: Aston Martin Vantage, Jaguar F-Type SVR, Lamborghini Huracan, Mercedes-AMG GT R, Porsche GT3
In a strange way, the world of supercar design has finally caught up to the Audi R8. The Bauhaus-inspired look – with its distinctive front grille and iconic side blade – is still in place. But tweaks to the design have given the R8 a lower stance, more prominent wheel arches and more sinister purpose. It’s never looked better.
Superior ergonomics is critical in a supercar because space is at a premium. While the interior is expertly finished and the virtual cockpit instrument panel is slick, there are a lot of buttons here – some might say too many. But the seat on the performance model was the single most disappointing aspect of the R8: no rake adjustment means some drivers will find themselves tilting too far forward.
More power, more torque, higher top speed, a more sophisticated traction control system, more direct steering and a more precise suspension system. Add this up and you’ve got a supercar that’s better than ever – and a more inspired choice when compared with the competition.
Always one of the more advanced supercars around, the Audi is loaded to the side blades with tech. These features make their presence felt in myriad ways. The steering wheel houses all controls governing the performance of the car and the presentation of vehicle information. The TFT instrument panel allows the driver to scroll between screens smartly to access the gauges and navigation system directions.
The verdict: 9.0
A poster child for the incremental improvement movement.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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