Audi R8 — An awesome package

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The new Audi 2017 R8 draws considerable attention from teenagers to adults of all ages just sitting in the parking lot even though the "fully redesigned" R8 looks very much like its predecessor, which dramatically appeared in 2008. The wedge-shaped design is so compelling, so much larger than life when you get up-close, that we think it would have been a nearly impossible task for Audi designers to change the styling direction while maintaining the curb appeal of the original.

What Audi has done is update the technology and rework the interior while adding the things that matter most with a sports car — performance and handling. As before, the all-wheel-drive R8 is based on a sister car from Lamborghini, the new Huracan. Audi has also ditched the base V-8 engine and eliminated the traditional manual transmission.

The second-generation supercar is the current answer to a question we get every so often, "what's the best car you've ever driven." The newest R8 is a stunningly fast two-seater propelled by a V-10 engine emitting one of the most pleasing sounds in the world just behind the driver's seat. The 5.2-liter engine is endowed with 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

Published times for the standard V-10 — there is a more expensive version making 610 horsepower — is 3.3 seconds from 0-to-60, 7.3 seconds from 0-to-100, and a quarter mile time of 11.5 seconds. Not that it will matter to a new owner, but for the record, gas mileage on premium is rated at 15 mpg city, 22-highway and 17 overall.

The coolest aspect of the new interior is the "Virtual Cockpit," a high-resolution 12.3-inch screen that dynamically resizes the speedometer and tachometer, grouping all driving and infotainment functions into a single screen directly in front of the driver. The most impressive display is the navigation screen in Google Earth format. Infotainment functions are accessed through the MMI controller in the center console including the delightful-sounding 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system that includes satellite radio.

It's a bit off-putting at first to see nothing in the center stack but a pair of air vents and three climate control buttons and it was surprising just how intuitive and user-friendly we found the compelling layout.

Also unique for-2017 is the steering wheel that integrates buttons for ignition and driving-mode selection.

Despite being a performance juggernaut that can leave you speechless, the R8 is very comfortable as a daily driver with a roomy and high-quality interior. The standard18-way power seats are very much to our liking because the adjustable side and leg bolsters can accommodate older and wider bodies. The interior is extremely quiet with the exception of the wonderful V-10 engine noise, and the confident drivability from rapid acceleration to neck-snapping braking is extremely inspiring.

A downside that is usually the by-product of most sports cars is a minimal cargo area, and so it is with the R8, which has only 8 cubic feet of storage including the front trunk AND a small space behind the seats. If you decide on an overnight trip, you will have to live out of small duffel bag in the trunk and with a few odds and ends behind the seats.

The 2017 R8 comes in just two trims — V10 and V10 Plus — starting at $164,150. The V10 Plus brings 70 more horsepower at 610 and 413 pound-feet of torque yielding 0-to-60 times in the upper reaches of 2 seconds. Also included are carbon-ceramic brakes, a sport suspension, a carbon-fiber trim package, an additional "performance" mode for the Drive Select system and highly bolstered sport seats with fixed seatbacks. The V10 Plus starts at a whopping $191,150.

The extra performance would be interesting, but most of the extra equipment on the V10 Plus is aimed at the track, and some things that make the standard V10 so drivable on the street including the 18-way power seats and the outstanding sound system are not available except as options on the V10 Plus. Virtually everything you can imagine is standard on the V10, but regrettably such modern safety features as blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation with automatic braking are unavailable.

With such options as a carbon exterior package ($5,600), great looking diamond stitch leather package ($5,000), a carbon interior package ($3,400), enticing 20-inch wheels ($1,500) and dynamic steering ($1,400), our test car carried a bottom line of $183,050.

Base price: $164,150; as driven, $183,050
Engine: 5.2 liter V-10
Horsepower: 540 @ 7,800 rpm
Torque: 398 foot-pounds @ 6,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length: 174.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,649 pounds
Turning circle: 36.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21.9 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 15 city, 22 highway, 17 combined
0-60: 3.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Acura NSX, Porsche 911 Turbo, Chevy Corvette Z06

The Good
• Breathtaking acceleration
• Head-turning styling
• Cutting-edge displays
• Impeccably trimmed cabin

The Bad
• Very little cargo space

The Ugly
• Lacks advanced safety features