2017 Audi R8 Test Drive and Review

2017 audi r8

Editor’s Note: This week Terry Box is behind the wheel of the 2017 Audi R8.  Terry recently joined the Car Pro staff after being the automotive writer for the Dallas Morning News for 23 years.

Every morning this past week, a vicious little red volcano erupted in my driveway, spewing dirt, dust and all decorum into the ionosphere.

Sorry, neighbors. It almost embarrassed me.

But, hey, when you’re behind the wheel of a slinky, road-inhaling 610-horsepower Audi R8, go with the roaring flow, I say.

You should arrive in record time, wrapped in a snarling, bellowing sports-car that sounds like apocalypse in an aluminum can and sits lower than a politician’s scruples.

As you probably recall, the taut two-seat R8 hit Audi dealers in 2008, looking exotically carved and sculpted, and ready to compete with everything from Ferraris to Lamborghinis.

It hasn’t changed much in the last nine years – a decidedly good thing, I think – and the top-of-the-line Quattro Coupe I had again sports a V-10 shared with Lamborghini. (Volkswagen owns both brands.)

But this year, the rowdy V-10 generates 610 pavement-pounding horsepower, the most powerful normally aspirated engine Audi has ever bolted into one of its production cars.

And, incidentally, the 2017 R8 I had recently showed up wearing a glossy coat of arrest-me-officer-red. I saw lawyers in my future.

Even after nine years, the R8 doesn’t fly under the radar.

Up front, one of Audi’s signature over-sized grilles and extremely horizontal headlamps glared at lesser cars – which included most of the daily traffic on the road.

Moreover, the rakish coupe stood a little more than four feet tall, its stance embellished by a large, laid-back windshield and multi-spoke 20-inch wheels pushed to the far edges of the body.

Those wheels wore low-profile 245/30 tires up front and 305/30s in back that appeared to put about two inches of sidewall between the rims and the road.

A short, sloping “hood” in front covered a radiator, while the long back window displayed gorgeous silver plenums and throttle-bodies atop the edgy mid-mounted V-10 — fine automotive art in the trunk, I figured.

Like previous R8s, two prominent lines in the door – one up kind of high and the other low – led to a still-distinctive carbon-fiber strake in front of the rear wheel.

As contemporary as the near-$200,000 R8 seemed, it’s a bit old-school among exotics and near-exotics.

Unlike Ferrari and Porsche, for example, Audi has opted to stay with a normally aspirated 5.2-liter V-10 rather than go to a smaller turbocharged engine that might have lower emissions and better fuel economy.

The hot-rodded, highly excitable engine sits directly behind the R8’s small passenger compartment, tied to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that spun all four wheels.

Everyone on the block will know when you come and go.

The 610 horsepower bursts to life with an agitated howl, settling into a deep, slightly ominous 800-rpm idle. (In exotic fashion, the red start button is mounted on the car’s flat-bottom steering-wheel.)

Right off idle, the engine felt a little soft but civilized and minded its manners up to about 4,000 rpm.

But I would recommend scrunching down tightly into the R8’s buckets before you dip really deeply into the throttle.

With all-wheel-drive and no wheelspin, everything happens in a heartbeat or two.

Forget softness. The V-10 slammed me into the seat as if Big Bruno had punched me in the chest and the screaming engine kept me pinned there past 8,000 rpm.

Moreover, speed built so rapidly that it was difficult to stay ahead of it with the paddle-shifters on the wheel.

Sixty flies by in a very fleet 2.9 seconds, according to Car and Driver, and Audi says the R8 has a top speed of 205 mph. I took Audi’s word for that.

Amazingly, the bad-boy engine somehow carries a rating of 15 miles per gallon in town and 22 on the highway.

Likewise, the car is not difficult to drive, though it sits extremely low and both side and rear visibility are limited.

In addition, the ride is best described as aggressively firm. Small bumps tended to elicit fairly sharp responses, while big ones could be downright jarring.

The payoff was a 3,700-pound car that stayed planted and flat in every corner I could throw at it.

Turn-in wasn’t razor sharp, but the R8 tended to beat corners into submission with its grip and balance.

While the steering seemed a bit numb, it was extremely quick and well-weighted.

The R8’s black leather interior even felt fast.

A deep, slightly rounded dash – stitched on the edges – curved gently down onto the glove compartment.

The only thing marring the center-dash were three round knobs with levers beneath them for the climate control.

The radio readout and other information pop up on the instrument panel between two small round digital gauges for the speedometer and tachometer. (Both seemed so computer game-ish I struggled to take them seriously.)

However, I had absolutely no complaints about the snug, supportive bucket seats, which featured clinging bolsters and perforated centers.

For a bunch of good reasons, I never wanted to get out.

2017 Audi R8
  • What I liked most: Just about everything.
  • What I would change: Give me a six-speed manual to enhance the experience even more – preferably one with a gated stick like the old R8s had.
  • MSRP: Base price, $189,800; as equipped, $198,850.
  • Fuel economy: Rated at 15 miles per gallon city/22 highway/17 combined.
  • Official color: Dynamite Red.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 6,681 miles.
  • Weight: 3,684 pounds.
  • Length: 124.3 inches; width: 76.4 inches; height: 48.8 inches.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 19.3 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: Only hauls backsides.
  • 2017 R8 in a few words: A riveting, extremely fast exotic.
  • Warranty: Four years, 50,000-mile basic and powertrain.
  • Final assembly location: Heilbronn, Germany.
  • Manufacturer’s website: Audi
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