Gallery Audi R8 at Daytona Photo 7
Almost all new, with more power and better everything else makes the R8 an everyday supercar
Last summer, we drove the Euro-spec version of the new Audi R8 V10. Last week, we drove the 2017-model U.S.-spec car. Not much difference between the two except for the side markers and a couple things we don’t get, such as laser headlights (we get LEDs) and the stop/start system, the latter which you don’t want anyway. What we do get is everything else.
Apart from most of the engine and transmission, the R8 V10 is all new. The chassis is a mix of carbon fiber and aluminum for optimum stiffness and improved crashworthiness. The carbon is mostly around the rear of the passenger cell. Aluminum is everywhere else. The goals with the new car were straightforward.
“We wanted to improve the stiffness of the body, to take it to a new level,” said Alwyn Watkins, project manager, Modular Sport Car System. “We were pretty happy with the powertrain, but we really wanted to focus on that front end, everything from your feet to the headlights: suspension, steering rack — there were places where we could make a big step forward.”
But the main thing was the stiffness, especially in the front end.
“It is so important to get the stiffness right,” said Watkins.” Then you have suspension working in the proper planes and not flexing the chassis, you improve the steering and front axle. We were happy with the first-gen R8, but wanted to improve on it.”
To get the engine up to 610 hp in the V10 plus, engineers designed a new fuel-injection system (which also helped reduce emissions) and “reworked” the air intake and exhaust. Direct injection combined with port injection used at lower rpms flattened out the torque curve and upped the horsepower peak, Watkins said. Both versions of the V10 are mated to seven-speed S-tronic transmissions.
Audi R8 rear 3 4
What’s It Like To Drive?
If you’ve only seen it on TV, you don’t really grasp just how skinny the banking is at Daytona. Even if you’ve driven on other banked tri-ovals like, say, Michigan or Auto Club Speedway, with their five-wide-and-still-plenty-of-elbow-room widths and their far more gentle angles, you might be terrified at Daytona. Daytona feels more like a bobsled track meant for daredevil German ice lugers than it does a speedway meant for cars. It’s a capillary of a track through which you squirt at ridiculous triple-digit speeds, shooting out at the ends of the banked corners like a rejected suppository of speed. You’re blasting along at something around 165 miles an hour — the Cup guys are going over 200 — so fast that you can’t even see the word “Daytona” painted on the SAFER barrier (thank you, NASCAR, for those). You come out a changed man (or woman), with newly renewed vows of churchgoing and dedicating your life to whatever higher cause you just agreed to a second or two ago up there on that banking. But then there’s more banking, and it’s just as skinny and you have to drive just as fast.
There are three of these narrow terror chutes — this is a tri-oval, after all. By comparison, the flat infield section, the road course, is almost a relief, with its more or less normal corners and one dogleg. But the infield normalcy only lasts about 15 or 20 seconds and then you’re shot like a Puffed Rice cannoneer back up on the inclined curve, a pathetic “TRON” movie rag doll, hung along the steep asphalt below the fencing by a mutant combination of lateral and downward g forces. The track seems to get narrower and narrower the faster you go until you’re just slotting through a tunnel. You actually have to steer through it, too, you can’t just release your hands from the wheel like they do in those 1970s Mercedes commercials filmed on automakers’ high-banked proving-ground test tracks.
Yes that banking — yow.
What were we talking about? Oh yeah, the 2017 Audi R8 V10 plus. Well, thank goodness we were in one of those. We drove many previous R8s, including the most performance-oriented version, the R8 GT at Sonoma, and you can really feel the difference. While this new R8 isn’t quite as ipso facto sporty as, say, a McLaren or a top-line 911, neither can it be dismissed as “just a comfortable GT with sporting pretensions.” The new R8 is far closer to sportscardom than any road-going Audi ever made.
On the track, we left the four-mode driver select in “dynamic,” which lit up the stability control light on the dash. This was a problem on our first unsupervised hot lap, where the rear wiggled coming out of the faster turn toward the end of the infield portion of the track, the one right after the dog leg. The incident almost became a tank slapper, but we gathered it up and proceeded on. The S-tronic was just superb through all this, by the way, anticipating downshift points better than almost any such transmission on the market. We let the S-tronic do the shifting all day, in fact, preferring to focus our minimal brain resources on avoiding infamy.
Flat-out around Daytona, the new R8 was remarkably stable, especially at high speeds. We were driving the V10 plus with all those 610 hp and, apart from the rear end waggle that one time, never felt the car move in any untoward fashion all day. Even under heavy braking, where the McLaren 650S can have a few lateral “adjustments,” the R8 felt bolted down.
We also drove it around the countryside up in North Carolina and Virginia. Here we were limited by a surprisingly heavy police presence throughout both states (God bless our boys in blue) that limited our road thrashings to the hills and hollows of the back roads. Here it felt just about all the sports car you could ask for. On smooth roads in second and third gear curves, it held on like the race car version that won its class at the last Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. The steering is more precise than before and the chassis flex is, indeed, greatly reduced, allowing for more exacting lines through any corner. It was, as they say around these parts, “really fun to drive.”
Audi R8 seats
Do I Want It?
It’s the fastest and most powerful production Audi ever — how could you not want it? You could want any of its competitors, too. Audi says that only the 911 Turbo and Turbo S are its competitors, but you could add the McLaren 575 and 650 as well as the NSX. Audi dismisses the Ferrari 488 as “the competition of Lamborghini.” The almost identical Lamborghini Huracan has a slightly shorter tub than the R8, but is otherwise a nearly identical chassis. Lamborghini tunes its suspension and steering differently and does its own interior stitching and things like that.
So go ahead and compare the R8 to the Huracan. Compare it to anything that costs from $164,150 for the base, 540-hp model to the $191,900 for the R8 V10 plus. And try to drive them all. You might find the R8’s combination of performance and luxury are just right. But stay off the banking at Daytona unless you know what you’re doing. And most of you do.