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2018 Audi R8 Review

2018 Audi R8 Review
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As much a track star as it is a comfortable daily driver, the 2018 Audi R8 is one of the most balanced and flexible supercars ever made.

MSRP: From $166,150

Horsepower: 540 to 610 hp

MPG: Up to 14 city / 22 highway

Dimensions: 174” L x 76” W x 49” H

Curb weight: 3,627 to 3,957 lbs

Audi didn’t quite surprise the world when it first launched its R8 supercar almost a decade ago. Fans of the four-ring brand saw it coming in the R8 Prototype that raced at Le Mans back in 2000. But don’t let the highest-performance road car to ever come out of Ingolstadt, Germany, seem like a letdown. It sure isn’t.

The 2018 Audi R8 remains a spectacular performance car with a phenomenal pedigree. A fantastic V-10 engine supplies power the rear wheels or all wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Perfect? No. The R8—available as a coupe in V10 and V10 Plus configurations and as a V10 Spyder is hard to see out of even by sports car standards, and its massive degree of technology comes with a price tag as much as a nice home in many places.

This year, the Audi R8 sees few changes after debuting in its second generation just last year. A new Black Optic appearance package with 20-inch wheels and dark interior and exterior accents is available, LED headlights with the brand’s distinctive laser design are now standard on the V10 Plus, and a new Audi Sport badge has been affixed to all models’ front fascias.

The R8 lineup remains available exclusively with V-10 power: 540 horsepower for the base coupe and the Spyder and 610 hp for the subtly named V10 Plus, which also features racing seats and carbon-ceramic brakes.

Rear-wheel-drive models were added for 2018, but those will be rare sights on the road. We haven't yet driven those versions and will report back once we do.

The R8 is more than just a performance car. It’s remarkably livable as a daily driver, subpar visibility aside. The V10 models feature magnetic dampers underneath that provide a ride that’s either stiff as a board or remarkably compliant, depending on what drive mode is selected.

They’re also beautifully finished inside with extensive use of upscale trim and Audi’s “Virtual Cockpit”, which discards conventional analog gauges in favor of a gorgeous screen right in front of the driver.

Though evolutionary, the Audi R8 is sleek and sexy; it manages to look even more exotic than it actually is.

The 2018 Audi R8 looks like nothing else on the road—aside from the last-generation R8, that is.

We love the way its look has evolved and think it does a fantastic job straddling the line between sports car and supercar. It’s an easy 10 out of 10 in our eyes. 

Its profile is distinctive thanks to a hunkered-down stance that pushes the passenger compartment far more forward than sloped-roof sports cars like, say, the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-AMG GT. The R8 is a wide vehicle, but its design elements have been pushed outward to give it an even more planted look than its dimensions might suggest.

A curved windshield wraps around the aluminum and carbon fiber space frame that makes up the passenger compartment, which is a strictly two-person affair. Aft of the side windows, the R8’s signature side blade is bisected by the rear fender, toning down the look slightly. Spyders have just a lower side blade, which doubles as an air intake for the mid-mounted V-10. At the rear, the look is more Lamborghini than Audi, albeit at half the price.

R8 Spyders have a long rear deck that lends them a certain degree of continental elegance. This isn’t a classic Bentley or Jaguar, but the design is striking and eye-catching, especially in the numerous bright hues available.

On the R8 V10 Plus, those blades and the fixed rear spoiler (retractable in the V10) are composed of carbon fiber; don’t scratch them.

The R8 is spartan inside, but not bare bones. Its cabin is light on switchgear and displays, instead relaying every bit of information to a screen planted right in front of the driver.

With its balance between performance and comfort, the 2018 Audi R8 is ready for just about anything.

Its cost of entry might be reasonable by supercar standards, but you’re not getting anything subpar when it comes to the Audi R8. The screaming V-10 engine, the rapid-fire responsiveness of the 7-speed dual clutch transmission, and the all-wheel-drive system that grips for days all combine to make it a 10 out of 10. 

That’s all great. Supercars should be fast. They should read the road surface and transmit it directly to the driver. They should be as suave at 10/10ths on a race track as they are snaking through Laurel Canyon.

The Audi R8 checks all of those boxes.

But where it really surprises is in its day-to-day comfort, something heretofore reserved mainly for touring and GT cars—think the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911. Credit for the R8’s flexibility is due in part to its Drive Mode Select system. At the press of a button, Comfort and Auto modes dial the adaptive suspension back to a tolerable level for in-town slogging. Pick Dynamic or Performance and the R8 is ready for a track day jaunt. Performance mode turns off the traction control, while Dynamic dials things back to let the driver have a little more fun.

Don’t count out the R8’s V-10, which cranks out 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque in standard tune. Opt for the R8 V10 Plus (coupe only) and those figures jump to 610 hp and 413 lb-ft. Regardless, both R8 variants send power to all four corners via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

A rear-wheel-drive version joined the lineup in 2018, but we haven't yet driven that model. We'll report back once we do.

