With supercar looks and performance, the 2014 Audi R8 is unique in the company's range, and not just because it's mid-engined--and not just because Audi decided to skip the R8's 2013 model year entirely and land right in 2014.
Although familiar features like quattro all-wheel drive are standard, the 2014 Audi R8's performance sets it apart from the rest of the brand, even the impressive and capable RS range.
In base V-8 form, a 430-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8, the R8's acceleration is brisk and consistent. Handling is nearly exquisite, with just a slight bias toward understeer. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while an all-new (and brilliant) dual-clutch transmission is available. We'd opt for the dual-clutch's telepathic downshifts over the joy of rowing our own cogs, but Audi expects about 40 percent of buyers to take the manual route.
Next in the range is the R8 V10 coupe. With 525 horsepower on tap, the V10 immediately feels stronger. The sound of the V-10 engine at full song is also much more supercar-like. Unfortunately, the R8 V10 is about 110 pounds heavier than the V-8 model, and it's reflected in the handling, if not the 0-60 mph times. The R8 V10 can hit 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds, about 0.7 seconds quicker than the V-8.
For the fastest R8, however, you have to move up to the V10 Plus. With 550 horsepower and only 22 pounds more than the base R8, the V10 Plus is the best of both worlds. Getting to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and carrying on to a top speed of 197 mph, the V10 Plus is seriously quick. It's also seriously capable on track, though there's a degree of squirm under braking and, again, a slight bias toward understeer.
Top-down fun can be had in both V-8 and V-10 forms, with the R8 Spyder and R8 V10 Spyder. There's no V10 Plus Spyder as yet, however. Though the Spyders are heavier than their hardtop counterparts, acceleration and dynamics are very close--close enough that you won't feel like you have to sacrifice anything to get the electro-hydraulic power-folding soft top.
All three models (and the Spyders) cut refined, slightly under-the-radar figures, and all three are outfitted with Audi's well-designed and comfortable interiors. If you're looking for a supercar you can live with every day, the R8 could be it.
For the full details on the 2014 Audi R8, including in-depth looks at performance, features, and more, read our review at The Car Connection.