Drive Time

BY STEVE SILER

Subtle Supercar
The 2017 Audi R8 Coupe and Spyder has the heart of a fighting bull.

Don’t let the all-new 2017 Audi R8’s dapper new suit fool you: There’s a raging bull inside that’s just dying to get out. The second generation of Audi’s spectacular supercar that many of you first saw as Tony Stark’s ride in the Iron Man movie series has been completely redesigned, looking even more swelligant and refined than before, but with a press of the red engine start button sprouting out just beneath the three-o’clock spoke of the flat-bottom steering wheel, and you can almost hear the huffing, puffing bull stirring in its pen.

The raging bull thing is actually less of a metaphor than an allusion. A little-known fact among non-gearhead types is that Audi owns Lamborghini (yes, that Lamborghini) and Lamborghini’s mascot is—you guessed it—a raging bull. And since one of the benefits of owning a company that builds extreme supercars is the ability to peruse the parts bin and find new uses for them, Audi used structural components from the Lamborghini Gallardo as the basis for the first-generation R8; in the case of the new R8, the donor car is the spectacular Huracán, which we featured in roadster form last June. Only this time, Audi snagged the engine, too.

Among supercars, the R8 is rather subtle, with the same general low-slung proportions of the Huracán, which are dictated by the engine’s placement behind the two passengers but in front of the rear wheels, while lacking the Huracán’s wedge profile and severe angularity. The defining features, such as the headlamps, taillamps, window openings and grille, are very close to the previous R8, though they’ve all been sharpened at the edges for a more tailored look. The distinctive vertical side “blade” panels aft of the original R8’s doors, usually rendered in silver or exposed carbon fiber—have been bisected into upper and lower elements on the new R8, allowing the shoulder line to continue unbroken from the headlamps to the taillamps, thus accentuating the car’s sleekness and length. Yes, those accent panels are still rendered in a contrasting color—silver for the standard R8 and carbon fiber for R8 “Plus” models, the latter also adding carbon fiber on the mirrors, as well as carbon fiber front and rear spoilers. A bit further back on Spyder models is a vented engine cover that looks like the car’s bionic spine, a very different look from the coupe, with its sloping glass engine cover that offers a literal window to the car’s soul.
The soul of which we speak is a 5.2-liter V-10 engine that now comes standard on all R8s, bestowing base coupe and all Spyder models with a formidable 540 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque; step up to the coupe-only V10 Plus model and you’ll get the same 610-hp, 413-lb-ft output as the Lamborghini. All utilized a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and fully variable all-wheel drive to help make the car both easy to drive and easy to control. Since they’re not turbocharged, both engines need to be revved quite high to access the peak power, something you may find yourself doing anyway just to hear the spectacular sounds they make as the tachometer nears its 8,500-rpm redline.
Thus equipped, 60 mph can appear in the mid-three-second range from a standstill; if you’re driving the V-10 Plus, three seconds is more than enough time to get there. How quick is that? Particularly in the V-10 Plus, it’s utterly mind-bending, the kind of force that smashes passengers into their seatbacks and fuses any unsecured items like briefcases, gym bags, purses, phones, or teacup poodles into whichever vertical surface happens to be behind it. Grins are involuntary, if only because the force has pulled the corners of your mouth to your ears.

Yet when not driven at full tilt, the R8 is as docile as, well, an Audi, especially with the customizable “Drive Select” settings in their most comfortable positions. This begets a reasonably smooth ride and a lower exhaust note—the better to appreciate the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system’s ability to breathe life into your favorite music. Our tester’s optional sport seats looked gorgeous, with an elegant diamond stitch pattern that’s part of a $5,000 package that also includes a faux suede headliner, extra leather on the dash, doors, and elsewhere, and added seat adjustability to ensure comfort during high-speed hijinks on the racetrack or long-distance cruising on a road trip. Yes, road trips are eminently possible in an R8, with a reasonably generous “frunk” and, on coupe models only, a shelf behind the passengers that can accommodate a set of golf clubs.
All 2017 Audi R8 models are available now, with prices starting at $163,475 for base coupe models, $176,350 for the Spyder, and $191,150 for the most Lambo-like of them all, the V10 Plus.

2017 Audi R8 Coupe/Spyder
• Base Price: $163,475 (Coupe), $176,350 (Spyder), $191,150 (V-10 Plus)
• Body Style: 2-door, 2-passenger coupe or convertible
• Power: 540-hp or 610-hp 5.2-liter V-10
• Transmission: 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters
• Drive wheels: All
• Fuel Economy (city/highway): 14/22 mpg

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