The noise. Oh my word, the noise. Audi may have treated the R8 to a midlife nip and tuck, but thank the stars above it’s not messed with the life-affirming beat of its V10 heart. From yelping start-up, through low-rev growl and on to a multi-layered howl as it spins relentlessly around to the 8700rpm cut-out, this majestic 5.2-litre unit is as much pitch-perfect musical instrument as it is a motivating force.
As we scream around the brilliant Ascari circuit in southern Spain, I have to remind myself we’ve only got a few laps in this production-ready but as-yet unhomologated (WLTP strikes again) version of the new R8, so I need to pull my attention away from the engine and concentrate on the changes to Audi’s mid-engined halo bearer. Not least because, if the rumours are to be believed, this could be the last R8.
To all intents and purposes this is a mildly reworked version of the existing car, which means some sharper styling, a sprinkling of extra power and some judicious tweaks aimed at adding extra edge to the driving experience. Work to the chassis is pretty basic, with the big change being the option of a carbonfibre front anti-roll bar, which slashes a handy 2kg in unsprung mass over the standard metal item. Also receiving attention is the electrically assisted steering, which gets a faster rack on both the standard and Dynamic set-ups. Oh, and there’s now the option of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, which has meant the mapping of the stability control has been fiddled with to compensate for the greater grip.
The small uplift in power sees the new flagship Performance version of the R8 delivering 456kW, a 7kW increase over the old V10 Plus. (There’s also a standard R8 V10 with ‘just’ 419kW, which is a 22kW increase on before.) Torque is up 20Nm to 580Nm, with the claim for the 0-100km/h dash 0.1sec quicker at 3.1sec. You certainly don’t clock the injection of pace – the R8 was always a scintillating performer – while the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission (the only choice) remains a speedy and silky companion.
If you notice anything with the updated car it’s the quickness of the steering, particularly with the Dynamic set-up that changes ratio and response depending on load, speed and so on – although put the car in Performance mode and the ratio remains fixed at its fastest. If anything it’s too quick to respond, unsettling the balance of the car and creating some nervousness on turn-in that’s compounded by that pendulous V10 behind your back. Better to stick with the standard steering, which offsets its fractionally slower reactions with a more natural rate of response.
Turn-in on the Cup 2s is strong, but if you gently trail the brakes on corner entry the rear will move around nicely and a bootful of throttle gives the all-wheel drive a chance to send torque rearward and have you exiting the bend with a lovely flourish of oversteer. After a couple of laps, however, the rubber starts to overheat and you have to deal with ever-bigger inputs and corrections. But the R8 is still fairly approachable and the quick steering and sharp throttle make it straightforward to manage.
So, what have we gleaned from our lap-limited runs? Well, quicker steering aside, it feels very much like the old car, which means it’s still a remarkably exciting, balanced and engaging piece of kit. James Disdale
Engine V10, 5204cc
Power 456kW @ 8250rpm
Torque 580Nm @ 6500rpm
Weight 1595kg (286kW/tonne)
Top speed 330km/h
Basic price c$415,000