Take a walk with me back to 2008. Apple had just announced the very first iPhone, Brad and Angelina just got married, Tata Motors launched the $2,500 Nano, and Audi released their first halo car. It was this slippery-looking supercar that almost immediately catapulted itself into the hearts and minds of enthusiasts and journalists around the world.
Yeah, you remember seeing it for the first time on the silver screen and it looked like nothing else! But, this head-turner is so much more than just a blockbuster hit! This mid-engine, high-revving, Quattro all-wheel drive supercar is the product of winning DNA.
It’s fast, it’s beautiful, and is probably the best daily-driver supercar ever made. Hold onto your hats, partners, because today we’re going to kick it into overdrive with the Audi R8!
What Is the Audi R8?
Is the Audi R8 the best bang-for-buck supercar you can buy right now? It’s mid-engined, has Quattro all-wheel drive, and shares parts with one of the best manufacturers in the business, who also happens to own Lamborghini! What is there not to like?
But, what if the Audi as we know it is coming to an end? With the complete electrification of the supercar world, we have to ask where the Audi R8 is headed. What will eventually happen to our beloved supercar? We here at Ideal are maybe a little more attached to the mighty R8 than the average person, so this hits a little closer to home.
Is our little budget supercar the last of its kind? If we really want to answer all these questions, we may need to take a look back at where the R8 came from. This little history lesson will help us better understand the R8 and where it may be headed in the future.
Where Has the R8 Evolved?
Now, let’s take a look at where the R8 came from and why it was built in the first place! So, let’s go down the road of the history of the Audi R8. The car that we know now is an amazing piece of technology, but everyone has to start somewhere. And the R8 concept was born from this long-forgotten concept car called the Audi AVUS Quattro.
It looked like a McLaren F1 and a Bugatti Veyron got it on in the back seat, windows up. And this was their creation. This concept car stole the show in Tokyo in 1991 and everyone was pumped for what we thought Audi was gearing up for: the launch of its first-ever supercar!
But, that concept never made it past the one-off bombshell. And it was 10 long years before Audi decided to put the pedal to the medal with this car. The Audi R8 Le Mans Prototype race car was introduced in 2000 and went on to dominate and win five 24 Hours of Le Mans races!
Remember that Audi purchased Lamborghini in 1998 and helped build the successful Gallardo that came out in 2004. Essentially, the Gallardo is an Italian-skinned supercar with a German heartbeat. And the Audi R8, first introduced in 2008, is a German-skinned supercar with a German heartbeat! This thing took the car community by storm! It was a huge deal!
For the first time, another German manufacturer had taken the fight for the best budget supercar right to the inventor of the category: Porsche. Before the R8 came along, if you wanted a high-performance European exotic car that wouldn’t absolutely break the bank, you could either buy an overpriced Beetle with the engine in the wrong place or you could opt for something from the United States, like the Viper, that has frankly horrendous build quality and no creature comforts whatsoever.
Japan wouldn’t offer a contender until one year later with the R35 GT-R. And while that car was blisteringly fast around a track, it had the road manners of a typewriter and the looks of a pseudo-supercar.
Things changed when the R8 came along. It was the buzz of the car world. The boys from Top Gear loved it, as did pretty much every other automotive media outlet. It started popping up in music videos and movies as well. I mean, Iron Man drove one!
Both V8 and V10 models could come equipped with the R-Tronic transmission plucked straight out of the Lamborghini Gallardo. Or, instead, you could be a sane person like me and pick the gated manual! Everyone knows that gated manuals are the best manuals. Working that shifter through was like operating a well-oiled bolt-action rifle. And each shift was another gunshot of revs and power!
As with most other Audi models, the Quattro all-wheel drive system came standard, making sure that anyone with a heavy foot stayed on the road no matter the weather. The first generation saw one facelift and the introduction of the sportier GT model. With more horsepower, race-tuned suspension, and better aero, the GT was just the R8 plus more R8. And who can say no to more R8?
And I think it’s on everyone’s shortlist of best value supercars available on the used market right now! I just can’t help dreaming about it. I love the way it makes me feel when I look at it and the emotions it stirs when I get behind the wheel! Sorry, I got a little lost in my daydream. Back to the lesson.
The Second Generation
The first generation of the R8 lasted until 2015 when it was replaced with an all-new second generation. The styling was changed pretty radically, but the overall shape of the German heavy-hitter stayed the same. Sharper angles all around the body make the R8 look even meaner. It’s less of a business suit and more like medieval body armor, ready for battle against the best the rest of the car world could throw at it.
The new generation also saw the R8 available with the Lambo-derived V10 only. In fact, the whole car was co-developed with the Lamborghini Huracan. It would blow your mind how much the cars share.
Now, we’re certainly not aiming to discount the Lambo here. In fact, we’d absolutely love to have one in the garage. But, the fact is that the second-generation R8 is basically a slightly watered-down Huracan for over $100,000 less. That’s not to say it’s all sunshine and roses, though, because, like the Huracan, when the R8 was re-designed, we suffered. I’m referring to the death of our beloved gated manual transmission.
