• Spectacular styling; supercar performance; engine and gearbox combination; manual option in V8; driving dynamics
  • Long options list on base model; interior needs more supercar feel

9 / 10

Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review

It’s been seven years since the Audi R8 propelled Germany’s third luxury car brand into supercar territory for the first time.

In terms of both sales and brand image, the car that’s based on a Lamborghini Gallardo has been an unqualified success.

In Australian alone, 312 buyers have heard the call and spent their hard-earned on Audi’s most prestigious car. And now there’s an updated and revitalised 2013 Audi R8 range that is faster, better equipped and more stylish.

Most Australian buyers have picked the V8 over the V10, 91 per cent prefer the coupe to the convertible, and 63 per cent have selected the R tronic automatic transmission over a manual. Nonetheless, with the introduction of the $408,200 Audi R8 V10 plus and the new S tronic gearbox, the R8 has become a different beast.

To find out just how different, we came to Philip Island, two hours southeast of Melbourne and home to the world-renowned Philip Island Grand Prix Circuit where Audi had brought an R8 V8, two all-new R8 V10 plus test cars, and plenty of Pirelli tyres…

Though any variant of the Audi R8 is perfectly suited to a racetrack, thanks in part to its mid-engine layout, impressive driving dynamics and 57:43 rear-front weight distribution, the majority spend their time being driven on regular roads under the hammer of Australia’s draconian speed limits. Which is why we started the first part of our Audi R8 review on the road, to see how the new seven-speed S tronic transmission coped with regular driving.

Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review

Previously, the single-clutch robotised manual R tronic transmission in R8s was a tad jerky and somewhat uncomfortable at low speeds around town. It did the job (particularly at speed), but it was the most obvious area in need of improvement. Thankfully then, the new S tronic system is a monumental step forward.

Around town, the Audi R8 V10 plus with S tronic behaves like a regular car would: composed, comfortable, without much fuss and suited to any driving style. Gear changes are entirely seamless, almost so unnoticeable that it’s unnerving. The dual-clutch gearbox implementation is one of the best we’ve experienced in a supercar and vastly superior to the Lamborghini Gallardo’s E-Gear system, which uses the same V10 engine.

In Normal driving mode the V10 can be mistaken for a V6; it’s somewhat tame and generally lazy. The magnetic ride suspension absorbs most of the bumps and though you can certainly feel poorly surfaced roads, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s the ideal mode for a Sunday drive down to the shops or when commuting in the inner city. But press that rather large and well-presented Sports button and instantly the gearbox goes into attack mode, the suspension firms up and everything about the Audi R8 becomes far more serious.

In Sport mode, acceleration is instantaneous – no matter the speed or gear. This is largely thanks to the naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine and the new S tronic transmission, which seems to always be in the right gear and rev range for maximum power extraction.

Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review

Of course there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel (and if you go into manual mode the gearbox won’t shift up automatically when in Sport mode – riding the rev limiter instead), but the computer is so well tuned that it’s almost unnecessary to use the paddles unless you’re on a racetrack and have worked out a gear for each corner. No matter how we look at it, it’s hard to fault the gearbox.

From the outside Audi has changed the R8’s headlights for a full LED design now standard across the range. There’s a new single frame front grille while the front and rear bumpers have also been revised. The exhaust pipes are a little bigger, too, but the most noticeable change comes from the dynamic indicators, which instead of blinking get bigger from inside out – a rather clever and very eye-catching system.

The high-quality fine nappa leather bucket seats (standard in V10 plus) are easy to slide in and out of and are generally supportive, but can be a tad tight if you happen to frequent KFC.

The overall cabin ambience remains largely unchanged but Audi has made minor improvements all around in an attempt to further lift the luxury and prestige feel. Like all cars from Audi, the R8 has that instantly recognisable Audi interior and though we found it very practical and easy to use (if you forgive the older version of Audi’s multimedia system) it tends to lack that X-factor that a supercar’s interior needs.

Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review

Now, to come back to where the Audi R8 really shines: on track. Our first outing around Philip Island was in a Sepang Blue Audi R8 V10 plus raring to go. Down the main straight we managed a consistent top speed easily reaching 260km/h (and likely higher for those with greater racing skill).

With 404kW of power and 540Nm of torque (18kW and 10Nm more than regular V10 – achieved mainly through software enhancements), the V10 plus is just one kilowatt short of the Lamborghini Gallardo and can reach 0-100km/h in 3.5 seconds (using launch control).

