By Cars.com EditorsFebruary 21, 2017
About the video
For 2017, Audi has redesigned the R8. We go through some of the changes and decide whether it's still a favorite. Watch the video for more.
(engine revving) For 2017, Audi has redesigned the car that in 2010 I declared my single favorite car, the R8. Now, I had resisted picking a single favorite car for a long time but I was overcome by the styling, the driving experience and the price.
Now, that it's in its second generation, I'm gonna go through some of the changes and decide whether it's still a favorite. (engine revving) The styling has evolved but not too much. The most noticeable difference is the side blade here used to run all the way from the top to the bottom, it's now split into two pieces. Of the previous generation, some design critics said this element was designed to trick the eye and make the car look a little less awkward and slab-sided. Now that the side blade is divided, I can kinda see what they mean from some angles. One of the most compelling outside elements is actually an inside element, proudly displayed under the rear glass, a 5.2 liter V10 engine. One of my favorite experiences with the R8 is walking up to it after dark where it's parked, unlocking it with a remote and seeing the engine bath in a bluish light, it never gets old. Unlike so many cars these days, the engine doesn't have forced air induction but it does have a red line of 8,500 RPM. In the base R8, it makes 540 horsepower and in the R8 Plus like this one, 1610 horsepower, good enough for a zero to 60 time estimated at 3.2 seconds and it sounds spectacular in the process. There were many complaints about the interior quality of the previous generation R8, so Audi stepped off for 2017 and gave it a richer interior. One thing to know about is the seats in the R8 Plus are standard racing shell style seats, which have fewer adjustments, we found them less comfortable. So you either have to stick with the regular R8 if you care about that or if you get an R8 Plus, you might wanna opt for the diamond-stitched leather package, which restores the original seats with more adjustments and costs $5,000. We really liked the new steering wheel, it has a lots of well-executed buttons including the engine start, stop, where you can see it and use it. The active exhaust, a few stability control modes and the drive select button. One thing we don't love is what Audi calls the virtual cockpit display. Which is the only display in the car behind the steering wheel and that's the problem, it's behind the steering wheel. It can easily be blocked if you like to have the steering wheel low. It has beautiful graphics, a really fast processor, you can even see the navigation here. That's not bad but the obstruction is a thing and also, even though you can control it both with the steering wheel and the multimedia interface knob here in the center console, your passenger can't. We all seem to agree @cars.com that you'd be better off either with a center mounted display or maybe both. So how does it drive? It's still great. It remains a well-balanced car with the engine and cabin well between the axles and quattro all-wheel drive standard with a bias to the rear, which gives it a real wheel drive feel. If anything, I'd actually like more torque to the rear but given that most of the weight is in the back, it's probably safer to have it the way it is. The steering turning is really sharp and typical of Audi, the feedback isn't great but it's certainly livable even with the dynamic steering system that's an option. Livable really defines the R8 in a lot of ways, at least in the base R8 version, which has standard magnetic ride control. The comfort position of which really makes it reasonably comfortable for the type of car it is. In either trim level, you feel like you're in the fulcrum of a seesaw where the front and rear of the car are moving a fair amount but you're not as much. But I have to say the R8 Plus with its fixed sports suspension is probably a little too firm unless we have really great roads to drive it up. So is this still my favorite car? I have nothing to replace it with but I'm still going to say no and this is a primary reason right here. This seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Now, there's nothing wrong with it with the exception of a little bit of lag, it works really well and it actually behaves better at low speeds, more refined than the previous generation. It's what's not here and that is a six-speed manual transmission, it has been discontinued. Now, I would always want a manual transmission but especially that one because it had a gated shifter which is both unique and now essentially extinct. And because it makes wonderful clacking noises when you move through the gears, not the quickest way of shifting but it sounded great, a compliment to the V10 engine. And then there's the price, now that the very good V8 engine has been discontinued, the starting price for the R8 is over $164,000 or over 191 for the R8 Plus. That's a far cry from 2015 fifteens best price of $117,000. Now, for this much money, I would want even better handling and road holding and three pedals and a gated shifter.