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- Gobs of V-10 power
- Track-ready handling
- Comfortable enough for everyday driving
- No manual transmission
- Little storage space
- Vision astern is obstructed
The 2017 Audi R8 balances thrilling power and handling with everyday livability.
Before a production version of the Audi R8 ever existed, racing fans were very familiar with it. Audi began racing the R8 Prototype at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2000, winning in its first time out and building a legacy of excellence over the next five years. The production car followed in 2008, proving Audi could build a sleek, mid-engine machine with the looks and performance of a supercar.
Now Audi is releasing the second-generation R8 as a 2017 model. It's a stunning performance car with muscular, naturally aspirated power, excellent handling, and a stunning cockpit with a wide-screen digital display unlike anything else on the road.
With its combination of style, on-road comfort, power, and track-ready handling, the 2017 Audi R8 is a worthy competitor for the likes of the McLaren 650S, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, Porsche 911 Turbo, and even the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. A less-expensive base model, likely to be added later in the model year, will only expand its appeal.
On our scale to 10, the R8 earns a score of 8.4. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Audi R8 styling and performance
The new R8’s looks are an evolution of the stunning first-generation model. It has the low-slung stance of a supercar, with the cab pushed forward and the coupe body sloping back in a continuous arch to the rear spoiler. Audi has put a greater emphasis on horizontal lines, making the car 1.6 inches wider, and giving the sides wider shoulders. Those shoulders now interrupt the familiar side blades, making these design flourishes two pieces each instead of one. The grille is also flatter and wider, and its trapezoidal shape creates a natural flow into the wedge-shaped LED headlights.
The R8 is built on the Modular Sportscar System (MSS) platform that also underpins the Huracan from corporate partner Lamborghini. A mostly aluminum spaceframe, MSS also uses carbon fiber to provide extra rigidity to the firewall and central tunnel. The structure is about 70 pounds lighter than that of the outgoing R8, contributing to an overall weight loss of roughly 110 pounds. It also boasts 40 percent more torsional stiffness, thanks in part to a pair of X braces, one on top of the engine and one behind it.
The R8 is initially offered in V10 and V10 Plus models. Both come with updated versions of the 5.2-liter V-10 engine. Horsepower is now 540 for the V10 and 610 for the V10 plus. Audi says fuel economy improves by 13 percent due to the addition of cylinder deactivation and a sailing feature that eliminates engine braking at low speeds.
While the outgoing model also offers a 4.2-liter V-8, the 2017 R8 does not. Audi’s twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 or a smaller force-fed engine may be offered in the future. Likewise, the 6-speed manual transmission also doesn’t return. That leaves just Audi’s S Tronic 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox as standard equipment.
A supercar is about performance, and the R8 delivers. The V-10 rockets the car from 0 to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds in the V10 model and just over three seconds in the V10 Plus. The power is ever-present and relentless when you get on the throttle, but the engine is also docile when the Audi Drive Select system is in the Comfort or Auto modes. The revs stay high in Dynamic mode and a launch control feature lets drivers repeat those quick 0 to 60 mph times over and over again.
Audi’s S Tronic transmission is appropriate for a supercar. Like the engine, the shifts are relaxed in Comfort or Auto and crisp and quick in the Dynamic mode. You’ll go around a track faster using this transmission than a manual, but we still pine for the gated metal shifter of the first-gen R8.
Notable options include an active dynamic steering with variable assist and variable ratios, and 20-inch wheels.
The EPA rates the coupe at 14 mpg city, 22 highway, 17 combined, while the Spyder manages the same numbers.
R8 comfort, safety, and features
The R8’s unique combination of advanced engineering and luxury amenities make it a supercar that can be driven every day. The ride is amazingly supple for a car with the R8’s track capability, especially with the magnetic ride dampers.
The seating position is a bit upright, creating excellent front sight lines, and the cabin is finished with Audi levels of care. That translates to quality materials, impeccable fit and finish, and the latest electronics. Among those features is an updated MMI infotainment system with the brand's new virtual cockpit, which moves the information screen from the center stack to the instrument panel.
No crash-test data exists, and to be frank, trying to see out from the R8 is a chore. We recommend the removal of its roof.
The 2017 R8 V10 is well-equipped with such features as Nappa leather and black Alcantara headliners, heated 18-way, power-adjustable sport seats, LED interior lighting, Audi’s MMI Plus with Navigation infotainment system, magnetic ride damper control, and 19-inch alloy wheels. The V10 Plus adds racing bucket seats and carbon ceramic brakes, but gives up the magnetic ride dampers for stiffer shocks and steel springs.