Latte-sippers won’t take the R8 to the racetrack, but they’ll be happy to know that it’s a very capable track machine. We got seven trips around the Algarve Circuit in V10 Plus models equipped with the available dynamic steering and magnetic ride suspension systems and 20-inch tires, and came away impressed by two traits in particular. First, turn-in is immediate, and second, the Pirelli P Zero tires grip relentlessly in corners.
But there’s more going on here than that. Handling is very neutral, which is a welcome change from the programmed understeer the last-generation model exhibited. Drive the car too hard into a car and it will still understeer, but even though the R8 uses the quattro all-wheel-drive system, it can also act like a rear-drive car. Kick the throttle mid-turn and the tail jumps out. However, the updated quattro system can then help out. The front differential can now handle all of the car’s power, while the last version could only accept about a third of it. That allows quattro to send more power to the front wheels to help you drive out of the slide.
The V10 Plus also comes standard with carbon ceramic brakes with 15-inch discs and fixed six-piston calipers up front and 14-inch discs with four-piston fixed calipers in the rear. These massive plates provide stopping power that is so immediate that drivers will have to learn to go easy on the brake pedal during street driving. On the track, they shrugged off six hours of constant driving without warping or fading.
Comfortable but compromised cockpit
The R8’s cabin is small but comfortable. The driver sits more upright than in most supercars, and that aids visibility to the front. Rear vision, especially to the sides, is obstructed by the slope of the slick coupe body. The V10 Plus model comes with lightweight race bucket seats with fixed seatbacks. Thinner than the available sport seats, these seats provide a bit more legroom for tall drivers but we prefer the moving backs and extra adjustments of the sport seats, which also include power bolsters that can be set to accommodate U.S.-sized rumps.
While the occupants are comfortable, the cabin is also painfully short of small items storage, and the front trunk is just big enough for a pair of overnight bags.
But space for people and their gadgets aren’t important to supercar buyers. Looks and performance are, and on those two fronts the 2017 R8 delivers. It can reach 60 mph in just over three seconds, accelerate to a top speed of 205 mph, and dice up a race track with the best of them. It’s also incredibly comfortable on the street, allowing buyers to have their cake and eat it on a daily basis, too. Only a company with the racing heritage and luxury car expertise of Audi could deliver such a winning combination.