The verdict: The Audi R8 offers all the speed, style and sensory overload you expect in a supercar, as well as some of the unwelcome quirks.

Versus the competition: Other supercars at this price offer the same level of speed, traffic-stopping styling, exclusivity and capability, but few offer it in a package that’s as easy to drive every day. It’s not the most comfortable, however, and it still lacks some key safety technologies.

What if you could have a Lamborghini Huracán but without the stiffness and uncomfortable driving position that comes with it? A car that maintains the visual punch of the Huracán and puts a wailing V-10 engine behind your head but is compliant enough to drive every day — and is less expensive to boot? Audi says you can find this at its showrooms: the 2017 Audi R8.

Comprehensively redesigned for 2017, the R8 is built on the same bones as the Lamborghini Huracán and even shares a 5.2-liter V-10 engine with the Italian supercar (Audi technically owns Lamborghini). After taking a model year off, Audi has redone the R8 for 2017 (compare the 2015 and 2017 models here) and given it some new styling as well as a new interior and transmission. The 2015 model was criticized for its rather unimpressive cabin for an expensive car, as well as for its finicky dual-clutch automatic transmission that didn’t like slower speeds, so the new one has some big challenges to overcome.

Exterior & Styling


The restyled R8 has received some subtle but meaningful updates. New, standard full-LED headlights and a larger grille opening adorn the super-low front end. The sleek styling isn’t as sensual as some other cars in this price range, such as the McLaren 570S, but it’s still so striking in its low-slung form that it will stand out in traffic even if it isn’t painted bright metallic blue, like our test car was. The side blades that have been a defining characteristic of the R8 have been toned down somewhat on the 2017; they no longer span from roof to street but, rather, are broken into two smaller elements. Out back, you can still see the V-10 engine through a glass panel and a new design for the LED taillights finishes things off.


How It Drives


If its racecar styling weren’t enough of a clue about the R8’s nature, any doubts about its supercar status would be put to rest once you punch the start button on the steering wheel. The naturally aspirated, 5.2-liter V-10 fires to life behind your head with a snarling roar before warming up and settling into a muted hum. If muted hum isn’t your thing, you can push another button on the steering wheel to activate the sport exhaust feature, which makes the car’s exhaust tone match its appearance. (I pushed it every single time I drove the car.) Power goes to all four wheels via Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission — the only gearbox offered on the R8 now that the manual transmission has been retired.

The dual-clutch transmission is much better behaved than ones I’ve driven in older R8s, with low-speed behavior that isn’t nearly as springy and finicky as it used to be. Put your foot down and the transmission joins perfectly with the V-10 Plus engine’s massive 610 horsepower to propel you forward like you’ve been catapulted off the deck of an aircraft carrier. It’s almost scary-fast, especially when you push a little checkered flag button on the steering wheel to activate one of three performance modes: Dry, Wet or Snow. There’s also a Drive Select button just above it, which you can use to select Comfort, Dynamic or Auto modes to dial in the adjustable suspension, transmission performance, throttle mapping, etc. Select the right settings and Audi says you can get from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 very blurry seconds.

The R8’s base engine makes “only” 540 hp from the same 5.2-liter V-10, but one assumes the acceleration experience can’t be that different.

I kept Drive Select in Comfort mode most of the time given the condition of the Michigan roads upon which I was driving. I was rewarded with an excellent combination of acceptably compliant ride quality (though certainly not what you’d call “soft”) and communicative handling. The R8 is just as at home tootling around the streets of your town as it is blasting down the back straight at Road America raceway.

When it comes time to bleed off that speed, the R8’s standard carbon-ceramic brakes bring things to a halt in a hurry – and, remarkably, don’t squeal when they’re cold or when you’re navigating city streets. That was a first in my experience for ceramic brakes.

While fuel economy isn’t something most supercar owners are overly concerned about, there's no doubt the R8 is a truly outstanding fuel-to-noise converter. It's EPA-rated 14/22/17 mpg city/highway/combined, good enough to add a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax to the window sticker. My week with the R8 included nearly 400 miles of highway driving to and from events around Michigan and the car returned an average of 16 mpg, likely due to my heavy right foot. That’s not as competitive as some other hot performers: The Porsche 911 Turbo S is rated 19/24/21 mpg, the McLaren 570S is rated 16/23/19 mpg and the brand-new Acura NSX hybrid is rated an impressive 21/22/21 mpg.


Interior


Part of the revamp of the 2017 R8 is an all-new interior. It’s a fully modern look that harmonizes the R8 with Audi’s other newest offerings. There’s a surprising amount of room for the two occupants the R8 can hold, with plentiful legroom and enough headroom for taller drivers to sit upright without their hair touching the roof. That roof, however, meets the windshield lower than you might expect, causing everyone to have to dip their heads and bend their necks to see stoplights at intersections. Outward visibility is not the R8’s strongest attribute.

