Strange as it may sound, “How much is an Audi R8?” is a fairly common search query. Odd, that. It’s probably easier just to go to Audi Canada’s website and check the price, rather than typing the question into Google. And why the R8? Granted, Audi’s apex sports car is a beautiful mid-engine creature that, when looking at its direct European competition — Ferrari’s 488 Pista and the McLaren 570S, as well as the R8’s own kissing cousin, the Lamborghini Huracan — could be considered a bargain. Is the average person even aware of this, or does the R8 simply represent the unobtainable and folks are curious about what they can never own?
I spent a week behind the wheel of a very black, top-spec 2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance to conduct some scientific research, hoping to get a read on what people think this wicked wedge from Neckarsulm will set them back. Of course, this exercise was purely in search of the truth, meaning I took no pleasure in spinning the Lamborghini-derived, 5.2-litre normally aspirated V10 to its howling 8,500 rpm redline at every opportunity. Not!
Josh, 31, sales rep: “It’s classy, beautiful and elegant without being overly flamboyant.” His guess? “Under 200 grand. So, $180,000.”
For 2020, the second-gen R8 gets some visual tweaks. Up front we see a wider, more angular honeycomb grill flanked by larger side intakes, and above, three faux slit inlets. There are also new side skirts, a more aggressive rear diffuser, and a pair of cartoonishly huge oval exhaust outlets that had me checking for raccoons every morning. Wheel size jumps to 20 inches with this top Performance model, versus the 19s on base R8s.
Finished in Mythos Black and wearing black alloys, black carbon fibre side blades, and sporting the $350 black emblem option, this tester is about as black as black can get. It sucks in so much light it almost disappears. Almost.
Well Darth, you might not be my father but you are indeed a motha. And dang, when that tach needle swings hard right, you howl like Wookiee getting a prostate exam from R2-D2. The Audi R8 is defined by its heroic V10 engine that, despite its might and majesty, has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. This V10 is an anachronistic, fuel-sucking, big-displacement dinosaur that bravely waves off turbocharging and electric assist for high-revving hi-jinks: 602 horsepower at 8,100 rpm and 413 lb.-ft. at 6,400 rpm here in the Performance model.
“Base” cars get 562 horses and 406 lb.-ft. of torque. Damn the asteroid and full speed ahead! Its days are surely numbered, but by gawd if you can, put this apex ICE (internal combustion engine) in your garage before the sun finally sets on its glorious reign.
Mary, late 50s, corporate director: “What’s that in the trunk? The engine! Who wants to see the engine? Not me.” Her guess? $75,000.
Ah, but there is so much more to the R8 than its opioid-grade thrust and epic exhaust note. Audi’s exotic is surprisingly comfortable and darned near cushy when dialling the drive mode down from Dynamic to Comfort via the steering wheel. Equipped with the optional Magnetic Ride ($2,300), this is a supercar you can drive everyday — assuming you don’t have to carry much more than an overnight bag.
In this age of digital everything, the R8 comes across as marvelously analogue. The electro-mechanical steering feels natural and well weighted, the seven-speed dual-clutch auto responds instantly to the paddle shifters and shuffles the gears with punchy authority (but not too smooth, thank you very much), and with its rear-biased all-wheel-drive, handling is razor sharp, friendly, and secure. While Audi products have always traded on a certain clinical aloofness, the R8 from day one has distanced itself from that, feeling personal, alive and in-yer-face engaging.
Mark, 47, production manager: “It’s the kind of car Batman would drive to his cottage.” His guess? $140,000.
Being an older platform, the R8’s cabin is mercifully spared of Audi’s latest touchscreen madness. Hence, there is a large rotary controller on the console that keeps your eyes up when navigating most infotainment functions, and I’m loving the trio of functional and stylish climate controls that stand proud of the centre dash. Audi’s impressive 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit handles all information duties, and of course, build quality and material choice are unparalleled, up-ticked here with the Diamond Quilted Leather Package ($6,200) and contrasting red stitching for an extra $400. Conspicuous in their absence are dual-zone climate control and driver’s aids such lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and even blind-spot monitoring, although front and rear parking sensors are standard. It’s a luxurious and minimalistic driver’s environment.
Ross, 82, retired sales rep: $250,000.
The R8 Performance Coupe is a joy to drive, delivering both civility and thrilling brutality — your call. Sadly, it brings to the forefront two glaring deficiencies in my existence: I don’t live in Germany and my LPI (license preservation instinct) withers the moment I press that oh-so sexy red starter button that lives — wait for it — on the steering wheel. And pushing the active exhaust button on the wheel kills the LPI dead. Yes, I’m weak. Owning this car could only be a bad thing.
Griffin, 16, high school student: “Totally rad!” His guess? $600,000.
And finally to the price. The figures from those polled are all over the map, ranging from $75,000 to $600,000, with the majority guessing low. So, what does that tell us? For those who don’t give two hoots for exotics with V10 engines in their trunks, 75 grand is more than enough. And wide-eyed high-school kids are quick to place the R8 in a more rarefied price bracket.
The 2020 R8 V10 starts at $188,400 for the 562-horsepower coupe — and yes, that could be considered good value. This 602-horsepower Performance model, with its standard ceramic brakes, carbon fibre accoutrements, and other juicy bits, stickers at $220,400 if you don’t tick any option boxes, and $238,285 as-tested. All academic really, because that mid-mounted masterpiece of a V10 is bloody priceless.
Copyright PostMedia Network, 2020