Supercars are generally defined by their engines and the Audi R8 is no different. The 5.2L V10 engine has been given some upgrades for the 2017 model year and the result is 540 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. It's a combination that is good for a top speed of 199 mph. For those that absolutely must have a car capable of 200 mph, the V10 Plus model features a 610 hp version of the V10. Top speed is rated at 205 mph for the Plus model. All-wheel drive is standard across the entire lineup as is a 7-speed S-tronic gearbox. Audi estimates that the base version will hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, or 3.2 seconds for the Plus version.
Keeping things in control are magnetic shock absorbers, which use magnets suspended in fluid to instantly adjust suspension firmness on the fly. Bumps can thusly be dealt with as they are encountered, with the kind of speed that would've been impossible several years ago. Magnetic shocks also allow the R8 to be driven in one of four different modes, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual, meaning that the right setting for the conditions and for the driver's mood can always be found.
The Audi R8 is a sports car first and foremost, but that doesn't mean that it's an awful place to be, in fact it actually makes for quite a comfortable long distance cruiser. Standard features include Audi's AudiConnect infotainment system, a 550 Watt Bang & Olufsen Sound system, a multifunction steering wheel, heated, 18-way power adjustable sports seats, an Alcantara headliner, leather seating and automatic climate control. Standard exterior features include 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights, power folding exterior mirrors and a parking assist system with a rearview camera.
The V10 Plus is of course slightly more performance oriented, so it actually sacrifices the stereo in favor of a lighter 5-speaker system and adds carbon fiber seats and door sills for less weight and by extension, more speed. The V10 Plus also gets a special "performance mode" which will adjust the traction control and stability control to aid the driver during high speed driving around a race track.
Audi built its revival -- and its reputation -- on the muscled shoulders of Quattro all-wheel drive. More to the point, the company's power-at-all-corners hardware is a big part of why the R8 has been one of my favorite supercars since 2007, and also why it's been widely regarded as such a startlingly competent daily driver. That's why I couldn't help but wrinkle my nose a bit at the limited-edition R8 RWS, a dedicated, rear-wheel-drive model introduced in 2017. Yes, it weighed about 110 pounds less and yes, it was cheaper, but it still struck me as a model that was beside the point, an oddly heretical way for Audi to turn its back on a cornerstone technology that powered its comeback and performance image.
After being absent from the R8's lineup for a handful of years, Germany is once again offering a Quattroless version of its flagship, the 2022 Audi R8 Performance Spyder RWD. I've just spent a week with it and I think I understand it now. In fact, I may have even been wrong about it. Kinda.
Regardless of how many wheels are driven, it's not like this R8 was ever going to be dull to drive -- Audi's 5.2-liter V10 would never allow it. This naturally aspirated, mid-mounted masterwork remains one of the greatest high-performance engines on sale, arguably one of the best of all time. Yes, there are sports cars that offer more horsepower and certainly more torque for fewer dollars, but I can't think of one that delivers its power in a more consistently thrilling fashion -- especially sonically.
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