- Available for £78,000
- 5.2-litre V10 normally aspirated, all-wheel or rear-wheel drive
- Highly capable, well-built and safe
- Don’t believe anyone who says an NA V10 is soulless
- This is the last petrol-powered R8
- Prices steady now but that is likely to change soon
Ordinary useability, extraordinary performance. If the Audi R8 had a heraldic shield, that would be a decent motto to put on the banner. A McLaren 570S will get your eyes goggling with its competition-car vibe, but if your fancy is taken by something that feels a bit more like a road car more of the time you might well prefer an R8. It’s a human-friendly beast, the sort of car you could easily envisage chucking an overnight bag into and simply motoring off to any European destination without fear of chiropractic mishap.
To some, that easygoing nature might seem totally at odds with the urgency of the Audi’s high-energy engine which needs stoking beyond 5,000rpm to deliver serious speed. Others will see that split personality characteristic as a positive trait that makes an R8 two cars in one.
It looks the bizzo too, even after more than 15 years at the pointy end of the heavily-scrutinised junior supercar segment. Actually, make that 19 years as the 5.2 V10-powered Lamborghini Gallardo-platformed R8 concept first saw the light of day at the 2003 Frankfurt show, making next year its 20th birthday. Amazing really.
When gen-one (Type 42) R8 production began in 2006 for UK deliveries by mid-2007, the list price was £76,825 – about the same as a contemporary Porsche 911 Carrera 4. Back then, Audi’s aluminium-spaceframe all-wheel drive coupe was powered by the 420hp 4.2 FSI V8 as seen in the RS4. That gave it a 0-62 time of 4.3sec and a 187mph top speed. Not until 2009 did the Gallardo’s howling 525hp 5.2 V10 make an appearance behind the R8 driver’s head, dropping the 0-62mph time to 3.9sec, raising the price to a few quid under £100k and repositioning the V8 as the entry-level R8. 2009 was when the first R8 Spyder appeared too, a year after pre-production convertibles had been filmed as Tony Stark’s car in Iron Man II. Weighing 30kg more than the coupe, the ragtop started at just under £112k.
In 2013, after a big revision in mid-2012 when the R tronic auto trans was replaced by the lighter S tronic, a powered-up 550hp V10 Plus variant was released featuring new suspension, carbon ceramic brakes and 50kg less weight. Its 0-62 time was 3.5sec and it topped out at 197mph. Two years later, in 2015, the Type 42 was superseded by the gen-two Type 4S that is the subject of this guide. Built on the Lamborghini Huracan’s Modular Sports System platform, the gen-two was mainly distinguished from its predecessor by its new lights and ‘cooking pot’ grille. It was around 50kg lighter than the gen-one courtesy of its new composites and metals. A detuned 540hp version of the Huracan V10 was the gen-two’s default engine, with the Huracan’s standard 610hp engine dropped into the V10 Plus.
By this time, the 4.2 V8 was in the process of being killed off by legislation and it would play no part in the gen-two R8 story. The gearboxes on the gen-two V10s were all autos, which was a shame if you were a fan of the V8’s open-gated manual clacker (which many were – buy a used one now before it’s too late), but as Hobson’s choices went, the super-efficient 7-speed S tronic twin clutcher was a good one. Combining that box with the weight chop helped to snip 0.4sec off the base R8’s 0-62 time.
A Spyder version of the Type 4S was launched at the 2016 New York show, initially only with the lower-powered 540hp V10 until mid-2017, when the coupe’s 610hp V10 Plus motor also became an option. That R8 Spyder V10 Plus did the 0-62 in 3.3sec and came with sports bucket seats, carbon ceramic brakes and various cabon bits as standard.
Back at Frankfurt in September 2017 Audi revealed the first ever official rear-wheel drive R8. Unlike certain Porsche 911s or the Mercedes AMG GT, the R8 RWS (Rear Wheel Series) didn’t have any rear-wheel steering other than whatever you could manage with your right boot. You couldn’t get the Plus engine in this RWS iteration, but losing the drive componentry out of one end of the car contributed to another 50kg weight reduction (40kg on the Spyder). Limited to 999 examples, the RWS hauled itself through the 0-62 in 3.7sec (3.8sec Spyder), going on to 199mph (197mph Spider). It looked seriously good in Nardo Grey with a big boot spoiler attached.
A mid-cycle refresh came along in 2018 with lots of ‘3d optics’ black plastic honeycombing front and rear (and no more aluminium grille bar) plus bigger door air intakes, deeper body skirts and oval rather than rectangular tailpipes. The idea was to boost the R8’s aggression and thereby enhance its appeal in the face of strong opposition from the McLaren 570S. Backing up the visual tweaks was a hoist in output from 540hp to 570hp and from 396lb ft to 406lb ft for the V10 base car, which was renamed ‘V10 quattro’. The V10 Plus (renamed ‘V10 Performance quattro’ in the refresh) was given a new lightweight titanium valvetrain and matt black titanium exhaust surrounds and had its power ramped up from 610hp to 620hp, with a torque boost from 413lb ft to 428lb ft.
