Audi R8 Performance — Beautiful and powerful with an incredible roar

By Jim Prueter

(April 20, 2021) This is the 2021 Audi R8 — It’s beautiful, powerful and has an incredible roar, enough to make the hair stick up on the back of your neck. It’s powered by a behemoth of an engine with as much as 602 horsepower depending on which model you choose. After not being sold for the 2019 model year, the R8 returned last year with freshened enhancements both inside and out.

The R8 is powered by a 5.2-liter naturally aspirated mid-engined V-10 and clocks a time of 3.2-seconds from 0-60 mph with a top speed of 205 mph delivered via full-time all-wheel drive quattro and 7-speed S tronic transmission. The two-seater shares components with the Lamborghini Gallardo. It’s the most powerful Audi production model ever.

The R8 is offered as a coupe and a convertible Audi calls Spyder. While previous R8 models were all-wheel-drive exclusively, rear-wheel drive only has been introduced for 2021 on the lower 532-horsepower entry-level R8 model. Now, in order to get all-wheel drive, you must step up to the more expensive and more powerful R8 Performance models, which make 602 horses. For this review we tested the Performance coupe.

Inside, our R8 looked and felt luxurious yet with a sense of classy tailoring unlike an Armani suit. Refreshingly simple, uncluttered with a beautifully sculpted instrument panel and quilted black and red leather upholstery with contrast stitching. Seats were impressively comfortable, bolstered with ample room even for taller drivers.

Operating instruments are presented and delivered via Audi’s superb Virtual cockpit gauge cluster that displays both instrumentation and MMI (Multi Media Interface) infotainment system. The standard navigation is high-resolution and can be operated via voice command, steering-wheel mounted buttons, or with the round mouse mounted on the center console. Standard tech includes an onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

Other operating controls are well located, intuitive and attractive. As with all supercars, practicality isn’t its forte so pack light considering minimal cargo capacity.

There’s little in the way of driver-assist features, however there’s a full complement of airbags, auto-high beam headlamps and front and rear parking sensors.

Behind the wheel, acceleration as expected is blistering and comes on to the sweet-sounding, thunderous and resound mellifluous exhaust notes. The chirping and biting of the 245/30YR 20-inch tires only add to driving excitement and entertainment.

Shifts are super-quick and when set to Sport mode, the transmission convincingly mimics a rev-matching manual shift transmission. Of course, tenacious flat road course cornering and grip delivers decidedly ultra-high-performance handling. Overall, the experience is extraordinary and while the ride is firm as expected it is far from punishing or annoying even on longer drives.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $198,195
Price as Tested: $219,540
What Makes it go: 602-horsepower/413 lb.-ft of torque, 5.4-L naturally aspirated V-10 engine with paired with a 7-speed S tronic transmission and all-wheel drive.
EPA Fuel Economy: 13/20/16 – mpg – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 2

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Supercars sell in low volumes and are rarely crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, therefor the R8’s crashworthiness is unknown.

Where Built: Bollinger Hofe – Heilbronn, Germany

Competes With:
Acura NSX

Lamborghini Huracan
Maserati MC20
Mercedes-Benz GT
Porsche 911

Fab Features
Blistering performance and exhilarating exhaust notes
Minimalist yet luxurious interior
Comfortable enough to use as a daily driver