Audi R8 Performance: Driven

As facelifts go, these mid-life revisions to the Audi R8 are about as mild as a plucked eyebrow. The R8 is, as you'll know, Audi's mid-engined sports offering, which began life with a naturally-aspirated V8 more than a decade ago, but which eventually adopted a V10 full time to become a bona fide supercar.

And it still is, just about, although the main supercar game is keener on power numbers that start with a seven, or thereabouts, these days. So the R8 has been given a 30hp increase in the case of the standard version, or a 10hp increase for the Plus (which becomes the Performance) so that it has 570hp or 620hp, sitting it neatly against what you might call its junior-supercar competition: the McLaren 570S, Mercedes-AMG GT R and Porsche 911 Turbo.

Otherwise the changes to the R8 are minimal. There are the visual ones, which Audi has made, it says, to be more reminiscent of the R8 GT3 customer racing car, versions of which roll down the very same production line at the very same time as roadgoing R8s. They have the same structure and V10, after all.

But the road cars that roll down the line from now on, power and appearance aside, are not so different to the R8s that have been built since this second generation car arrived in 2015. There's the aluminium architecture, with a naturally-aspirated engine in the middle, driving all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch auto (no word on another rear-drive RWS yet), and two seats inside a cabin that's pleasingly trimmed in very-Audi style.

Dynamically, changes extend to a new front anti-roll bar, a carbon fibre/aluminium combo which is lighter than the previous bent steel bar. There's a revised steering rack, said to give more accuracy and response, and a new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre design, necessitating a retune of the stability control. Springs and dampers go unaltered and, if you like, you can still spec 'dynamic' variable-ratio steering.

We've had a quick go, on track only, in the Performance version, which retains the standard carbon ceramic brakes that are an option on the regular R8. And it feels like... an R8. Sorry. But if you can feel the additional 10hp in 620 when it was quite a while since you last drove one, in a different country, in different conditions, you're a better road tester than I am.

What I can say is that the engine response is still terrific - this is a car that revs to 8,750rpm and makes peak power at 8,000, and it has ten naturally aspirated cylinders so it's a delight to rev out, comfortably in the top five best current production sports car engines. The DSG gearbox is slick, the brake pedal feel slightly hard to modulate, and the handling really terrific.

I really enjoyed an RWS on road and track the other month, particularly because of the way it steered, but there's still a lovely adjustability and balance to the 4wd R8. It's stable under steady power in quicker corners, but willing to rotate if you trail the brakes, but with the backup of knowing it can help pull itself straight thanks to the stabilising influence of power to the front end. There isn't the true agility of, say, a McLaren 570S, though, because the Audi is heavier, it's a bit like the latest Honda NSX, only more agile and willing and engaging.

And the steering? Better than before, I'd say, but still not as pleasant as when it has no drive to the front wheels (RWS) and nor does it have the feel of its best rivals, like the 570S. But it's middling in weight, accurate, and tells you enough about what's going on. And if you spec the active steering, then when you place the car in 'Performance' mode, it locks it into a single 14:1 steering ratio so it's more predictable on track.

And that's that. Can't tell you what it's like on the road because Audi insisted the cars didn't leave the circuit, but the chances are it feels like an R8 - which means it's pretty nice. The driving position is strong and the interior still very logical, and flamboyant enough, bearing in mind the badge on the nose. Prices will be up by a bit: a Performance is estimated at Β£141,000, the regular car Β£128,000, and you can still get a Spyder if you want. An enjoyable car, then, which stays as recommendable as ever.

SPECIFICATION - Audi R8 Performance coupe

Engine: 5,204cc, V10, petrol
Transmission: 7-speed, dual-clutch, 4wd
Power: 620hp at 8,000-8,250rpm
Torque: 428lb ft at 6,500pm
0-62mph: 3.1sec
Top speed: 205mph
Weight: 1,670kg
MPG: 24mpg (est)
CO2: 290g/km (est)
Price: Β£141,000 (est)


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Comments (181) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Iamnotkloot 19 Nov 2018

    Nice engine.....can/should they follow the 911 and keep evolving it every year or should they be a bit more ambitious and bring out an Audi R10 or whatever?

  • 406dogvan 19 Nov 2018

    We had an R8 through the workshop recently - we get plenty of S/RS level kit but this seemed a bit more special on paper.

    Problem was - it's sitting there and it just isn't special and we couldn't really figure-out why...

    It was only when I watched Sir Harry of Metcalfe's take on it that the penny dropped - it's a mid-engined car and the cool thing about those is that the beltline/windscreen base is low so you can see-out ahead and around and - erm - not in an R8 you can't...

    It feels like an A3 from the driver's seat (abeit that you're nearer the road) - there's just not enough 'low slung supercar' about the thing.

    and it's not even as-if it makes it easy to get in and out of!

    The R8 confuses me - it's certainly stupid-fast but is that enough?

    I think it really competes with just 1 car - the 911 Turbo S - both are non-supercars with supercar performance - both are benchmark figure cars - neither really belongs on a poster tho does it

    Porsche have other "poster" cars of course - Audi, do not.

  • skylarking808 19 Nov 2018

    They are using tuning forks in the wheels for lightness?

  • cmoose 19 Nov 2018

    Does this car have a petrol particulate filter and if so what impact is it having?

    Why is it so hard to get basic info on this significant change that's hitting the performance car segment right now? Why aren't hacks asking the bloody question?

    Says here (

    "The new model sounds different from its predecessor, at least in Europe, and that’s thanks to the now-obligatory particulate filter and the delete of the flap exhaust."

    That's a US site and they probably won't be getting the filter, but are more clued up than all the UK hacks, FFS.

    Edited by cmoose on Monday 19th November 01:00

  • B17NNS 19 Nov 2018

    I’m sure it’s deeply impressive but it just leaves me a bit cold in a way that a mid engined V10 really shouldn’t.

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