The quattro all-wheel-drive system in the R8 generally has 15 per cent of power going to the front and 85 per cent going to the rear. This can vary up to 30 front and 70 rear depending on the situation and this makes a massive difference around corners.

Around Philip Island’s many bends the R8 V10 plus is not for the faint-hearted. The extra power and torque over the 4.2-litre V8 makes a massive difference out of corners and you’ll need to be permanently on your game to tame its might for perfect corner entry and exit. The V10 plus is well suited to the racetrack, given it comes standard with carbonfibre-ceramic disc brakes ($23,560 option on other R8 models) which despite many, many flat-out laps, and even hot laps with Audi’s racing driver, remained faultless.

Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review

The Audi R8 V10 plus is likely to take nearly all sales from the regular $366,900 V10 model given its uniqueness, extra equipment level and Lamborghini-matching power output. But what of the $279,500 V8 model? The original Audi R8 that has continued to excite us for so many years?

Audi brought one along and, we have to say, it remains our favourite R8. Firstly because it’s offered with a manual transmission (not available in V10) and although the S tronic (which is also available with the V8) is fantastic, the gated six-speed manual in the R8 is arguably the best in any sports car today. Secondly, it feels more composed, balanced and generally easier to drive.

There’s no doubt the V10 plus is faster and superior in the hands of a racing driver but for the regular buyer, one who spends more time on roads than racetracks, the V8 is more than good enough both on the road and in the occasional track session.

With 316kW of power and 430Nm of torque, the updated R8 V8 hits 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds (0.3 faster now with S tronic over R tronic – 4.6 seconds in manual) with a top speed of 300km/h. It also has that distinctive Audi R8 sound that is, for a lack of a better word, mesmerising.

We found the V8 hitting about 235km/h down the main straight, which was noticeably slower than the V10 plus, but overall it felt smoother and more composed around corners and a little less manic.

Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review
Audi R8 Review

If you must have the best, the Audi R8 V10 plus is the new king at Audi. It comes with pretty much all that Audi has to offer in terms of performance and looks. Its $400K-plus price point puts it in touch with a base model Lamborghini Gallardo but it’s every bit a better car for the money. It’s the ideal track car that can also be a regular drive.

Nonetheless, the ‘standard’ Audi R8 V8 remains one of the best ‘affordable’ supercars on the road today, with gorgeous looks, excellent dynamics, near-perfect weight distribution, plenty of go and an infinitely improved transmission system. If you can put the exhaustive options list aside, it’s a fantastic buy.

Basic specifications of 2013 Audi R8:

  • Audi R8 V8: 4.2-litre – 316kW – 430Nm – 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds with S tronic – +0.3 for manual)
  • Audi R8 V10 – 5.2L-litre – 386kW – 530Nm – 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds – S tronic only
  • Audi R8 V10 plus – 5.2-litre – 404kw – 540nm – 3.5 seconds – S tronic only.

2013 Audi R8 manufacturer’s list prices:

  • R8 Coupe 4.2 FSI V8 manual 316kW $279,500
  • R8 Coupe 4.2 FSI V8 S tronic 316kW $287,000
  • R8 Spyder 4.2 FSI V8 manual 316kW $308,400
  • R8 Spyder 4.2 FSI V8 S tronic 316kW $315,900
  • R8 Coupe 5.2 FSI V10 S tronic 386kW $366,900
  • R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI V10 S tronic 386kW $395,800
  • R8 Coupe 5.2 FSI V10 plus S tronic 404kW $408,200

Audi R8 Review
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  • Joe

    ……….”would you pay $408,000 for this car”……not in a million years. Typical German try hard, efficient but totally lacking in any character.

    Why would you buy this when you could have and AM Vantage, Maserati GT, Ferrari of any type…..cars with class, STYLE, pedigree, and most importantly driver involvement…….

    • VWman

      You must be mad. It’s one of the best looking cars on the planet.

      • Cam

        You need to go to spec savers! The Aston Martin Vantage S is way better looking and wont cost you $408,000! Imagine paying that sort of money for a AUDI to be worth half that in 18 months time if you lucky. 

        • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

          Yes, it’s arguably more beautiful than the R8 but it does start at a similar price. 

          So if you compare it to its actual competition, the V8 R8, it’s nearly the same price, really. You can’t compare a V10 R8 with carbon ceramic brakes to a V8 Vantage? Compare the V12 vantage to the V10 R8 – $367,000 vs 408,000 – and you get a lot more int he V10 R8! The v12 vantage is a terrific car, but the technology and driving dynamics of the R8 are well and truly in a different league. 

