Power in abundance
The V-10 fires up with a whumm, and most of its soundtrack is variations on that sound. It just gets higher pitched as revs increase, and it pops and crackles when you let off the throttle. In this day and age of turbocharged and supercharged supercars, the R8’s sound is pure and appropriately macho.
The power, however, is far more macho. The V-10 delivers gobs of willing thrust. Without forced induction, there is usually no swell of power that knocks you back in your seat. Instead, power delivery is linear and relentless, building to a top speed of 205 mph for the V10 Plus and 199 mph for the V10 model.
Use the Launch Control feature and the power becomes downright violent. It’s simple, too. Tap the Performance mode button (the little checkered flag) on the steering wheel so it shuts off traction control, hit the brake with your left foot, stomp on the throttle, and let go of the brake. The car then slingshots forward, seemingly accelerating faster when it hits second gear than upon its initial launch. The power just keeps coming as the car vaults from 0 to 100 kph in just 3.2 seconds (likely 3.1 seconds for the 0 to 60 mph run). With standard quattro all-wheel drive, you don’t need to be a skilled driver to achieve those times. They are repeatable over and over again.
Audi makes only one transmission available for the new R8, which is both good news and bad. Unfortunately, the six-speed manual is gone and with it goes the beautiful piece of jewelry that was its gated metal shifter. That leaves just Audi’s S Tronic dual-clutch gearbox. It’s a modern, fast-acting transmission that Audi charges a ludicrous $9,100 for on the current model, and it is certain to add a hefty sum to the base price of the 2017 model when it comes out next spring.
Road and track performance
Journalists have written a lot about how cars like the Huracán and McLaren 650S are easy to live with on an everyday basis, but the 2017 R8 has the most bandwidth of that group. It has low-slung supercar looks, but is a surprisingly comfortable cruiser with the Drive Mode Select system in the Comfort or Auto modes. Drivers can choose how raucous things get from there. An Individual mode has comfort, auto, and dynamic and settings for the steering, engine, and dampers. Opting for the Dynamic mode pins all those choices to the dynamic settings, and a Performance mode goes even further. It shuts off the traction control, and lets drivers optimize the systems for best traction in Wet, Dry or Snow conditions.
Tool around in Comfort or Auto and the R8 is downright pliant, soaking up bumps more like an A4 than a supercar and executing relaxed shifts of the S Tronic. Opt for Dynamic mode and the ride gets firmer but is still fairly supple, and the steering adds heft but is still too light for our tastes, lacking the weight and therefore stability we would like during high-speed cornering.
That’s all quite easy to live with, but Dynamic mode also brings out the engine and transmission’s inner Tasmanian Devil. It holds lower gears longer, keeping the engine on boil and making throttle response immediate. It’s great for executing a quick passing maneuver but is no way to drive around town sipping a latte.