We thought it would only be fair to spend a week with the last Audi R8 the brand will ever have on the press fleet in Australia.
Yes, the car Iron Man famously drove in movies has sadly been discontinued.
Now, given a new, shiny, high-performance, four-door Audi E-Tron GT has stolen the best spot in the showroom, we expect the next serving of two-door supercar Audi will probably be fully electric too.
So, in order to say goodbye properly to the brand’s best internal combustion effort yet, Audi naturally provided us with an all-singing, all-dancing, almost $450,000 on-the-road V10 Performance model. You know, top-shelf sort of stuff.
However, as we enjoyed its wares, it got us all thinking about the future of the brand and what electrification means for Audi’s best road cars.
In the farewell review I discuss those thoughts, as Audi tells all about its electric-car future that moves away from mechanical systems like current-day Quattro. Click here to read that.
In this piece of opinion however, we discuss the more powerful anecdotes that grabbed us all personally over the years.
Rob Margeit, Features Editor
Nothing grabs your attention behind the wheel more than almost binning someone else’s $400,000 supercar.
But, that’s what happened back in November 2018 when I attended the international launch of what would turn out to be the final iteration of the Audi R8.
Actually, it was a two-pronged launch, bookending Audi’s most affordable and most expensive cars.
On one hand, the mountainous roads in the south of Spain proved no match for Audi’s fun and flirty A1 hatchback. On the other, several track sessions in the latest Audi R8 highlighted just how good the ‘everyday supercar’ was, even if, as I discovered, my ambitions on the racetrack were easily eclipsed by my talent.
Several day sessions proved what I already knew – that the Audi R8 replete with its howling V10 is a stonking supercar but one that remains ridiculously easy to drive. I remembered the words of an old colleague who said a supercar should try to kill you, or at the very least, scare you.
But the Audi R8 doesn’t scare you, never has. It’s earned its title of ‘everyday supercar’ for a reason. And then, on a cool November night somewhere in the south of Spain, it tried to kill me. Or, more accurately, I tried to kill it.
Picture the scene. The Circuito Ascari Resort, a private racetrack nestled in the Andalusian mountains open to members only. Its 13 left- and 13 right-hand turns combine elements of famous racetracks from around the world. There’s a mini Karrousel, a petit Eau Rouge, and even a banked section that emulates if not imitates a good ol’ fashioned Yankee oval track.
And then there’s Copse, a super-fast, near-flat (a judicious lift of the right foot is best) right-hander that is an approximation of the corner of the same name at Silverstone.
In daylight, it’s not particularly tricky, spitting you out onto a straight section that stretches for what seems as long as the options list on a Porsche. Except, Audi had booked a shorter version of the circuit and halfway down that long and achingly enticing straight, a series of witches’ hats bisect the section spitting you into a 90-degree left-hander from where you re-join the rest of the track on the other side. Simple.
But, at night, full of bravado after having spent the day sessions working out my lines, the amount of lift, how much speed I could carry and when to brake for the 90-degree off-shoot, it’s a different story.
I think it was my second lap, perhaps third. All had been going well. Until, Copse.
Full throttle – lift – full throttle – brake – oh shit!
It’s amazing how missing your braking point by even a quarter-of-a-second can impact performance. Instead of scrubbing off speed nicely, ready to make the sharp left hander, I’m barrelling downhill towards those artfully placed witches’ hats which, while not inherently dangerous to me, would certainly inflict some pain on the front bar and splitter of the 400-large-and-then-some R8.
But, in an act of forgiveness I’m still grateful for (you should see the size of the insurance excess), the R8 simply accepted I’d been a bit clumsy, and followed my steering inputs in trying to take the tight-left at a speed my brain deemed ambitious, without breaking a sweat. Or traction. Cue ‘phew!’.
And that’s what, to me, defined the Audi R8 – a supercar that could be driven at the edge of your personal limits knowing that its own limits far outweighed and outnumbered anything you could throw at it.
The Audi R8 might not have been an outrageous excess of a supercar in the same way a Lamborghini or Ferrari is, but it remains as easy to drive sedately as an Audi A1 and yet possesses the ability to unleash a fury that is as intoxicating as it is – mostly – manageable.
And now, sadly, it is no more. Boo!
Joshua Dowling, National Motoring Editor
I went to the launch of the original V8-powered Audi R8 in Las Vegas in 2006, before the Global Financial Crisis hit.
