The latest R8 is ready for the road and almost everything is new. The only things that aren’t are the things you really wanted to stay the same; the glorious 5.2-litre V10 engine and the telepathically fast seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, although even these have had tweaks. The big news is that the R8 is now V10-only, because a V8 version simply wouldn’t be fast enough.
The controversial contrasting side panels are now split into two parts. You’ll notice that straight away, but everything else is a bit more subtle. The huge side vents are a slightly different shape, but the trademark R8 shape is alive and kicking.
From the front quarter-angles the new one looks a bit less edgy and exciting than the original to my eyes, but R8 owners want everyday usability before hypercar bonkersness. Looking at the car head-on shows its best, most arresting light, especially with the new headlight signature.
There are rivals with bigger boots, but you can squeeze two modest camera bags into the under-bonnet storage bay with room to spare. Behind the seats there’s more space, which isn’t ideal if things start to slide around (which is likely, given the R8’s immense grip), but it’s there all the same.
It has to be said, though, that the R8 is incredibly easy to get in and out of. Most un-supercar-like. It’s not cramped, it can handle typical speed bumps with a bit of care, and with the optional ‘magnetic ride’ suspension added, it’s also as comfortable as a bean bag made of cotton wool and hugs.
Firstly, what a wheel! The familiar Audi layout is boosted by two (or four, with the plus version or the right options) ‘satellites’, or individual pods holding a button each. It looks awesome; jet-fighterish and sexy as hell.
Both the 533bhp standard V10 and the 602bhp ‘plus’ version, which is the one festooned with carbon add-ons and larger wheels, are very fast. Obviously. The latter gives an addictive extra hit of adrenaline over 6,000rpm, on its way to 8,000rpm and beyond, but the 533bhp car isn’t disgraced thanks to a slightly racier, more balanced feel when the going gets rapid.
The magnetic ride is essential; it’s by far the most comfortable option and lets you push the angry buzzsaw of an engine that bit harder on the road. But the harder ‘dynamic’ suspension keeps the car more stable on a race track.
It’s such a shame that the instrument cowl projects such an intrusive reflection up onto the screen, right in the driver’s line of sight. It’s hugely distracting when you’re exploiting the car’s massive cornering grip.
If you look at it as a cut-price Lamborghini, what’s not to like? If you look at it as the only car of its type with a screaming V10 squeezed in behind the driver, what’s not to like? If you only look at the level of build and materials quality, what’s not to... you get the idea. The R8 is an expensive car but it packs a value punch when it comes to direct comparisons. After a drive it’s tough to say it’s not worth its price.
At the end of the day it’s an Audi, so some people will choose a McLaren or Aston Martin to feel more exotic. On the other hand, at the end of the day it’s an Audi so it’s laid-out sensibly, built very well and will be easy to own. If your bread is buttered on the glittery side then the R8 might not be right for you, but people who want the looks without the Martian ergonomics will see something special here.