The naturally aspirated Audi R8 reminds us of the glories of a soon-to-be-bygone era.
Supercars, in general, have made great strides in terms of usability over the past few decades. Rewind time to before I was born, and most supercar owners were stuck suffering with temperamental machines that were often broken down by the side of the road and were all but unusable in adverse weather.
These days, however, supercars are practically as usable as your run-of-the-mill Prius; you’d be pretty much fine toddling down to the shops and picking up groceries in a McLaren or Ferrari as you would in a Toyota.
And one of the key moments on that journey to usability happened with the arrival of the Audi R8 back in 2006. While it was essentially the Lamborghini Gallardo with a different body, it delivered a more approachable experience than the Bull.
Much like the first-generation Honda NSX, the R8 helped redefine what a two-door speed machine should be like – not just on the track but also on the streets.
Here in 2023, the R8 is staring down the tail end of its second generation, and staring into a future that looks very different than when it first rocked up to the supercar table.
It’s always a sad day when an automaker announces the end of a model, and it’s especially so with the Audi R8. A rare and cherished species, this naturally aspirated supercar stands tall among its turbocharged counterparts, refusing to succumb to the prevailing winds of change.
We might get a tad sentimental here, but can you blame us? We’re witnessing the twilight of a legendary era after all.
One component that made the Audi R8 such a joy was its heart, literally. There have been numerous variants over the years, but this puppy you see here has the 5.2-litre V-10, a true work of art that does away with any electrification or turbochargers.
Back then, high-revving internal combustion screamers were all the rage in the performance car space. Today, with the advent of eco-conscious folks marching to the tune of “less carbon more love”, the name of the game is about making more power from smaller engines, via turbochargers, electric-hybrid systems and all other kinds of techno-trickery.
The V10 is a mesmerising throwback to the good old days when power was crafted with the mastery of combusting fuel in an engine. The pursuit of perfection was almost puritanical, if you will, but the allure of this untamed power cannot be denied.
It roars with a bellow that gives you warm fuzzies, and the temptation to shift gears just to savour its symphony is simply irresistible.
On the handling front, with the lack of Quattro to keep things in check, the Audi R8 dances to a different tune as it bids adieu to all-wheel drive.
Instead, it delivers visceral sensations corner after corner, pushing out 562 hp and 550Nm of torque with unbridled charm. Sure, it might not match its all-wheel-drive Quattro sister in sheer power, but the drama and excitement of an excited tail end and wheelspin are well worth the trade-off.
But alas, every tale has its twists, and here comes the bittersweet part. Enter the seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission – an aspect that might raise some eyebrows. Normally reliable, this gearbox seems to lag behind slightly even in Sport mode, an unexpected flaw I never thought I would encounter in an Audi.
Perhaps it could be due to other manufacturers catching up and producing transmissions that shift lightning-quick, but the gears in the R8 just seem a tad past their prime.
Plus, in Normal mode, the transmission seems a bit stubborn when it comes to downshifts. The V10’s power lies in its higher revs, but without a subtle downshift, you might find casual acceleration at best.
Small problem though; just switch it into Sport mode, and the car grants you the freedom of part-throttle downshifts. A choice between granny mode or full-on maniac, and I already know which camp I fall under.
These flaws are minor though compared to what the Audi R8 excels at, and that’s being an everyday driver. It deftly glides over driveways and speed bumps, proving its practicality amidst the world of lifter kits and scraped splitters.
The focus on driving and another nod to the past is evident in the cabin too, with the absence of any centre screen or fancy touch-sensitive buttons. It’s a rare sight in modern cars, but as someone who loves older machinery, I feel Audi made the right call here.
Nothing else is around to distract you from the sheer joy of commanding this machine. Instead, you’ll find moving-map navigation, a backup camera, and even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto displayed on the instrument cluster, keeping things delightfully straightforward.
You get some functionality too, with 226 litres of cubby storage behind the carbon bucket seats and 112 litres more in the frunk, bolstering the car’s original ‘everyday supercar’ ethos.
Now, as we witness the rise of electric marvels like Audi’s new e-tron GT RS, we can’t deny their performance prowess. Yet, amidst the silence of electrons, there’s something about the R8’s sound and fury that tugs at our hearts, leaving an indelible mark on our automotive souls. Each drive becomes a celebration of the senses, with ears ringing from the symphony of power and nostrils filled with the intoxicating scent of a car running hard.
The Audi R8 no longer has a place in our world, but it is a breed that shall forever echo in the annals of automotive greatness, its symphony reverberating in our dreams for years to come.
Audi R8 FSI Performance RWD
Engine: 5,204cc V10
Gearbox: 7-Speed S-Tronic (A)
0-100km/h: 3.7 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 329km/h
Fuel Economy: 7.4km/L (claimed)
Price: S$874,055 with COE (accurate at the time of this article)
Contact: Audi Singapore
Photo Credits: Sean Loo (@auto.driven)