Audi R8: the owners' view

So we’ve seen – and driven – the new facelifted R8. And we rather liked it. But the question of whether we like it or not is only half the story; what’ll really matter to Audi is whether its fresh take on an old hit will go down well among current R8 owners.

Welcome to a PH version of spot the difference
Welcome to a PH version of spot the difference
So we brought a group of R8-owning PHers together, to find out about their R8 experiences and to get their reaction to the facelifted version.

Talking to our owners over lunch, it was gratifying to note the variety of cars that had come along. First to arrive was David Wardley, with his V8 manual; then came Scott Ferguson, also with a V8 manual. Finally, David Koulakis brought along his V10 manual, in convoy with Nigel Thorne, owner of by far and away the most bonkers R8 of our group – a V10 R Tronic fitted with a Heffner twin-turbo conversion.

What? Yes, that’s right. While the V10’s 525hp would be plenty for most, Nigel’s gone all-out by having the only Heffner conversion in the country fitted to his car. The first thing we ask, of course, is why. “I get bored easily,” he says with a chuckle. Further probing reveals it to be more a case of ‘because he could’ – and because he wanted the ultimate R8. So does that power make it a handful? Seemingly not. Nigel tells us that he uses his car both on road and track, and with the Quattro system he actually finds it puts that power down well in dry conditions. It is, of course, earth-shatteringly quick.

None of our invitees use theirs as a sole car, but both Scott and David W say that one of the joys of the R8 is its usability, which means that if they do want to use it for more mundane tasks, they can.  “I’ve got an X6 diesel at home, and my wife owns a Mini convertible,” says David W. “I use the R8 whenever she’s out in the X6, and the great thing about it is that it doesn’t feel like a compromise when I do.” The others nod in agreement.

What’s really interesting is that these guys do actually have plenty in common. All have owned a plethora of performance machinery beforehand, and have settled on the R8 as their perfect fast car. David W and Scott have both been through a succession of M3s and 911s, while David K and Nigel have both owned Audi RSs. Interestingly, none of the assembled company expresses any intention of or desire to change, despite them all having owned their R8s for a couple of years or so. Owner satisfaction with the R8 is, it seems, extremely high.

What comes as a bit of a surprise to hear is the amount that these guys use their cars on track. With the exception of David W, all have been out on track in their cars at some point, and Nigel and David K in particular have taken part in several track days both around the UK and abroad. As the R8 isn’t a car that one instantly thinks of as a track toy, it comes as a little bit of a surprise – but then, as they both say, the beauty for them of the R8 is that it can be whatever you want it to be. That certainly seems to be true, if the experiences of our group are anything to go by.

So, crunch time. What do they think of the new one? David K’s arguably the biggest Audi nut here, having owned pretty much every modern performance model in the company’s range, including an R8 V8 before his V10, and he and Nigel both go around the new car spotting the differences. The changes are detail, but they’re there alright – the switch from an egg crate grille to a slatted one, and the addition of an extra vane to each of the V10’s front air dams  to bring it into line with the V8 are two of the changes that meet with a mixed reaction. Overall, David K and Nigel express a touch of disappointment that the V10 has been made to look more like the V8; there’s less to differentiate the two. But there are some plus points; the paddle shifters have been extended, making them easier to reach from a ten-to-two driving position, for example, and the new diamond quilted leather option, though not fitted to our test car, is a change that generates plenty of reaction. Eagle-eyed Nigel does spot a touch of cost-saving in the engine bay, though – the ‘V10 FSI’ plinth that was formerly carbon fibre is now plastic, and slightly less premium-feeling for it.

There’s indifference to the more obvious cosmetic changes – the lights. There’s a general feeling that they’re a touch less individual than the more dainty items that came before, although the directional indicators at the rear generate a chorus of oohs. But the car’s biggest change – the S Tronic gearbox – is one that these guys will have to reserve judgement on until they can test drive it themselves. That said, Nigel, a staunch defender of the R Tronic system in his own car, reckons it should offer everything he likes, and more. Scott and David W, meanwhile, still think they’d prefer the manual ’box.

On the whole, though, it’s a cautiously appreciative response. That said, the general feeling is that there isn’t quite enough of a difference between old and new models to give these guys a reason to upgrade. Like or loathe the R8, though, today’s meet has just reinforced the impression that it manages to be all things to all people – and that its owners are a bunch rightly chuffed with their choice of car.

See below for more from each of our R8 owners:

David Wardley - R8 V8 manual
Scott Ferguson - R8 V8 manual
David Koulakis - R8 V10 manual
Nigel Thorne - R8 V10 Heffner twin-turbo

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Comments (71) Join the discussion on the forum

  • goron59 14 Feb 2013

    Oi, why wasn't I invited?!

    FWIW, I agree with all the sentiment (though I DO use my R8 V8 manual as my only car).
    I had a look at the new car yesterday at Canary Wharf and thought that the front grill looks a bit cheaper (and the top bit is fake). The instruments and controls seem to have a silvery look to my mostly dark look.

    Other than that, it just makes me more happy to have the R8 that I do.

  • Richard-G 14 Feb 2013

    twin turbo V10 beer

    one question though, the twin tubby V10 is going thru the s tronic gearbox, wouldn't the extra dollop of power and torque make a mess of the box or has it been uprated. If so at what cost!?

  • Ex Boy Racer 14 Feb 2013

    I looked at one yesterday too. Frankly, the differences are so tiny it really makes me wonder why Audi did it. Either the car was getting tired, in which case give it a proper refresh, or it was fine, in which case don't spend the money! Seriously, a casual observer would never spot the differences - I struggled!

  • Scrof 14 Feb 2013

    goron59 said:
    Oi, why wasn't I invited?!
    Everyone was! wink

  • arkenphel 14 Feb 2013

    The 'facelift' is not quite that, isn't it? more like 'face tweak' really.

    Whats with the anti-modifying sentiment, btw? It's getting seriously annoying on here. To criticise the general public for buying tons of German saloons in grey/ black/ white then ask 'why' when someone makes a really special car smacks of hypocrisy*.

    • yes, I understand about different writers writing different viewpoints, but there should be at least some common ground here re: unique vehicles.

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