While there's some borrowing from fellow Volkswagen Group brand Lamborghini--under the skin only--a new dual-clutch transmission that Audi says it designed and tuned entirely in-house makes the 2014 R8 better than ever, and in many ways, better than its Italian cousin.
Capable and smooth on the street, without any of the herky-jerky of semi-automatic manuals, the R8's dual-clutch transmission really comes alive in sport mode, especially when done on the track. Seemingly predicting downshifts and delivering seamless power as the gears rise, the R8's new transmission is brilliant.
A six-speed manual is still available, of course, and Audi expects to sell a substantial number of them in spite of the dual-clutch's upgrade to the previous automatic. Also carrying forward into the 2014 model year are the R8 and R8 V10 models, in both Coupe and Spyder form. The V-8 engine is lightly revamped, with R8 models getting a 10-horsepower boost to 430-horsepower from the 4.2-liter V-8. The V-10 engine carries forward with the same 525-horsepower rating from its 5.2-liter V-10 as last year.
Both V-8 and V-10 are about a tenth of a second quicker to 60 mph than last year's R8, hitting 60 mph in 4.3 and 3.6 seconds, respectively, but the V-8 lacks some low-end torque, and the V-10 is really only sonorous when wound up well into the tachometer. Not that you'll mind doing so.
New for 2014 is the V10 Plus model, which increases power from the 5.2-liter V-10 to 550 horsepower, improving Audi's claimed 0-60 mph time to 3.5 seconds. Top speed is about 197 mph. In addition to the extra performance, Audi treats the V10 Plus to some weight loss, shaving 110 pounds from the standard R8 V10 Coupe, tipping the scales at 3,461 pounds--just 22 pounds heavier than the base R8. That, along with the tuned suspension and quattro all-wheel drive, and in S Tronic-equipped models, Audi's expert programming, the V10 Plus is truly capable, and fun, on track.
All of Audi's R8s share that innate balance and most of the tuning, and they all feel like it, whether on track or a winding mountain road.