Initially launched way back in 2006, and now updated once again for 2020, Audi’s R8 can often seem lost amongst the supercars that have emerged in the 14 years since. Ferrari’s 488 and Lamborghini’s Huracan, for example, are both far more outrageous than the R8, but to condemn the Audi for this is doing the German coupe a massive disservice. The R8’s trump card is its ability to balance true supercar performance with flawless build quality and significant comfort.
2020 has seen an update of this, the second generation R8 (first revealed in 2015). Developed in partnership with the aforementioned Huracan (Volkswagen Audi Group has owned Lamborghini since 1998), the R8 is now available as either a 397kw rear wheel drive V10 coupe or the all singing, all dancing all wheel drive 449kw V10 Performance.
For this test, we are looking at the $425000 Performance. Now, $400k is a lot of money for a car, but at least the rear wheel drive coupe is a more palatable option at $320000. Either way, you’re paying close to $100k in tax with around $80k in Luxury Car Tax and just under $20k in Stamp Duty. Ouch!
The question everyone wants to know is if it’s worth the price of admission. The answer is, as almost always with this kind of thing, ‘bloody oath’… if you can afford it.
Like all supercars, the extraordinary nature of the R8’s performance is only matched by its utter pointlessness on everyday roads. It is truly epic, yet completely useless away from closed roads and race tracks. On public roads, anything more than half throttle is just asking for trouble; either the blue and red flashing lights kinda trouble or the ‘oh, shit’ kinda trouble. Both are bad.
So, if you can only use half of its potential, what’s so good about it? Well, knowing the R8’s full potential is always nice. Likewise, the sheer precision of the thing is glorious. Throttle control and steering, for example, is so intuitive, accurate and silky smooth that you would have to try really hard to bugger things up. In fact, it’s the sort of car your grandma could jump in and pull a cracking hot lap of The Mountain. Funnily enough, the lap record for Bathurst is held by an R8! Admittedly, a very special R8 driven by an equally special young German – Christopher Mies.
The gear changes from the dual clutch transmission are lightning fast. The ride in Dynamic mode is a little brittle, but fantastically controlled. The rumble and wail that the V10 engine configuration brings is spine tingling.The build quality is equally spectacular. The cabin is stark and devoid of all trinkets and baubles and I love it.
The extensive suite of technology is accessed via the Audi Virtual Cockpit digital dashboard; a 12.3-inch full colour digital display. You can choose from ‘classic mode’ with traditional dials (my favourite), progressive mode with full-screen view or sport mode. It is through Sport mode that you access the lap timer, power and torque output gauges, G-Meter, shift light and tyre pressure and tyre temperature displays.
Strangely, the Bang & Olufsen branded stereo wasn’t as heroic as I expected. Audi claims that it was designed specifically for the R8. It’s got a 16 channel amp and speakers everywhere, including in each headrest, but it seemed flat to me. More time fiddling with the settings might result in better performance. Admittedly, after listening to just one or two songs I never bothered it again – the windows dropped an inch or two and the soundtrack offered by the R8’s naturally aspirated V10 is all I would ever need.
It’s not perfect, mind. With in-car technology and infotainment moving ahead so quickly, it is easy to see that the age of the R8 platform is beginning to show. A lack of 360 degree camera makes slow speed maneuvering tricky, especially given that the thing is as wide as a Kenworth T900! The Audi Virtual Cockpit, as impressive as it is, is still on the small side. The R8 also lacks the OLED tail lights fitted to it’s little brother; the TT RS.
Ultimately, who the hell cares. This is without doubt one of the finest cars ever built and I am loath to give it back.
So, the $400000 question remains. For me, it is purely academic. I am never going to have that sort of coin to spend on a car, but I fully encourage everyone that can afford one to immediately go and buy one. In fact, flood the market with the damn things, because I have my eye on a super tidy, super low kay first generation R8 in manual with the bulletproof 4.2 litre V8. For $100k I can see my retirement years slipping away in a bug splattered, stone chipped whirl and I like what I’m seeing.
So, you’ve got $400k to spend. In the immortal words of one Anthony Ferraro Louis Barber, let’s go shopping.
The AMG GT isn’t really the same sort of thing as the R8, but it’s similar enough to make the list. A mid engine (accessed from the front), two seater powerhouse, the GT turns heads like a Bondi lifeguard. This 2018 example has a sprinkling of kays, is in the hero colour ‘Green Hell Magno’ and still leaves $60k to spend on rear tyres.
Sharing the same platform as the R8, this 2020 Lamborghini Huracan is as lairy as the R8 is subdued. It’s not cheap impersonating a drug dealer; this all but new Huracan is $50k over budget.
Ferrari’s 488 really is something special. This 2016 488 GTB is like new, with under 4k km and is a touch under budget at $398000. It’s a lot of money, but it’s a hell of a car.