The version I drove was an R8 V-10 Plus, which comes standard with something new for 2017: rigid racing shell seats. They adjust fore and aft and have electronic height adjustment, but they do not bend or recline; the seatbacks are rigidly locked to the seat bottoms. Thankfully, the angle they’re set at wasn’t uncomfortable for me, but the lack of lumbar or bolstering adjustment was notable. These seats are made for someone very narrow of waist and derriere; anyone more normal-sized will want to either opt for the less-powerful, less-frenetic regular Audi R8 and its far more adjustable seats or spring for the diamond-quilted leather package in the Plus, which brings back the adjustable seats in place of the racing shells.

Materials quality throughout the car shows a massive upgrade. One of our biggest complaints about the old R8 was that its interior didn’t match its price tag, but there’s no such issue with the 2017 model. It looks and feels exotic and well-made, with an artistry to its shapes and forms that was lacking in the cold, mechanical previous model.


Electronics & Ergonomics


Perhaps the biggest difference between the old and new models is the switch to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which eliminates both the traditional round gauges and the center console’s display screen. Instead, the main gauge cluster is now a huge LCD that’s reconfigurable to one of several gauge patterns and also displays navigation, audio information, various vehicle control menus and even the backup camera.

The system isn’t as user-friendly as the old Audi Multi Media Interface, however, and comes with some drawbacks. Yes, drivers do have the ability to configure and change around information to best suit their needs and desires, but the passenger no longer has any way to really be involved in this. Asking a passenger to input the navigation system route to a specific destination or find some music while the driver is occupied with driving, for example, becomes difficult when the passenger can’t see the screen. Having the backup camera appear in the gauge cluster also creates problems when you turn while backing up, as the steering wheel obscures a good part of your view. The climate controls are easy to use and stylish to boot, but the rest of the changes haven’t made the Audi’s controls easier to use.


Cargo & Storage


Being a mid-engine car, the R8 has a frunk (a front trunk). It’s a surprisingly deep well, able to accommodate a large roll-aboard suitcase and some soft-sided duffels — or a trip to the grocery store for a weekend barbeque for 40 people. The R8 features 8 cubic feet of cargo room. That’s much more than its competitors: The Acura NSX only has 4.4 cubic feet, while the McLaren 570S comes with 5.3 cubic feet. The Porsche 911 Turbo S has just 4.1 cubic feet of room, though it also has a vestigial rear seat that can be folded to increase storage room to a total of 13.2 cubic feet of non-contiguous space.

The R8 does also have some storage room inside its cockpit (it really is more of a cockpit than a passenger cabin). The spot behind the seats can accommodate some smaller items. The R8 can get you to the airport with a decent-sized suitcase, but if you’re bringing another person with more luggage, it’s going to be tight — and forget about anything more than a weekend road trip’s worth of vestments.


Safety


The 2017 Audi R8 has not been crash-tested, but if it ever is, the results will be posted here.

Despite an update to a lot of its electrical infrastructure and the addition of some new electronic safety features, the R8 is still missing a couple of key systems, such as blind spot warning, that would be highly useful in a car with such compromised visibility. There’s no automatic distance-keeping cruise control, no forward collision warning system or automatic emergency braking, no lane departure warning or prevention — nothing beyond basic stability control systems and all-wheel drive. See what the R8 does offer here.


Value in Its Class


The elimination of the V-8 R8 means prices have gone up. The base R8 now starts at $165,450 including destination fee, and that gets you a 540-hp V-10 engine, standard all-wheel drive and a loaded performance car with just about everything you need to go fast.

Of course, you can spend more: My test car was a V-10 Plus, which comes with a more powerful, 610-hp engine, additional electronic performance programming, different seats, a slightly different exterior appearance and more for $192,450. On top of that, my model featured Ara Blue metallic paint, a full leather-covered interior (not just the seats), a Bang & Olufsen sound system and 20-inch wheels. Add the gas-guzzler tax and the total came to $199,925. More extra features, such as the more comfortable seats and matte green paint, can option it up to just under $210,000.

There are some interesting new competitors for the now-more-expensive R8. The most traditional competitor in terms of price and ability is the classic Porsche 911 Turbo S, the top-of-the-line, fastest, most outrageous version of Porsche’s rear-engine coupe. Featuring a turbocharged, 580-hp flat-six engine and a standard seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission, it can keep up with the R8 while offering a more spacious, upright cabin with better visibility.

Two newcomers are in the mix, too: The first comes from Acura, which debuted its brand-new NSX, a mid-engine, plug-in-hybrid supercar that was designed, engineered and built in Ohio. Starting at just under $160,000, it’s powered primarily by a twin-turbo, 500-hp V-6, but three electric motors bring total system power up to 573 hp. Its styling is every bit as exotic as the R8’s.

For the price of the Audi, you can get something from an even more exotic brand: the McLaren 570S coupe. It’s also a mid-engine supercar, featuring a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter V-8 making 562 hp but sticking with rear-wheel drive only. It may feature the most outrageous styling of the lot, with an interior that’s truly space-age stuff. Compare all four here.

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