We got to tour the winding roads in the epic Valley of Fire, before finishing with some hot laps at a racetrack closer to town.
Despite the lavish trip, free hamburgers, and glitzy location, I remember being underwhelmed – not by Las Vegas, but the car.
As it happened, I had driven a V10 Lamborghini – on which the Audi R8 is based – in Australia just prior to the trip. So I had a good recollection of what supercar performance should feel like.
Frankly, the V8-powered Audi R8 made all the right noises and looked like a concept car, but it didn’t give you the same buzz under hard acceleration as the V10. Cars like this should scare you just a little bit from time to time. And the Audi R8 with a V8 was tame by supercar standards.
That said, it found its niche as an accessible sports car. It turns out not everyone wants a Porsche 911. And in that regard, the Audi R8 V8 delivered. But, for me at least, the real Audi R8s are the V10 versions.
They sound glorious, scare you a little bit with their harsh acceleration, and have a bit more cabin space – and a slightly lower price tag – than the equivalent Lamborghini V10. I will miss the Audi R8 V10 and am devastated I was on leave when this one came through the office.
I really hope these car companies know what they’re doing by ditching their top-end, petrol-powered supercars. In that regard, I reckon Porsche, BMW and Toyota have got it right.
They will continue to offer a mix of options: petrol, diesel and electric. Not everyone in the world is ready to ditch petrol or diesel to embrace electric power.
We need all three. Sadly, the Audi R8 V10 is one of the unfortunate sacrifices in the ramp-up to the electric-car era.
Glenn Butler, Head of Content
In 2011, I pitched the idea of doing a Virtual v Reality comparison to my then editor.
Thanks to the magic of Sony Playstation and Gran Turismo 5, I’d hotlap the Audi R8 V10 around Laguna Seca and then fly to California to repeat the exercise in real life.
Well, you can imagine my surprise when the editor said yes.
My goal was to discover firstly how well virtual racing games can prepare you for the real thing, and secondly how close I could get to my virtual time.
I took a VBOX with me and measured top speed, apex speeds, braking distances and more. The results were astonishing. The game prepared me for the track more faithfully than I could have hoped, and my best real-life lap time of 1min 41.7sec was just 1.1 seconds slower than my best virtual lap.
Of course, the game didn’t prepare me for the G-forces in corners and under brakes, the elevation changes, or the fatigue that comes after 40 laps of one of the world’s toughest and hilliest racetracks.
But, as tired as I was after that, I had an absolute ball because it was just me, the R8 V10, and Laguna Seca.
Justin Narayan, Senior Journalist
In a previous life, I used to work with Audi Australia’s marketing department. While Audi R8s were a part of those days, my favourite anecdote is one that’s more close to heart.
Aside from my professional career on both sides of the fence, I really love cars personally. I own, buy, trade and collect them in a way that’s simply deemed irregular and terminal.
I’m too far gone, and as a result, find myself associated with others diagnosed with the same condition, albeit less acute. In this case it was my brother in-law, someone close to home and dear to me, who suggested he buy himself something nice.
He works hard under his Michael Arthur Diamonds brand selling jewelry to the who’s who in Sydney, so he wanted something nice to park outside his boutique in Paddington.
He also cares less about cars than I do, or should I say, has a more healthy relationship with them than I do. Not my usual suspect, but I humoured his desire.
After steering clear of Japanese metal, I suggested we try our luck at buying an Audi R8, we came off good. We scored him a 2012 Audi R8 V8 – with six-speed manual transmission – for a song out of Victoria.
I used that car in a comparison piece with a new 2021 Audi R8 rear-wheel drive, as both models were the underdog at launch. You can read that feature here.
I spent time with that car and really loved how it drove. I cruised it around like an Audi A4, did my grocery shopping in it, and happily twisted the arms of many 911 fans into agreeance that it’s the better everyday option.
The Audi R8 is really that good. It never gets old.
Kez Casey, Production Editor
Sorry, I have nothing on this one.
Despite being a highly desirable package, and having made the rounds of Aussie media a couple of times, the R8 has been one that has escaped me over its lifetime.
It’s not that I’m not interested, of course, but the balance of work means all cars are divided evenly around the Drive office. I’m sure I said ‘I’ll take the next one’ or something like that. Just goes to show, there’s a lot to be said to saying yes to every opportunity.
Better draw up a list of other ICE heroes I haven’t driven yet, and try to get some time behind the wheel before they dip out.
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