When the Audi R8 concept was unveiled in 2003 and the production model released in 2007, the automotive world needed a breath of fresh air. At the time, no other car existed; it was a practical supercar that was spacious, reliable and economical. Its futuristic appeal and elegant Audi-like appearance gave it a menacing yet sleek look. The R8 had taken the world by storm; even the car guru boffins at Top Gear couldn’t find anything wrong. Linked together with Audi’s legendary Quattro system, the R8 was the ultimate supercar daily.
The first generation R8 came with a reasonable 4.2 litre naturally aspirated V8, the same V8 that was also found in the well-aged RS4 at the time. That roaring V8 was subtle yet quiet, powerful yet smooth, and most of all, it was an engineering masterpiece. At the time, the engine produced a sufficient 425 bhp and 430 Nm of torque, 0-62 mph was achieved in a sensible 4 seconds and a top speed of about 190 mph. Which, back in 2007, was quite impressive, but it was light, coming in at 1,560kg, which made it not only fast but nimble.
Since Audi also owns Lamborghini, they decided to upgrade the R8’s powertrain. Fast forward a couple of years later, they strapped a 5.2-litre Lamborghini V10 into this mid-engined behemoth, and a new beast was born. The R8 V10 produced an astounding 530 bhp and 540 Nm of torque. However, the V10 plus and the newer generation models produced 605 bhp and 560 Nm of torque, which means that 0-62 mph took less than 3 seconds and onto a top speed of 207 mph even though the R8 shared most of its components with the Lamborghini Gallardo and its replacement the Huracan.
I always preferred the R8 over the Huracan; the angles looked sleeker, and the car wasn’t trying too hard to stand out, nor did it look mass-produced. It still had that futuristic yet classic R8 look; when driving behind the wheel, the car felt alive; it wasn’t docile unlike many Audis can be; it was fun, loud, and most of all, it put a smile on your face. It was a driver’s car and one that was practical and could be used every day; plus, the boot was big enough for a goat or a medium-sized person.
The interior has mixed reviews; it follows a more minimalist driver-orientated approach. There is no infotainment screen in the middle of the dash that the passenger can use. Instead, everything from the radio station to the sat-nav and driving dynamics is all embedded within the digital instrument cluster. Some might argue it’s pretty dull and minimalist, but most will state that it focuses on the driving dynamics, with no distractions, just you and the machine. Then again, let’s be honest; most of the time, the passengers are on their phones anyways, so there is no loss there for them.
Unfortunately, after 16 years in production and several generations, Audi has pulled the plug on manufacturing this anthropomorphic entity. Instead, it’ll be replaced by another soulless electric car set to be released sometime this year as Audi’s flagship “electric supercar”. It’s not all sad news, though; we’ve had the pleasure of growing up with the R8 and watching it evolve; many of us have been able to enjoy driving it virtually, while a lucky few have had the privilege of driving and owning one in the real world. It is a bittersweet send-off for the Audi R8; it just means it’ll be a little more special whenever we see one.