We haven’t even left the parking lot and my Dad has already let curiosity get the best of him. “So” he inquires, “how much does it cost?”
“$196,500”, I respond. He just laughs.
It’s an insanely practical response from a practical man. “That’s more than the house you grew up in is worth. You realize that, right?” He’s got a point- it is. But the R8 makes a much better noise than that house ever did.
Based on current industry trends the outgoing Audi R8 should be old, but it has led a very interesting life and barely aged. In the seven years since its introduction, everyone from Justin Timberlake to Iron Man has driven an R8 on film. One even popped up in the background during Sci-Fi’s summer blockbuster Sharknado 2. So when you drive around in the low-slung supercar, people are definitely going to notice it.
When compared to the first R8s built back in 2008, changes and updates have been conservative. A minor visual freshening in 2012 gave the car an updated front fascia with new LED headlights, a revised rear bumper with round exhaust outlets ala R8 GT and new taillights, plus a mix of other updates. Mechanically, the old single clutch R tronic gearbox was shelved in favor of a new twin-clutch S tronic unit, offering much smoother and faster shifts plus an extra cog. A V10 plus model was also offered for the first time, with 25 additional horsepower to move 110 less pounds… lighter even than the pre-facelift yet much respected R8 GT.
Even after nearly seven full years in the marketplace, the R8 doesn’t appear dated at all. Its proportions are spot on, and the design language still lets you know that it’s an Audi long before you’ve spotted those four rings. The still fresh feeling follows you inside the car also. Our tester came with the Diamond Stitch Full Leather package, a $6,000 option that covers nearly every surface in the car that isn’t Carbon Fiber in either Alcantara or (you guessed it) leather. In fact, the only bits that hint at the R8’s age are the older-generation B7-era MMI with it’s pre-Google Maps enabled navigation and the car’s equally aged switchblade key fob. Both of these are hardly a dealbreaker though, and should be considered a byproduct of Audi’s push towards new technology more than anything else.
On the road, the R8 V10 Plus behaves exactly how you’d think it would. Cruising around normally with the S tronic transmission set to automatic, the car feels as normal as possible for a $200k supercar. It is comfortable, relatively quiet and offers light steering effort while still being extremely direct. Sure, we miss interacting with the R8’s optional gated 6-speed manual, but the S tronic’s paddles will do the trick for the majority of R8 buyers, and the two pedal setup allows for a few more inches of precious legroom. If you aren’t interested in just cruising around or are looking for something a bit more exciting, activating Sport Mode quickly satisfies the need.
With Sport Mode selected, throttle response becomes sharpened, shift points are raised, and the valves in our optional Sport exhaust are opened, giving the R8 a much more aggressive soundtrack by routing exhaust gasses through a much less restrictive path. It’s for those reasons, as well as other purely childish ones, that I spent the majority of my time in the R8 V10 Plus with Sport Mode activated. This could be one possible explanation as to why the V10 drank premium fuel like it had a hole in the tank.
During more spirited blasts on windy roads, the V10 Plus corners extremely flat and remains stuck firmly to the road surface, even with the Sottozero snow tires that our test car had installed during our not-yet-end-of-winter stint with the car. The Audi Carbon Ceramic brakes are quite good as well, although they are a bit noisy when cool and so incredibly touchy that you need to check your mirrors if you even so much as think about using them. Once heated properly the brake noise goes away, and the binders are more than happy to overwhelm ABS at any opportunity.
So what’s it like to live with the R8 V10 Plus for a week? Well like anything else, it has its ups and its downs. It certainly isn’t the most practical thing in the world – storage space in the cabin is no sedan or even TT, although the frunk is surprisingly large and useful. It’s also a bit nerve-wracking to drive at times, as any $200k vehicle would be. The mere sight of it seems to encourage a bit of hooliganism from others in traffic, which does tend to get a bit old.
Any potential downsides to driving the R8 on a regular basis are quickly put to the back of your mind by simply seeing the car, walking up to it and knowing that you possess the key. If that doesn’t quite do the trick, the V10’s cold start procedure has an uncanny ability to put a smile on your face, regardless of mood. Even traffic jams don’t seem so bad, aside from the disappointment feeling that comes when you realize all those ponies resting behind your head have nowhere to gallop.
To be quite honest, the Audi R8 V10 Plus is a extremely good car that is more than capable of tackling 99% of your everyday tasks with ease. For those circumstances when you’ve got to haul something substantial or shuttle more than one other person, it simply won’t do, but for everything else, the R8 is phenomenal. And if you can afford an R8, then surely you can afford another car for life’s more mundane tasks.
With the next generation R8 nearly here, our week in the V10 Plus was a fitting farewell to the first generation of Audi’s supercar. We love it for the everyday supercar that it is, and will surely miss it dearly. As for some of what we weren’t as thrilled about, namely the outdated MMI, they will most certainly be rectified in the new car. Either way, the R8 V10 Plus will hold a very special place in our dream garage for many years to come.