Audi R8 Quick Review
Critic’s Notebook takeaway: Don’t discount Comfort mode.
While driving the all-new Audi R8, I was asked the same two questions quite often.
First: "Is that the new R8?" This emphasis on the novel was due to a remarkable resemblance between the outgoing R8—which, to be fair, is a very lovely car—and the new one. Audi has been guilty of this stylistic stolidity quite often of late, releasing all-new vehicles that provide little freshness in the looks department. This seems odd, until you recall that Audi achieved its current prominence by practicing clean and consistent design, and sweating the iterative details, during an era when their colleagues at Benz and BMW layered baroquerie upon rococo. Staying the course while everyone else fucks up, in other words, has been the foundation of their success. I can understand why they’d be loath to make drastic changes.
Still, what makes sense for a volume model like the A4 or A6 might not cart the blanche in more rare air. The Lamborghini Huracán, with which the current R8 shares much of its underpinnings, advanced the chiseled, fang-reared menace of it’s Gallardo predecessor, with which the previous R8 shared its skeletal bits, in a way that feels consistent and challenging, yet exquisite. The R8 feels a bit obstinate in contrast—an old R8 that endured dermabrasion, took a selfie with a fresh filter, then sat back wondering, where are all my likes?
Notably, this is not the case on the inside, where Audi continues its trend of utilizing intelligent design in service of advancing automotive functionality. The brand’s radical TFT display, which integrates into one driver-centric binnacle all the necessities of a dashboard and center screen, is ideally implemented in this, a driver’s car. Ditto for the cool extruded climate control knobs and the multifunction steering wheel switches. Simple, elegant, and futuristic, but not in an overreaching way.
The second question was, why Comfort mode? This was asked repeatedly in response to a photo I sharedon my myriad social media platforms. I shouldn’t need to explain, even to the heathens that populate the automotive fan base, that sometimes a lady likes a little comfort—especially on the rickety Parkways of New York City. Beyond this, Comfort mode also speaks to the R8’s true strength. Yes, it's a focused sports car, with a high-revving (and great sounding) V-10, engaging mid-engine weight balance, and instantaneous response from transmission, suspension, and steering. But it has always felt to me more appropriate as a extremely sporting and capable grand tourer, with a demeanor that's less aggravated, and aggravating, than its Lambo sibling, and far more refined and livable.
This is a positive. The fact that the Audi costs far less but performs nearly as well, looks sharp but not in a lacerating way, and feels less desperate to garner attention while still drawing eyeballs, makes me feel far more, well, comfortable in one. When I wanted it to be sharper, I clicked it into Dynamic mode. Would that it had a shiny button or knurled metal knob that could achieve the same for the exterior.
Vehicle: 2017 Audi R8 V10 Coupe Quattro S tronic
Price (as tested): $162,900 ($183,050)
Powertrain: 5.2-liter V-10, 540 hp/398 lb-ft
Performance: 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, 199 mph top speed
Evolutionary Pace: exterior: geological; interior: microbial