The 2017 Audi R8 Plus, with a 5.2-liter V10 engine, is being touted as an everyday supercar. (Michael Whiteley/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
The Audi R8 is an everyday supercar
By MICHAEL WHITELEY
Supercars are super fast and super expensive. Historically these unwieldy beasts were only unleashed from the most privileged garages on weekends. Yet Audi is pushing hair-raising thrills with an “everyday supercar” known as the R8.
The biggest selling point of the R8 is the thumping V-10 engine. In a world of downsized and turbocharged engines, the sound emanating from the 610-horsepower, 5.2-liter V-10 is nothing short of intoxicating.
Due to Audi resisting the turbocharged norm, the V-10 can scream all the way up until 8,700 rpm, enabling the latest shift possible. Lift off the gas and the exhaust crackles and pops, sending shivers down your spine. Driving an R8 feels like driving a race car, and there is good reason for that.
The R8 was co-developed — and shares the same engine — with Audi’s race car variant, the R8 LMS. Other race car inspired features include carbon ceramic brakes — 15-inch at the front, 14-inch at the rear — that will take a pounding without fading.
In true race car fashion, the steering wheel is home to everything from the engine start-stop button to drive mode select and infotainment controls.
To start the car in its sportiest mode, the sequence is convoluted enough to feel like a fighter pilot. Press the red engine start button and the V-10 barks into life. Next, press the exhaust volume button to reveal the true potential of all 10 cylinders.
Flick through “comfort,” “auto” and “individual” drive modes to “dynamic” mode. Then, finally, engage the performance menu to choose between “dry,” “wet” and “snow.”
Throw the car into a tight bend to feel the staggering grip of the R8.
Thanks to the AWD Quattro system, the R8 carves into the road surface; the car won’t snap at you unexpectedly — a common supercar trait. Although the engine is torque-rich, it doesn’t offer the same immediate thrust that competitors such as McLaren and Porsche do with their turbocharged engines, but the sound and high rev limit make up for that.
The interior is a typical Audi affair.
The switchgear is modern, chunky and easy to use, and the upholstery is soft and comfortable. The 18-way adjustable seats let the driver cover serious miles without discomfort, which is something that is often not the case in exotic automobiles.
There are no silly gull-wing or vertically opening doors either, so getting in and out is simple. On this front, the R8 certainly ticks the boxes for an everyday car.
The infotainment system is easily one of the most intuitive on the market. Gone are the conventional analog gauges and needles. Instead the R8 comes with the latest iteration of Audi’s virtual cockpit.
The 12.3-inch display is completely digital and has various modes depending on what information is most needed. The navigation system is based on Google Earth, though for more sporting moods the display configures to performance gauges and a large rev counter, all at the touch of a steering-wheel-mounted button.
This system is not only used for the flagship R8, it was actually introduced on the TT and is now available on other models, such as the A4.
The only drawback comes in the form of spatial practicality, or the lack thereof. The engine is mounted behind your head, just in front of the rear axle, meaning there is no rear trunk.
Instead you get a frunk (front trunk) that can accommodate a small suitcase and nothing more.
While it’s tempting to use it to run the weekly errands, the R8 is not that practical.
So does the R8 V-10 plus earn its status as an everyday supercar? We think it does. Gone are the days of unforgiving supercars that wanted to kill you at every bend, and in grave discomfort.
The R8 in its tamest setting adequately covers lots of miles, and comes with all of the creature comforts you would expect in an everyday car. In its most hardcore settings, the R8 offers genuine supercar levels of performance and a soundtrack that is addictive.
Vehicle type: Everyday supercar
Base price: $189,900
Price as tested: $202,750
MPG: 15 city 22 highway
Engine: 5.2-liter V-10
Transmission: 7-speed S Tronic
Parting shot: An engine crafted by Thor himself, in a car you can drive often and far.