Matt Prior
22 January 2013

What is it?

If you’re one of our UK readers, it has probably not escaped your notice that this week has not provided the optimum conditions in which to test a new variant of a junior supercar. 

Still, things on these shores were always thus, and if ever there was a mini-exotic which can deal with, y’know, winter and that, it’s the Audi R8. Yes, the engine is in the middle and the Audi comes on 235/35 R19 front and 295/30 R19 tyres, but the R8 has quattro four-wheel drive and at least we’ve driven one on snow and ice before, when Autocar ran a V10 long-termer.

That car was fitted with a manual transmission, which was just as well because the first-generation R8’s two-pedal alternative – a single-clutch automated manual – was a bit of a sluggard. It was fine on a track if you were going flat out, when it pushed through changes acceptably (albeit with a jolt) at high revs, but its lack of smoothness didn’t seem half so clever on the road. 

Of the changes made to the R8 for its mid-life facelift, the most significant, then, is the ditching the automated manual gearbox option in favour of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. At £2900, it’s also 40 per cent cheaper than the old auto option, yet, conversely, it is a lot more than 40 per cent better.

What is it like?

There are a few things I can’t tell you about how the R8 drives, given the weather we’ve just had, but one of the things I can report is that the new gearbox is very good indeed, certainly when fitted to the (unchanged) 424bhp V8 of our test car.

The speed of the shifts, their smoothness and the way the clutches gently allow the R8 to be manoeuvred around at low speed without clumsy over-revving are very impressive. I’m still no great fan of the look of the lever’s gate, mind – it looks a little, well, ordinary – and the manual overrides are in the ‘wrong’ direction (forwards to change up and backwards for down). 

The steering wheel-mounted shift paddles have been revised, though, and they’re quite sweet, diddy things that operate with a pleasing tactility. I’d rather that the steering wheel wasn’t flat-bottomed and the driver’s seat could do with being able to be set lower, but other than that it’s a decent cabin environment. Only small tweaks such as revisions to the instrument cluster, iPod connection and a spot more chrome here and there mark the new model out from the first one.

On the outside, it’s similarly hard to tell a facelift R8 apart from a first-generation variant. There’s a new rear valance and exhaust pipes, but the biggest clue is in the LED indicators that make a KITT-style sideways sweep as they flash. Um. Yeah. 

Anyway, moving on, the V8 gets a new 19in alloy wheel design, which brings me to the chassis. Similarly, that’s unchanged, which is no bad thing, because it was fine before and remains so now. The ride at low speeds seems a touch less settled than a Porsche 911's, but there’s no denying the keenness of the chassis. It steers quickly and accurately, and because only between 15 and 30 per cent of the power ever goes to the front (enough to make slippery getaways viable), the balance is sweet.

I know that in the dry there’s a spot of understeer on the way in and a spot of oversteer on the way out. In these conditions, you can multiply both, and the braking distances, by a factor of about 10. 

Should I buy one?

The R8 has always occupied a small but desirable niche, offering mid-engined exoticness and spectacular agility for less than £100,000. Now that it comes with a viable two-pedal option, if you're in the market for such a car, there's every reason to consider the R8.

Audi R8 4.2 FSI S-tronic

Price £94,475; Top speed 187mph; 0-62mph 4.3sec; Economy 22.8mpg (combined); CO2 289g/km; Kerb weight 1585kg; Engine V8, 4163cc, petrol; Power 424bhp at 7900rpm; Torque 317lb ft at 4500-6000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic

Join the debate

Comments
12

I love DSG boxes, miss mine.

1 year 39 weeks ago

I love DSG boxes, miss mine. Makes me sad now that i've got an older tech Tq convertor.

How does this box stack up agaisnt the new tech 8 Speed ZF box? Weight, change times etc.

LED Sweep

1 year 39 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:

The biggest clue is in the LED indicators that make a KITT-style sideways sweep as they flash. Um. Yeah. 

I may be a big kid, but this feature is BRILLIANT. Lovely touch!

I saw it on Audi's Paris stand, plus recent Mustangs seem to do a similar thing as I witnessed in Florida earlier this month...

karaman

1 year 39 weeks ago

karaman  karaman haberleri

www.karamanorganizesanayi.com

www.karamanca.net

It's not the wrong way unless

1 year 39 weeks ago

It's not the wrong way unless you're BMW SMG lover, I don't like automatics of any sort for a car like this but when I worked at Porsche in London almost all the demos where in Tip' equipped cars. I think the shift backwards feels pretty normal, it's like flicking back into second for a tight corner. 

 

28bhp never felt so fast

 

jer

444

1 year 39 weeks ago

Why not the RS5 444 bhp upgraded motor whilst they were changing the box?

to bad that I dont have

1 year 32 weeks ago

to bad that I dont have enough money to buy it Carpet cleaners Northampton

audi makes very nice cars,

1 year 33 weeks ago

audi makes very nice cars, but i'm a Lexus fan on hubpages

Of the changes made to the R8

1 year 35 weeks ago

Of the changes made to the R8 for its mid-life facelift, the most significant, then, is the ditching the automated manual gearbox option in favour of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic italy yachts

this r8 is quality

1 year 35 weeks ago

time to get some car mats for mine methinks! Too nice to spoil

I like it! It is really

1 year 33 weeks ago

I like it! It is really interesting! I like the stone mason Scottish Borders

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Our Verdict

It may not have a posh badge, but when it comes to what really matters the R8 has what it takes to hold its head high among supercar rivals

Driven this week