2015 Audi R8 Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
July 22, 2015

The 2015 Audi R8 is a supercar fit for daily driving, thanks to its German precision and Italian powerplant.

The 2015 Audi R8 is approachable, comfortable, and incredibly fun to drive. This year a few updates get the most out of the last year of production for this generation.

Though due to be replaced by an all-new model soon, the current R8 is no less attractive as a do-it-all, every day supercar.

The base R8 is the 420-hp, 4.2-liter V-8-powered Coupe. The same engine also comes in Spyder convertible form. A 525-hp, 5.2-liter V-10 powers Coupes and Spyders as well. All versions get minor cosmetic changes in this, their last model year.

Review continues below

Last year Audi swapped in its dual-clutch transmission, and it took performance to new heights. Unless you're obsessed by changing your own gears, the dual-clutch is the way to go. It's nearly sentient in the way it predicts and selects gears, in the way it rips off rapid upshifts, or skips gears to get to a ratio several cogs away. Purists can still have a 6-speed gated manual shifter.

The R8 also added a V10 Plus model, and it carries over into 2015. It tops off the V-10 at 550 hp, up 25 from the usual output. It helps the bigger-motor car feel as nimble as the smaller car, though power isn't numerically outrageous, given the number of 650-hp supercars running around today.

The R8 has its fill of luxury touches. They include navigation and real-time traffic, an excellent audio system, and Bluetooth with audio streaming. Superb seats and interior space encourage drivers to spend time in there too. Cargo space is tight but passenger space is a pleasant surprise.

No crash-test data is available, but Audi fits the R8 with knee airbags, a rearview camera, and stability control with a performance mode.

The R8 doesn't do well in one area: gas mileage. The EPA pegs the V-8 as high as 14/23 mpg--and as low as 12/19 mpg when it's fitted with the 5.2-liter V-10 and manual.

10

2015 Audi R8

Styling

Audi's inaugural effort at supercars still looks fresh, years down the road.

The 2015 Audi R8 has all the looks you could ever ask for--especially if you're not quite ready to commit to an Italian supercar.

Updates for this year include a few new exterior colors, the addition of an optional quilted headliner, as well as red-painted calipers.

Inside, the R8 luxuriates in no-nonsense design. Last year Audi fine-tuned it with new chrome and gloss accents. The easily-located controls and low cowl blend with each other seamlessly. Understated, fine materials lend a refined finish. Climbing the performance ladder yields add-ons with a higher-performance intent, things like knurled shift knobs, bold gauges, and slim door handles.

The R8 dresses up in Coupe and Spyder convertible drag. Understated in a powerful way, the coupe has a mid-engine silhouette that gives it supercar flair. The front end curves and swells into sculpted, wide fenders. The car's trademark "side blades" tie in with the sloping roofline to converge in harmony at the rear end.

The Spyder-ectomy doesn't ding the profile look. The soft top fits in when up. It transforms the car into a more laid-back shape.

10

2015 Audi R8

Performance

Balanced all-wheel-drive handling and a fantastic dual-clutch transmission make the R8 one of the most usable supercars.

Under the skin, the Audi R8 borrows a few bits and pieces from Lamborghini's outgoing Gallardo, making this car a legitimate supercar, with a few of the German's milder manners.

Last year Audi introduced a 550-hp R8 V10 Plus. It amped up power from the 5.2-liter V-10 by 25 hp total, and cut its 0-60 mph time to 3.5 seconds. Top speed checks in at about 197 mph. The V10 Plus is quicker because Audi trims 110 pounds from the V10 Coupe while it also retunes the suspension and the power transfer ratios of its standard all-wheel-drive system. With the dual-clutch transmission, this super-powerful two-seater is truly fun, and truly capable.

Audi still sells a 6-speed manual R8, as well as a V-8 version of the sportscar, too, in both Spyder and Coupe form. In the V-8, some light tweaks boost power to 430 hp from the 4.2-liter V-8.

The V-8 can feel light on torque at the lower rev range, but it still can dash to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, versus 3.6 seconds in the V-10. For what it's worth, the delicious V-10 engine noises don't really show up until the tach needle spins halfway around, which we love doing anyway.