Driving the 2018 Audi R8

Chuck the R8 hard into a turn, and the first thing that you’ll notice is how quickly it responds. The optional active dynamic steering system is precise and quick, if a little light. Carry that speed through the corner and the Pirelli P Zero tires will be hard-pressed to give up grip. When they finally do, the R8 corners neutrally and reacts directly to the driver’s input. The R8 is also forgiving; enter the corner with too much momentum and it pushes forward instead of rotating. Tap the brakes and the nose will stay hunkered down. Throttle too aggressively in the middle of a corner and the R8’s tail end steps out as though power is only set rearward instead of to all four tires. But if you start to slide, the R8 responds by apportioning power forward to help drive you out of a slide.

The V-10 has plenty of reserve power. Unlike a turbocharged engine, the R8’s V-10 delivers smooth, linear grunt through the entire rev range. It’s easy to hit the automaker’s 0-62 mph estimate of 3.2 seconds for the V10 Plus and 3.5 seconds for the standard R8 thanks to the standard launch control system.

Most of our driving has been behind the wheel of the R8 V10 Plus with its strong carbon-ceramic brake setup. They’re a little too sharp for street driving, though, so consider how you plan to use your R8 before placing your order.

Comfort & Quality
Beautifully finished, the Audi R8 is even somewhat practical for a sports car.

For what it is, the 2018 Audi R8 is very comfortable and offers an interior draped in leather and other high-quality materials that feels every bit worth its hefty price tag.

We’ve awarded it two points above average; one for its terrific seats and another for the luxurious, well-finished interior.

While the R8 make look spartan inside at first glance, this two-door lavishes passengers with ultra-soft leather. Where lesser cars will coat plastic with a thin layer of metal, the R8 mostly uses the real McCoy. There’s aluminum and, if selected, carbon-fiber trim strewn about in a restrained manner.

The R8’s we’ve spent time in have been outfitted with an attractive diamond pattern to their leather and Alcantara synthetic suede trim.

R8s come standard with supportive sports seats that offer terrific grip on a curvy road. R8 V10 Plus models come with lightweight racing seats that look great and have pronounced bolsters for track use, but their backs aren’t adjustable. Regardless of seat, the R8 puts drivers in a more upright position than some supercars, which affords drivers an excellent view out its curved windshield.

Predictably, there’s not a lot of cargo room in the R8—either in its front truck or in the cabin.

Don’t look for the Audi R8 to be crash-tested, but it is equipped with lots of safety features.

High-end cars like the 2018 Audi R8 are rarely subjected to crash tests by either federal or independent regulators, so we can’t actually assign this supercar a score for its safety.

What we can tell you is that it comes with a full complement of safety gear, not all of which is immediately visible. Its aluminum and carbon fiber space frame is stiff to absorb an impact and the R8 is equipped with six airbags. A rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors are also standard, something worth noting since there’s basically no over-the-shoulder visibility in the R8.

The 2018 Audi R8 wants for little in terms of luxury, technology, and performance.

It might be a small, lightweight supercar, but the Audi R8 is packed with high-tech features that designed to enhance the driving experience.

We give it a 9 out of 10 on account of its high level of standard equipment, its custom-tailored options, and its beautiful “Virtual Cockpit” instrument cluster. 

The R8 V10, available as both a coupe ($166,150) and an open-top roadster called the Spyder ($178,250), is fitted with nappa leather, 18-way power-adjusted and heated sports seats, LED headlights, and a 550-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system with 13 speakers.

For 2018, a new Black Optic appearance package adds special dark-finish 20-inch alloy wheels and numerous black accents inside and out. Additionally, 2018 R8 V10s have new dark-finish interior inlays.

That new package joins several other options like diamond-stitched leather, carbon-fiber interior and exterior trim, carbon-ceramic brakes, and full leather spread throughout the cabin.

If track days are your thing, the $195,650 R8 V10 Plus is the one you’ll want. In addition to its more powerful V-10 engine, it includes massive carbon-ceramic brakes (15 inches up front, 14 inches out back), racing-style bucket seats with a fixed back, and a firm-riding suspension with steel shocks rather than the standard car’s adjustable magnetic dampers.

All R8s include Audi’s “Virtual Cockpit,” a 12.3-inch high-resolution screen mounted directly in front of the driver. Controlled via a center console dial or buttons on the steering wheel, it’s the go-to spot for nearly all information. Its screen can be configured to show only important information like a digital recreation of traditional gauges, Google Earth-derived satellite maps, or a combination of the two.

Fuel Economy
You’re probably not buying an Audi R8 to save fuel, but you may be surprised that it is reasonably thrifty.

If you’re in the market for a supercar, it’s safe to say that maximum efficiency isn’t at the top of your priority list. Still, you might be surprised with the 2018 Audi R8.

On the EPA’s test, the R8 scores 14 mpg city, 22 highway, 17 combined for most configurations. That earns a 5 out of 10 on our scale. 

Rear-drive versions rate marginally better at 14/25/18 mpg.

That’s not bad for a car that puts out that is kind of power and it’s due to a variety of factors. For one, the R8’s V-10 features a cylinder deactivation system that shuts down five of its 10 cylinders. And when the R8’s Drive Select system is set in Comfort mode, a “sailing” feature eliminates engine braking during low-speed cruising to further save fuel.

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