          • Guest193

            Godd onya Alborz…put these fanbois in their place

          • Joe

            You make a point. But your comparing an Audi to an Aston. Different league in itself. No difference in comparing a GTR to a 911  if that’s what your trying to say. I do agree with you, but its funny when its an expensive Audi how people look at the specs to other cars with a higher prestigeous badge

          • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

            I agree that aston has a certain level of prestige above Audi. They are a supercar brand at heart while Audi is a more mainstream brand. 

            Personally, I would pick an Aston V8 Vantage S over the V8 R8 – not because it’s faster, has better tech or is more competent around a race track, but because it’s beautiful and timeless in appearance. But in any quantifiable form of measurement, the R8 is a better car. It’s a good thing then, that we all have our own certain triggers that are generally illogical. 

    • Oliver Cromwell

      Why would you highlight “STYLE”, this thing is on the of the most stylish cars on the road.

      Have you driven a Maserati GT? they are certainly not race cars (hence the Grand Tourer name).

      Ok so which Ferrari are you buying for $400k? A california? As for the Vantage, this thing would run rings around the Vantage.

      Your point is lost in the article where it states how well this car has sold, so clearly people are buying it …

    • Devil666

      You’re an idiot, The R8 would clean the floor with all of them. They are in totally different classes.

  • Guest

    Audi R8 or two year old Ferrari 458 with a couple of thousand kms. Not much of a decision!

    • Oliver Cromwell

      You are right! I would go for a new car everytime!

    • DCHC

      People who shop at this range do not look at the price tag.

      • Crazy n00b

        Absolutely untrue. There are plenty of people that got rich by being stingy.

        • F1orce

          Yeah but the fact that them being stingy in the first place means that they just would not splash this amount on a car..

  • Sam

    If I had 100 million bucks, im sure I would have it in the stable somewhere with my SLS, G-Wagen, 911, and my Wraith.  In reality though, if I had 400k at all, id buy a nice house and continue driving my old pristine condition W123 Wagon. 

    • F1orce

      Nice house for 400k ??

      Around here you wouldn’t even get a nice shack for 400k

      • Sam

         Yeah well I live in a regional area (Cairns) and houses start from about 250k around here.  You can get a new flashy house fo4 400k in these parts.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TPXTZ4IJSXOLGCIPQXKMODC6NY Alex

    This website has no credibility. Audi has stated that the R8 V10 Plus will cost less than the R8 GT, which has an MSRP of around 200k. The actual prices will be around 130k for V8, 160k for V10, and 180k for V10 plus. It would be absolutely idiotic for R8 V10 Plus to cost twice as much as the regular R8 V10. Use some common sense people. 400k is how much a 700hp Aventador costs.

    • Audie-tron

      I’m sorry but you must be dreaming. An Aventador costs about $850,000 AUSTRALIAN dollars and thats if you could get your hands on one. The R8 V10 Plus, as stated in the article is around $400,000 and has many features that you wouldn’t see on a Aventador considering it is made to go like the wind with next to no need for day to day driving. As for the R8 GT,it was limited to 500 units so there is no way to buy one brand neww let alone second hand

    • Oliver Cromwell

      I think you have your countries confused…

    • Dudeface

      I think Alex missed the .au on the end of the URL!

      Welcome to Australia, mate. We get charged through our rear ends for cars here.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      Hi Alex, these are Australian prices. 

  • Boiboi

    Question : “Would you pay $408,200 for an Audi R8?”
    Answer : Absolutely not. Nein, no way.

    • Tony

      I agree, but probably for a different reason.  This model is a lightly facelifted R8 (basically they’ve just added a DSG option, and made some slight cosmetic changes).  As early as next year a brand new generation is expected in europe – that will not help the residuals of this car…
      My tip, if you want an R8 right now, buy one that has already depreciated by 50% and trade that on the brand new genertation in 18-24 months time.

      • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

        It’s highly unlikely that an all-new model will come out next year in AUS. Likely to be at least 2-3 years away given it took 6 years to do a facelift.

  • Cam

    Anyone who pays $408k for a AUDI is simply mental they are one of the worst cars around for resale value at least if you pay upwards of $300k for a ASTON or FERRARI at least you will get some return on your investment, you wont from AUDI!

    • D987

       The only return you’ll get is a negative one.

  • Possum

    Especially not when an R8 sells so much cheaper elsewhere. For example, in the UK you can buy a new base model R8 for a discounted drive away price of $150k. And that’s even including the 20% tax. That’s probably what the car is worth.