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The roots of the Audi R8 go back to a winning performance in the 2000 Le Mans 24-hour race. The striking mid-engined car continued to win over the years, until Audi finally made the production supercar in 2008. Since then it’s just gotten better, while maintaining and even enhancing its civility and capability as a daily driver, with a supple ride and fully finished cabin.
The all-wheel-drive Audi R8 comes as a Coupe or Spyder roadster. With its combination of power, handling, style and comfort, the R8 is a solid competitor to cars like the McLaren 650S, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, Porsche 911 Turbo and Corvette Z06.
The restyled 2017 Audi R8 marks the second generation, and features a new platform, built on the Modular Sportscar System (MSS) that’s also under the Lamborghini Huracan. It’s an aluminum monocoque spaceframe that uses carbon fiber in the firewall and backbone tunnel to gain 40 percent in torsional rigidity, aided by two big X-shaped engine braces, over and behind the engine. The chassis structure saves about 70 pounds, helping the whole car lose a total of 110 pounds.
The R8 comes with two new versions of its 5.2-liter V10 engine, one making 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, and the other 610 hp and 413 lb-ft. (Gone is the 4.2-liter V8 that was previously available, along with the 6-speed manual gearbox.) The only transmission for the 2017 R8 is the S Tronic 7-speed dual clutch, and all R8s use quattro all-wheel drive.
Audi hasn’t ruled out a smaller engine in the future. They have a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 in other models. In fact, Audi has hinted that there will be a less-expensive model coming.
The R8 might be so tame your grandmother could drive it (in Comfort mode), but when you put the hammer down (in Dynamic mode) it flies. The base V10 shoots the car to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, and the V10 Plus, which is what they call the 610-hp version, does it in 3.2 seconds, using Launch Control to keep the tires from spinning.
The EPA fuel mileage numbers are 14/22 miles per gallon City/Highway and 17 mpg Combined, using deactivation down to five cylinders, and a sailing feature that eliminates engine braking at low speeds in Comfort mode. We like that feature because it contributes to smooth driving, and also goes against the annoying trend of transmissions that do the thinking for the driver. The 2017-spec V10 also has port injection, which reduces emissions at startup and increases electronic calculation of the fuel mixture depending on the throttle position.
There are no crash test results because the NHTSA and IIHS don’t destroy expensive low-volume cars, but with the race heritage and monocoque chassis, not to mention extra airbags in the doors and roof, you can be confident you would walk away from an incident. A rearview camera will probably be standard, because rearward visibility is poor.