These stats represent where both 2022 models are at currently. Both of the 2018 refresh cars had to wear an extra 20kg of WLTP emissions gubbins, but the 0-62 times were still reduced by 0.1sec in both power options. There were also revisions to the suspension and steering, brought in to enhance driving response and feedback. Interiors were basically the same apart from some new pieces of Alcantara.
Let’s briefly pop back to 2015 because that’s when the all-electric 92kWh battery e-tron version of the R8 was eventually launched, in Europe exclusively and only after much humming and ahhing. Fewer than a hundred e-trons were built, all ‘on customer request’. The line was closed down after a year. We only mention that because Audi announced in December 2021 that the replacement for the gen-two R8 – whatever it might be, a gen-three R8 or some other halo vehicle entirely, we don’t know yet – will be electric only. We’re assuming it’s going to be electric, anyway. What Audi Sport actually said was that it wouldn’t be internal combustion. Maybe they’ve perfected flux capacitor drive to fit in with the next Back To The Future film.
Either way, if you want to grab a piece of Audi history, a 2015-on gen-two R8 with the non-turbo V10 screamer currently offers you that. If you’re prepared to go back a few years, gen-one Type 42s are now getting temptingly close to the £30k mark. Indeed, we saw one privately-owned Cat D 76,000-miler at £27,000. You’ll also find plenty of late, 2015-registered Type 42 gen-one cars in both V8 and V10 flavours at prices starting below £60,000, but you’ll struggle to find even an early 4S V10 gen-two for less than £80,000. Cars at that level will tend to have had more than one owner and will typically have 12,000 miles more than the average (which for a 2015 car is around 26,000 miles).
A lot of money then, but is the R8 a lot of car, or just a supersized TT? If you’re interested enough in R8s to have reached this point in the story you probably think you already know the answer to that, but let’s try to form an objective view on it by getting down and not so dirty among the exotic entrails of an R8.
SPECIFICATION | AUDI R8 Type 4S (2015-on)
Engine: 5,204cc V10 40v twin naturally aspirated
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 540 (610) @8,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 398 (413) @6,500rpm
0-62mph (secs): 3.5 (3.2) (0.1 sec off these times for 2018 refresh)
Top speed (mph): 201 (205)
Weight (kg): 1,670 (1,630)
MPG (official combined): 24.8 (23.0)
CO2 (g/km): 272 (287)
Wheels (in): 8.5 x 19 (f), 11 x 19 (r)
Tyres: 245/35 (f), 295/35 (r)
On sale: 2015 – on
Price new: £118,000 (£134,000)
Price now: from £78,000
(Figures in brackets for V10 Plus)
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it is wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Assembled in Hungary, the R8’s dry sump V10 engine redlined at a spectacular 8,850rpm. It had a ‘cylinder-on-demand’ deactivation feature which, under low to intermediate load conditions in any of the top four gears, would shut down one entire bank of cylinders. Unlike some other similar systems (including Audi’s own RS7), the R8’s was well nigh undetectable in use. There was also a coasting function to disconnect the gearbox from the engine when it wasn’t needed, all with a view to helping you improve on the official combined (and to the car’s credit, real-world achievable) fuel consumption figure of 24.8mpg, or 23mpg for the Plus/Performance models.
The V10 wasn’t immune to carbon buildup however as it was (and is) a direct injection design, which means the intake ports and valves don’t always stay clean. And like many other VW/Audi engines these ones can suffer from premature ignition coil pack failure.
The V10 was also susceptible to intake manifold issues due to either the runner flaps sticking open or closed or the sensor conking out. Like the issues already mentioned, this wasn’t in any way common or expected in the R8 but it could happen. Oil levels are always worth checking on these motors as they can consume it. The only engine-related recall we’re aware of was for a potential leak of fluid from a transmission fluid vent hose on 2017-18 MY cars.
Power distribution through the quattro all-wheel drive was fully variable between nought and a hundred percent for either axle, although the default arrangement put slightly more through the rears. The rear diff lock was mechanical and the clutch was water-cooled.
Good maintenance is key for cars in this sector. Although Audi claim that an R8 can be serviced by any Audi dealer they specifically exclude the R8 from their public Service Plans, which is less than transparent. A non-dealer outfit like Backdraft Motorsport in Milton Keynes quotes £450 for an annual oil and inspection service, including VAT, parts and labour. Engine oil needs to be replaced every 10,000 miles or annually, brake fluid every two years, and the battery every 20,000 miles or two years. Expect a V10 R8’s overall cost per mile to be between £1.40 and £1.90 depending on model.
Aluminium double-wishbone suspension with electromechanical steering were standard R8 fare. Dynamic variable ratio steering was an option with Audi drive select but the benefits weren’t always obvious to owners driving below nine-tenths, which was most of them.
The absence of rear-wheel steering on the 2017-on rear-drive RWS model wasn’t really an issue because even without the full-power 610hp engine the 540hp V10 was more than enough for back-end play. You just had to dial in Dynamic mode into Audi drive select and set the stability control to Sport.
