Car makers are ditching the big engines of the past for smaller turbocharged versions, which are more fuel efficient and produce less CO2. But as the Audi R8 V10 Performance shows they can’t match the unforgettable experience of these old world machines.
Can an exotic mid-engine supercar be great value? It’s a matter of perspective.
The Audi R8 V10 Performance Quattro costs $395,000 plus on-road costs (about $425,000 drive-away), which is a fair wedge of cash in anyone’s book. But it undercuts exotic mid-engine rivals from Ferrari and Lamborghini without short-changing drivers in the fun department.
Standard equipment includes massive carbon ceramic brakes, laser headlights, a high-definition digital dashboard, sports seats trimmed in sumptuous leather, and lashings of carbon fibre both inside and out. Metallic paint and maintenance for three years are free, all of which only strengthens the R8’s value argument compared with Italian rivals.
The R8 is easy to live with compared with most rivals. The cabin is relatively spacious, and loaded with modern niceties such as wireless phone charging, digital radio connectivity, Apple CarPlay and a 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo.
The nose is cleverly designed so that it won’t scrape on most driveways, magnetically adjustable suspension takes the edge off sharp bumps and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres offer all-weather capability – something you couldn’t say of more track-focused rubber.
A driver-focused cockpit displays everything – the radio, CarPlay, mapping and more – on the driver’s dashboard. This may frustrate passengers, and it means you need to master fiddly buttons on the steering wheel to access key features.
Here’s where the R8 disappoints. Modern driver aids such as auto emergency braking and active cruise control are conspicuously absent. You do get regular cruise, parking sensors and a reversing camera, but not the sort of gear usually found on new luxury cars.
You could argue, Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system lends a degree of all-weather safety missing from two-wheel-drive rivals from the likes of McLaren.
Here’s where the R8 will never disappoint. The 5.2-litre V10 bolted to the back of the cabin is a thing of wonder. Cranking out 449kW while revving to nearly 9000rpm, the big V10 feels effortless, mighty and mesmerising all at once. It’s one of the most musical engines ever, with a howling song unlike anything else on the road – except the Lamborghini Huracan that shares its powerplant. Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto snaps through gear changes with impressive pace, and the rear-biased quattro system shakes its rear end with the measured precision of a salsa dancer.
Quick steering, predictable reactions and sublime mid-engined balance make the R8 one of the best drivers’ cars on sale.
Most cars are turbocharged these days, delivering impressive fuel economy at the expense of throttle response and aural pleasure. While McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche and others have adopted turbos for most models, the R8’s screaming engine makes it an unforgettable experience.
Lamborghini Huracan Evo, from $459,441 plus on-roads
The R8’s Italian cousin ramps up the visual and aural drama for those who want to stand out, but it will be harder to live with.
Porsche 911 Turbo S, from $473,900 plus on-roads
Staggering punch and peerless day-to-day appeal make the Turbo S a considered choice. For better or worse, it looks and sounds like a regular 911.
Ferrari F8 Tributo, from $484,888 plus on-roads
Faster, more glamorous and a fair wedge more expensive than the Audi, the F8 Tributo represents the best of Ferrari – and arguably supercars – today.
AUDI R8 V10 PERFORMANCE VITALS
Price: About $425,000 drive-away
Engine: 5.2-litre V10, 449kW/560Nm
Warranty/Service: 3 year/unlimited km, servicing free for three years
Safety: Not yet tested, 6 airbags,
Cargo: 112 litres
Spare: Inflator kit