The Audi dual-clutch S-Tronic is your only option. Rest in peace, our dear friend. You will be missed. The newer generation carries over a lot of what made the first generation so great. So, we got a mid-mounted V10, all-wheel drive car with lots of speed. And there’s a rear-wheel drive version called the RWS, in case you wanted to get a little more sideways.
The Audi R8 is still going strong in its second generation. The German supercar has been proving itself for almost two decades at this point, and that’s with only two generations! Never before has a supercar been this dominating with so little being changed. A few tweaks here, a little facelift there, and the R8 is a dominating presence in the supercar world.
And that’s the basic rundown of the R8’s development over the past 15 years. It’s an amazing car that proves you don’t need to change much to perfect a winning formula. So, where do we go from here?
Will the R8 be the same fire-spitting, all-encompassing supercar we’ve known and loved? Are we going to see something completely different in the coming years? Will our R8 become a priceless heirloom from the past? Probably not, but it wouldn’t hurt to check out Ideal Car Strategies to brush up on some smart automotive investment advice!
So, the R8 may be headed in a completely different direction and we think that looking towards their concepts may be a good start.
Where Is the R8 Going?
So, we’re looking to the future. This is usually a bad idea, but we think there’s a lot Audi is trying to say with their new concepts. These glances in the company’s future give us the best idea of what the R8 could look like in a few years’ time. Electrification may not be the best option for car guys, but it could be our only option!
The e-tron GTR is the R8’s future. It should have a similar formula: low-slung with all-wheel drive and massive performance. Power won’t be coming from a mid-engined layout, but from three separate electric motors with a combined output of 650 horsepower.
How will Audi manage these numbers, you ask? Well, a solid-state battery pack with a 95-kWh capacity will certainly help. These batteries will keep the electric motors running for an estimated 300 miles and still be able to sprint the e-tron to 62 miles per hour in just over two seconds! Not too shabby for an EV.
Another cool feature is the GTR’s ability to wirelessly charge itself so there won’t be any need for pesky wires. An all-aluminum chassis will also help keep weight down as well. The e-tron line is one of the most innovative lines of electric cars in production right now. Porsche thought they were clever when they came out with the Taycan, but the new electric Audis are here to give the boys in Stuttgart something to think about.
And that’s what we can expect with the new electrified R8: the same dominating performance and great styling in one perfect package. Is this the future we can live with? Of course, we’ll have to deal with sacrificing a naturally aspirated V10, which will take some time to get used to.
But, if the replacement is an electric car that’s just as fast, is that really all that bad?
What Is the R8? What Makes It Special?
So, this is the hard part of the article where I have to talk about all the things that make the R8 so special. Firstly, it’s a traditional supercar, mid-engined, loud as hell, and as fast (if not faster) than anything on the road.
The V10 power plant is a complete screamer and really shows its Italian heart doing what it does best. The V8 also makes a great argument for itself, having a nasty grunt that’s sure to please any driver, especially with that redline of 8,700 RPM that makes a lot of other performance cars blush. I know that mine puts a big smile on my face every time I drive it. And we need to bring it up again: there’s a gated manual available as well. That combined with either the V8 or the V10 is a winning combination.
The R8 continued that string of excellence on the inside. Audi, if you weren’t aware, has been making luxury cars for a long time. Their interiors are all so well thought out with premium materials throughout the cabin. All of this applies to the R8 as well. It has leather seats, soft-touch surfaces, and premium features are all over the R8’s cabin. Sure, there are a few parts bin bits sprinkled in, like the radio, turn signal, and wiper stalks, but, overall, the interior is sublime and feels every bit as special as it ought to.
And, because it’s engineered by Germans, everything works the way it’s supposed to. The Lamborghini powerplant doesn’t mean you have to suffer the same Lamborghini drawbacks. The air conditioning will blow cold air when you want it to, the satellite navigation will get you where you want to go, and there’s actual headroom!
The R8 also just looks so good. The first generation is shaped like a well-tailored suit and the second generation looks like a lethal weapon. The R8 is special enough to be in Tony Stark’s garage as well. The more eagle-eyed viewers could easily see the R8 making itself at home in the superhero’s garage in all three Iron Man movies. It turns out only Stark is cool enough for the R8. The other Avengers just don’t cut it.
There’s something about this car that makes it feel like an underdog. No one expected Audi to make the R8 when they did. Their last sportscar was the Quattro from the 80s. And, since then, they have been putting out concepts with no real attempt at something serious.
I mean, the TT was really cool and all, but a bonified sports car, it was not. It was really just a spiced-up Golf underneath it all. Then, they made the LeMans concept and followed through with one of the most well-sorted supercars of the late 2000s.
Out of left field, Audi of all companies came out with a banger of a supercar. It does it all. It’s pretty, sounds great, performs fantastically, and puts smiles on drivers, passengers, and onlookers. Have we established that we like the R8?