Dial the R8 into sport mode and it comes alive. Smooth and capable on the street, it's devoid of the jerky transmission shifts it used to offer with an automated-manual gearbox it ditched in 2014. The car comes alive on the track in sport mode, where the dual-clutch hard-wires itself to the driver's brain, and the all-wheel-drive system delivers all the innate balance the layout implies.

8

2015 Audi R8

Comfort & Quality

Shades of NSX: the Audi R8 is truly a livable supercar, with ample room and a nicely tailored cockpit.

The Audi R8 is surprisingly practical, considering its emphasis on style and performance.

Step into the R8, but do it carefully. This sports car sits low, and the roof and long doors don't make it as easy as any other Audi. Once inside, almost any driver can find a comfortable seating position. The seats are well-bolstered and supportive, not intrusive. The steering wheel telescopes and tilts. It's accommodating in a way few supercars are.

The interior is otherwise business-like, with reserved lines, high-quality materials, and well-finished details. Choose the standard finishes and it's simple and clean; opt into some of the wilder choices and the R8 gets downright indulgent.

It does have some lapses in its logical operation. Audi uses a scrolling wheel to control some audio and phone and navigation functions--and that wheel scrolls in the opposite of the expected direction. The rest of the controls are clearly marked, the displays are bright and high-definition.

Cargo room is slighted for the shape and the hardware. A small cargo area ahead of the passengers can hold a few soft-side bags, while a cargo shelf behind the seats can maybe stash a work bag.

9

2015 Audi R8

Safety

There are no crash-test results for the R8, but its aluminum structure is a sign of strength.

It's not uncommon for the agencies that crash-test cars and evaluate vehicle safety to skip high-performance, low-volume sports cars, and the Audi R8 lands firmly in this category. However, its suite of modern safety features and its excellent engineering earn it high marks in our book.

Audi makes lots of safety gear standard. Every R8 has knee airbags, all-wheel drive, and stability control with a built-in sport mode.

What they should add is standard parking sensors and a standard rearview camera. Rearward vision is abysmal in the R8, and those features could help in preventing accidents.

9

2015 Audi R8

Features

We're not huge fans of this MMI interface, but the R8's one of the more functional and fine supercars in existence.

Even the base R8 comes well-equipped, though Audi makes it possible to dress the car up with plenty of features--for a price, of course.

Audi's infotainment interface (called MMI) has rich functionality, but can take some time to learn.

Upgrades to the interior are conveniently packaged to start, then essentially limitless through Audi's personalization services. A convenience package includes Audi's "parking system plus" with rearview camera, hill-hold assist, and power-folding, auto-dimming, power-adjustable, and heated side mirrors.

The basics are also covered, with standard power windows, locks, and mirrors; keyless entry; automatic climate control; portable music player interface for the audio system; SD storage slots; Bluetooth with a seatbelt-mounted microphone; a USB port; and SiriusXM satellite radio. The new V10 Plus skips the now-standard Bang & Olufsen sound system for weight savings, but it can be added back in as an option.

The standard sport seats are manual-adjust but supportive and comfortable; power-adjustable seats are available on V-8 models, and standard on V-10s. Also standard is a Bang & Olufsen sound system, navigation, and a leather-and-Alcantara-trimmed interior in a choice of colors.

For the performance-minded, carbon ceramic brakes can be added, while style fiends will find a selection of 19-inch wheels, carbon fiber accents, and sideblade treatments to help differentiate their car from other R8s.

The V-10s get most of the V-8's optional features as standard equipment, with the main upgrades being all-leather upholstery, different wheels, more carbon fiber trim, and carbon-ceramic brakes.

5

2015 Audi R8

Fuel Economy

Efficiency isn't what you're buying, when you're buying an R8.

Fortunately for convertible fans, there's no gas mileage penalty for picking the Spyder over the coupe; both models score the same across all engine and transmission combinations.

Rated as high as 14/23 mpg city/highway with the 4.2-liter V-8 and dual-clutch transmission, or as low as 11/20 mpg with the 5.2-liter V-10 and manual transmission, the Audi R8 isn't exactly green, even for a car of its performance caliber.

Opting for the new dual-clutch transmission gains as much as 3 mpg city and highway over the alternative six-speed manual gearbox, but that still leaves the R8 trailing significantly behind greener high-performance cars like the Chevrolet Corvette.

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9.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 10.0
Performance 10.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 5.0
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