The 2018-refresh Performance model added three new drive select modes – Dry, Wet and Snow – to the standard selection of Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual modes in order to align the drive and suspension systems more closely to the road’s grippability. Magnetic ride adaptive damper control was an option to counteract body dip, and it worked well. Some earlier R8s with that option suffered from damper failure at quite low mileages. Sorting the problem could generate a near-five figure bill, but thankfully (as far as we know) it was confined to pre-2011 Type 42 cars.
Standard wheel sizes were 19in but you could option 20s. The V10 Plus and Performance had carbon-ceramic brakes as standard. If you ever had need of a new replacement CC disc they’re available on tinternet (usually from German suppliers) for around £1,850 each.
The Type 4S R8’s multimaterial Audi Space Frame mixed aluminium with CFRP in an 80/20 ratio. Even in the Spyder the chassis only weighed 208kg. The fabric roof of the Spyder weighed another 44kg and was stretched over a structure mainly composed of magnesium and aluminium. Opening and closing it took 20secs (each) and could be done at speeds of up to 31mph.
On the 2018 refresh model three exterior packages were available depending on the engine variant, adding various highlights to the front splitter, side trims and diffuser. Two new colours were added to the potentially kaleidoscopic R8 body palette: Kemora Grey and Ascari Blue, and you could have the Audi rings and badges in high gloss black. You could spot the RWS model by its preponderance of matt-black exterior detailing. Buyers were given the chance to make their RWS look like an LMS GT 4 racer by having a red stripe put on it, though most preferred that to stay in the can where it belonged.
The capacity of the gen-two’s front boot, or frunk as our US friends would call it, is 112 litres. Not a great deal, but at least that’s 12 litres up on the gen-one and a bit bigger than a Huracan’s. The problem with seizing bootlid hinges on Type 42 cars has not recurred on Type 4S gen-twos.
Naturally you got a hi-res 12.3in Audi Virtual Cockpit in your R8, as well as MMI Navigation that nowadays comes with MMI touch which recognises your handwriting for digital (in the finger sense) character input. MMI issues are not unknown but these are usually software related and therefore generally fixable via a reflash.
Spyders are great but you need to bear a couple of things in mind. One, there’s less legroom in them than in the coupe, and two, you won’t be able to see the gorgeous V10 lump from the cabin like you can in the coupe.
Type 42 R8s acquired a bad reputation for air con compressor failure which unfortunately could only be accessed in the V8 by removing the engine, a 38-hour job that made the 10-hour equivalent in the V10 look like a cakewalk. We’re not aware of this being a problem on the 4S models however.
The R8 might not have won many group tests against its peers but that’s more down to the excellence of the peers – masterpieces like the McLaren 570S, 992-gen Porsche 911 – rather than any major failing with the Audi. In isolation it’s a wonderful and mature coupe with the potential to be wonderfully immature if you kept your right foot in for long enough in each gear.
Some will deem the R8 to be a bit soulless or an engine in search of a car, but if you’re in that camp maybe try running one up to 8,700rpm before re-reading the previous sentence. You needn’t be afraid of doing that either because with the possible exception of some early gen-one cars which suffered from occasional hesitation under power in the intermediate gears and paint issues the R8 has been virtually trouble-free.
R8s are still put together by a small crew at Neckarsulm’s Audi Sport facility on as near a handbuilt basis as you’re likely to find in the mainstream motor industry, but their days are numbered, so if you’re even vaguely thinking about getting into an R8, now might be the time. In the US at least, used values for cars like 911s, McLarens and Honda NSXs seem to be going up, but gen-two R8s don’t appear to have been caught up in that spiral yet. That might change soon when people realise there won’t be any more IC-engined R8s once the 2023 model year cars (which are scheduled to start production in July of this year) have been built. A new R8 GT is expected at some point this year (2022), but that will be it.
Today, in February 2022, only the coupe appears on Audi UK’s website. The Spyder is still part of the range though and clearly still earning its keep in the sunny US at prices from $161k (£118k) to $213k (£156k). Here in the UK you can get the RWD version of the V10 coupe (which launched at the end of 2021) at prices starting from £129,785, but the quattros now start at a not insignificant £149,980, with the spraunced-up Edition variant coming in at a whoppertastic £156,890.
Good job then that at the accessible end of the used market less than half that amount (£77,790) buys you a choice of red or black 2016 V10s with 26k and 34k miles respectively. For another £5k or so you could be in this stealthy 2018 8,000-mile RWS at £82,995, one of the 999 built and something you could easily see as a ‘sportlich’ R8. £83k is a good price for one of these. The next cheapest RWSs in PH Classifieds are a year newer but £10k more expensive.
Put £3k onto that RWS’s price and you’re in 602hp all-wheel drive territory in the shape of this 2016 V10 Plus with 35,000 miles. If you’re a Spyder man, or indeed woman, this was the most affordable one on PH at the time of writing, a 2017 specimen in white for £86,475 which (along with other similarly priced examples) shows us that the premium when the Spyder was new isn’t quite so onerous secondhand.