The R8 did not make Audi. The formidable glaze coating of Ingolstadt’s reputation was baked long before it indulged an impulse to make a bona fide mid-engined sports car.

But when it did, when the result proved exceptional and exciting and idiosyncratic, it was concrete evidence that the manufacturer was indeed capable of almost anything.

Just as it had reeled in the huge lead that greater longevity had given BMW and Mercedes-Benz, so it might now compete with the mighty Porsche.

The R8, in its original V8 format, was an automotive attestation of the boldest sort: the 911’s status is not sacrosanct and Porsche’s path to driving nirvana isn’t the sole means of ascent.

Quattro GmbH had conceived of another way and Audi rallied the ambition, expertise and investment required to make it happen.

Now, nine years on from the original R8’s introduction, it has retooled for a second run, tweaking much in a car whose design clearly continues to owe a substantial debt to the look of its predecessor. Its reason for being is slightly different, though.

Porsche has gone from rival to relative, and so the requirement for a more modest V8-powered variant to challenge the Carrera has gone, too.

Consequently, Audi’s 5.2-litre V10 – still naturally aspirated – has become the only engine choice and £119,500 has become the starting price.

So the R8’s positioning has changed slightly, from sports car to super-sports car – and the move has been a long time coming. It was previewed by the phalanx of more and more powerful run-out special editions of the previous R8 but was ultimately hinted at much earlier, when Audi learnt how much buyers were prepared to pay for the R8.

We’re testing the quickest, most expensive version: the V10 Plus, delivering the same 602bhp as its Lamborghini Huracán sibling. It is, in fact, the quickest car Audi has made. Now, to properly succeed its predecessor, it just has to be the best driver’s car Audi has made, too.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Super sports cars

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Audi range

Driven this week

  • BMW X3
    Car review
    19 January 2018
    The stakes have never been higher for BMW’s mid-sized SUV, now the X3 in its third generation. So can it deliver?
  • Nissan Leaf
    First Drive
    19 January 2018
    Better looks, better value, better range, stronger performance and a quiet and relaxing drive make the Nissan Leaf a leading EV contender again
  • Volkswagen Up GTI
    First Drive
    18 January 2018
    Funky, light, enjoyable and even reasonably priced, the Volkswagen Up GTI is a car to be appreciated on its own compelling terms
  • Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 110 Redline
    First Drive
    18 January 2018
    Our first flavour of the 1.0 TSI-engined Skoda Fabia on UK roads shows it’s versatile but not all that sporty
  • Ford Ecosport 1.0 Ecoboost 125 Zetec front
    First Drive
    18 January 2018
    Can the updated Ford Ecosport improve its reputation and become the small SUV of choice, or is it another misguided effort from the Blue Oval?