The V8 powered Audi R8 is dead, long live the V10 powered Audi R8’s. The all new Audi R8 Coupe will only be available with V10 power and is available with more horsepower than the LMS racecar bearing the same name.
Audi recently invited the World’s press to the seaside resort of Portimau, Portugal to test the upcoming sports coupe which will be sold at a 2017 model when it goes on sale in early 2016.
A quick glance at the exterior reveals a sharper, more angular body. The new R8 is lower and wider than the first generation model. Lights have sharp corners and lines now flow in more or less straight lines. The large rolling rear wheel arches have been tamed on the new model and the slanting rear engine cover now flows straight back to the tail as opposed to the brief flat spot found on the current model. Another visual change if the trademark contrasting side switchblade behind the doors, is now split into two pieces. The combined effect is a dramatic and an unexpected improvement over what was already one of the most stunning cars on the road.
Inside the cabin, esthetic and technological improvements abound. The most noticeable visual change is the steering wheel. Now referred to as the drivers centre, the suede wrapped, flat bottomed wheel unabashedly mimics the hardware found in real world race cars. Audi designers took care to include a nifty red start stop button, a feature straight out of the LeMans winning R8 race car that gave credence to its road-going namesake.
Another significant change inside the cabin is the inclusion of Audi’s latest technology including the Audi Virtual Cockpit that utilizes a 12.3 inch TFT LCD screen in place of traditional analogue gauges. The customizable screen allows for a full overall of Audi’s Google Maps powered Navigation system to be displayed in the instrument cluster with a digital speedometer and tachometer inserted over top. Other combinations could include acceleration records, G-force indications as well as a combination of the many other information systems onboard.
Surprisingly, the outgoing R8, despite being the brand’s resident “Halo” car, lacked any real semblance of cabin technology, a sign of its original design date when it was first introduced as a concept in 2003. The latest model comes jammed with all of Audi’s latest technology including the famed MMI Multi Media Interface, as well as a cluster of usb ports beneath the dashboard. As silly as it seems this feature has been missing from earlier models.
The 2017 Audi R8 follows Audi’s mantra of lightweight design by incorporating carbon fibre into the aluminum Space Frame for a weight reduction of almost 70 pounds. The majority of the 15% weight reduction is due to the tunnel of the chassis and the firewall bulkhead being crafted with carbon instead of aluminum or lightweight steel. The construction formula also increases rigidity by 40%, which translates to better handling on the road.
Another change for the new model will be the exclusive use of V10 power. A “base” level model will feature a 5.2L aluminum V10 engine producing up to 540HP and 398 lb-ft of torque. The engine redlines at a stunning 8,750 RPM’s. The higher performance V10 Plus model tweaks the V10’s output to a mind boggling 610HP and 413 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a standard twin clutch S-Tronic gearbox. While I was a staunch fan of the now defunct 6 speed manual gearbox, if only for the nostalgic metal gated shifter, this new transmission is a work of art that elevates the status of dual clutch transmissions.
On the road, the latest R8 seems surprising more agile, nimble, and well, lighter on its feet. The combination of actual weight loss and the mode rigid chassis get the credit here. Also, doing it’s part is the revised Audi Drive Select which calibrates onboard systems such as the throttle, new shift by wire transmission and the magnetic ride dampers in the suspension.
The increase of power to weight ratio is reflected in real world driving as well as statistical measures such as 0-100 m/hr times. The regular V10 model boasts a time of 3.5 seconds in the sprint up to 100 kms/hr, while the V10 Plus knocks that down to 3.2 seconds. Those numbers are stunning by any measure. However, sitting behind the wheel as the V10 spools up and lays down the power provides less drama than you would imagine. The vehicle dynamic controls and the masterful Quattro all-wheel-drive system keep the to a minimum and its mostly the high pitch shriek of the 10 cylinders that provide the entertainment.
A new performance setting on the Audi Drive Select system allows drives to calibrate the performance settings on the vehicle to compensate for weather conditions as well as surface friction. The extra helping of performance related equipment coupled with an actual boost in real world performance stems from the paired development of the road-going R8 alongside its race competing brother, the R8 LMS. Audi claims both the LMS version and the showroom R8 share 50% of componentry, primarily chassis and running gear. In an odd twist to meet regulatory requirements, the R8 LMS produces 585HP, less than what consumers’ are able to buy in showrooms with the V10plus.
To demonstrate the track prowess of the new R8, Audi centered the program at the new Autodromo in Portimau. In addition to driving routes around the local area, we were able to take performance equipped V10plus vehicles onto the track. The few laps during the daytime showed the potential of the stunning new coupe. The ceramic brakes never exhibited any sign of fading or loss of stopping power after being driven hard on the demanding course. The Quattro all-wheel-drive system and the vehicle’s superior balance made the track time a memorable and exhilarating experience.
As night fell, Audi summoned us back out to experience a feature we likely won’t see in Canada or the United States any time soon. A rather pricey option in Europe, Laser powered headlights similar to the one’s mounted up front of the LeMans winning Audi R18-etron, can light up the night for well heeled drivers. So after coming to grips with the demands of the new track during daylight, out we went again to tackle the course in darkness. This was the first such experience for me and it proved an intense experience. The laser lighting did appear to offer an extended look into the darkness. Audi claims a full 50% increase in illumination. All the same I wouldn’t recommend you try driving at this level in the darkness at home.
No pricing for North American markets was announced at the event, however the European prices have gone up by approximately 15%. Given that the now standard dual clutch transmission was a $9,100 option on the earlier model, one would expect to see a good chunk of that reflected in the list price of the 2017 R8.
So now my watch begins, I cannot wait to experience the 2017 Audi R8 on home turf. We will update the site once a release date is confirmed and I’ll mark the date on my calendar to start calling for a booking.