As long as the world has known the word supercar, it has struggled with a definition. Power, styling, technology—no single measure of “goodness” can tell kids which car posters to pin on their walls. Our present parameters tend to include a certain contour (a low slung 2-door) and a stellar level of performance (3 seconds to 60 mph, top speed around 200 mph), but the remaining qualifiers are purely emotional.
For all the ambiguity, one supercar characteristic is notorious: sacrifice. Whether it’s comfort, convenience, or efficiency, driving an elite performance car means giving up something. But if this is a universal truth, then in what dimension does Audi’s 2017 R8 V10 Plus take up residence?
It has the right shape, performance, and price tag, but what’s with this level of refinement and usability? Didn’t Audi get the memo—a supercar shouldn’t be this effortless to own and enjoy.
There are vehicles that appear to slide gracefully through the atmosphere, channeling air around their curvaceous bodies like an eel through water. The Audi R8 isn’t one of them. In contrast to the first generation R8’s more rounded exterior, the 2017 model appears to have been designed by a Samurai slashing chunks off a clay mold. The resulting shape pierces the wind instead of flowing through it.
In a time when car designers either consciously or subconsciously mirror aesthetics seen elsewhere in the industry, Audi’s latest vehicles can’t be confused for anything else. No other automaker is bold enough to produce cars that look like they’ll cut your clothing if it rubs against the body panels. This aggressive design is complemented by Audi’s interior technology for an emphasis on modernity.
Although the second generation R8 maintains its predecessor’s silhouette, every single body panel has been re-sculpted (or sliced, in this case) to give the mid-engine supercar new life. A platinum mesh hexagonal grille dominates the front end, and is flanked by sets of blacked-out strakes to divide the air inlets. Gorgeous LED headlights communicate that this is an Audi long before you spot the R8’s four-ring badges.
Audi has stretched the new R8’s roofline further toward the back, in fastback fashion, while the iconic side blades have been replaced with two pieces of carbon fiber—the lower of which channels air into the engine bay. The rear appearance is wide and boxy, housing a pair of trapezoidal cheeks with thin LED taillights and honeycomb grates to help cool the V10. A carbon-fiber spoiler and rear diffuser complete the angular masterpiece.
Howling At The Moon
While the accomplishments of Audi’s design team can be argued, the achievements of its engineering effort are proven with data. Lamborghini’s Huracan donates its 5.2-liter powertrain to the 2017 R8 V10’s cause, meaning performance between the two vehicles is similar despite their personalities being at complete odds.
The standard R8 V10 makes 540 horsepower, but our V10 Plus test car pumps out 610 hp and 413 lb.-ft. of torque. Aided by Quattro, the gold standard of all-wheel-drive systems, the new R8 scuttles to 60 mph in a claimed 2.9 seconds (though I’d wager its real-world sprint is even quicker). Provided enough empty tarmac, the R8 can accelerate to an estimated 205 mph, matching rivals like the McLaren 570S and Porsche 911 Turbo S.
But numbers are only part of the story. The rest can only be told with a trip to the R8’s towering 8700 rpm redline. Seven flips of the steering wheel paddles will bring you through the R8’s gear range, but don’t be too hasty with those shifts; the aural rewards are great for those who let the V10 get to work. Left in its default drive mode, the R8 hums along as if to match its subtle exterior, but opening the exhaust baffles either via a button on the steering wheel or as part of the Dynamic drive mode welcomes an acoustic range other cars can only fathom.
The R8’s hollow roar turns to a magnificent wail just past 5500 rpm, sending wave after wave of delightful chills down my spine. Although I miss the added engagement of the original R8’s gated manual, the instant gear changes of Audi’s latest dual-clutch transmission enable the car to blip down two or three gears at a moment’s notice to access peak torque at 6500 rpm.
Daily Driving Dignity
The sound and fury of the R8’s V10 may convince onlookers that they’ve just witnessed a hardened supercar, but the individual responsible for such drama knows better. Beneath its sharpened sheet metal, the R8 contains a refined, advanced cockpit that’s as user friendly as a rice cooker.
The R8’s cabin experience is dedicated to its pilot. About the only thing shared between driver and passenger is a set of form-fitting sport bucket seats. Beyond the driver-oriented dash, every core convenience and performance function is nested within the steering wheel. Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit, a 12.3-inch digital display, takes the place of traditional analog gauges. Fully customizable, the system contains telemetry data, Google Earth, media settings, and drive modes, encouraging the driver to focus on the road ahead.
Carbon-fiber trim is woven around the instrument cluster, door panels, and center stack, meeting leather, Alcantara, brushed aluminum, and high-quality plastics elsewhere. A meaty, flat-bottom steering wheel tilts and telescopes into the perfect position and feels sublime in the hands. Audi’s gear selector is chiseled into a work of art to complement the ornate climate control tabs that jut from the dash in triplet.
Usability is key for anyone who even toys with the idea of a daily driver supercar, but equally crucial is ride quality. Thanks to Audi’s Drive Select system, the R8 can transform from a hair-raising thrill ride to a docile commuter in seconds. Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual drive modes adjust the throttle mapping, shift points, steering feel, and suspension damping, but even in its harshest setting, the R8 never punishes its occupants.
The Complete Package
The all-new 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus is in the company of some impressive supercars. The Acura NSX, McLaren 570S, Porsche 911 Turbo S, and Mercedes-AMG GT R each pack similar power for about the same money. Shelling out an additional $27K over the base car’s $162,900 starting figure earns you the performance edge of the V10 Plus, but the R8’s real advantage is its packaging. Put simply, no other supercar blends design, convenience, power, and agility quite like Audi’s prize.
For more information, options, and pricing, please visit our 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus page on AutoWeb’s search and configure site.
Photo Credit: © 2016 Autoweb / Miles Branman