Audi R8 For Dummies: Evolution Of The Bargain Supercar

iron man audi r8

Have you ever asked yourself, “How did Iron Man get so cool?” Or maybe, “What should I look for in a cheap and reliable supercar?” One that you can use daily? One your friend had as a poster hanging on their bedroom wall! Yes, I know, these are the important questions we ask ourselves every day. That’s why we’re bringing you a comprehensive guide to go over the what, why, and how of the Audi R8!

What is the R8, why it came to be, and how it changed throughout the years. Think of this as a “Car Guide for Dummies”. Yeah, the Audi R8 For Dummies! And this do-it-all bargain supercar, which joined our list of dream cars after it hit harder than a bass drop when it first was revealed over a decade ago is the hero in today’s article!

So, buckle up, and lets dig into why the Audi R8 is one of the best bang-for-your-buck, multipurpose supercars available today!

Quattro Beginnings  – AWD Genesis

audi quattro group b rally car
Rally Group B Shrine

Before we properly get into the R8, we think we should take you back to the start of Audi’s Quattro origins. Audi has always had a bit of a gap in their lineup. They had sedans, wagons, and even the sporty Quattro coupe. But there was never a flagship car, something that would blow everything else out of the water.

The Quattro was a major part of the formula, establishing Audi’s place in the performance car market and in motorsports. If you know anything about rallying, then you know how the rest of the story plays out. The Quattro goes on to dominate, Group B becomes a thing, Group B goes away, and Quattro lives on in all Audi models.

Even with all this, Audi was hesitant to dive head-first into the bigboy’s pool. This changed with Audi’s acquisition of Lamborghini in 1998. With a new Italian parts bin to play with, Audi had the plan to first dig Lamborghini out of near financial ruin with the coming Gallardo, and to come up with their own supercar.

Audi R8 First Generation – German Gallardo

first generation audi r8
Audi MediaCenter

So, after their domination and eventual departure from rallysport, Audi’s presence in the motorsports world dwindled away. However, in the early 2000’s, the German brand started to take it to competition on the race track. There wouldn’t be any dirt paths or near misses with spectators, though, because Audi was dominating at Le Mans. This success only added fuel to the fire that was building in Audi’s concept development department.

In 2003, they premiered the Le Mans Quattro concept car as their first mid-engined supercar. And guess what, a star was born! Now, you know when a concept car comes out and it looks really cool, like the Scion TC concept car with those billionaire doors, and then the reality, the far tamer mass-produced model that carried over maybe like 5% of the design language. Well, the R8 concept, ladies and gentlemen, looked like absolutely as stunning as it should’ve.

And, as you know, the production version of the R8 looked nearly identical to the concept when it finally hit production in 2007. Yes, the insane twin-turbo V10 engine was replaced with a more mild version of Audi’s naturally-aspirated 4.2-liter V8. That mill was plucked from an Ideal favorite, the B7 RS4.

So, power was a little more reasonable at 420 horsepower with 317 pound-feet of torque being sent to all four wheels thanks to Audi’s Quattro system. And I don’t know if you’ve ever heard one straight-piped, but it is a sound your neighbors will thoroughly enjoy! 

Now, there were a couple of different shifting options that you could choose from. First, you had the six-speed R-Tronic auto, which isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It just is more of an acquired taste. But our friend JackUltraMotive has it in his R8 and I don’t hear him complaining one bit! But, of course, if you’re out there to save the manuals, there is the piece de resistance, a six-speed gated manual transmission. And I guess you can teach a German dog new tricks, because Audi finally learned how to be as cool as Ferrari, and since Audi was founded in 1932, it only took them some 90 odd years!

Now, the first generation R8 is a literal grab bag of cheap supercar goodness. We found a few V8 examples for around $60,000 on Cars.com, which isn’t bad for a head-turning supercar. Heck, I spent more on my fiance’s Jeep, and it’s a Chrysler product, not a fine German automobile. But, if we teleport back to 2008 when the V8 R8 was new, you’d be looking at dropping roughly $120,000 to start, plus more monies for any extra features. That means you’ll more than likely be able to score one for half of its original value!

The V8 was the only available powerplant for the first couple years, which was not a bad thing, but it didn’t exactly have supercar performance. Luckily, Audi had a nasty naturally-aspirated trick up their sleeve.

Refresh and the Spyder – Enter the V10

audi r8 coupe v10 engine
CAR Magazine

So that was it. The R8 was here, and here to stay. It also made great impressions wherever it went. It looks great, it was fast as hell, and was more practical and user-friendly than anything else in the market.

So, what could they have done to make it better? How does putting a Lamborghini V10 in place of the V8 sound! It sounds absolutely insane! That’s right, Audi decided to take advantage of their recent purchase of Lamborghini to make the R8 a little spicier. The German supercar now made 518 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque out of a slightly detuned version of the Gallardo motor.

The mid-lifecycle R8 also saw the introduction of a Spyder version, for those who liked to hear their V10 scream in full stereo. The Spyder version also added more horsepower to the V8 model to compensate for the added weight to make up for not having a roof. This topless model priced out at around $125,000 when new, but depreciation means you can get one for around $80,000 to $90,000 on the used market.

A third model was birthed in 2011, the R8 GT, with added power for the mighty V10, 35 more horses to be precise, and less weight for more performance prowess. This is the R8 you want to buy if you’re not a racecar driver but you’re down to pretend you’re one on the street. The R8 GT might be the perfect compliment to your childhood dreams. And if you were to buy a new GT model back in 2011, it listed at nearly $200,000. Good thing it’s at a bargain price of $125,000 today!

The practical supercar received a facelift in 2012 and a spicy new model called the V10 Plus was added to the pack. It definitely had a slightly more contemporary exterior, but the big upgrade was with the new S tronic dual-clutch transmission. Again, I’ve spent quality seat time in a single-clutch R tronic transmission R8, and I really enjoyed it. You just have to know how to drive it.

With the S tronic, on the other hand, your grandma could hop in and hit 60 miles per hour in under 4 seconds on her first try! It’s definitely a better transmission, but less raw. And, as we know, all good things have to come to the end, and the last first generation Audi R8’s rolled off the line in 2015, and into the sunset. But, there was a more capable younger brother on the horizon.

The Second Generation – Things Get Angular

2nd generation audi r8
Audi MediaCenter

Yes, the R8 was due for a major overhaul, and it got one with the release of the 2nd generation in 2017. And as good as the first generation was, the 2nd generationwas better in pretty much every single way! Except if you wanted a manual transmission, because that got nixed for the 2nd generation

Still sharing the same bones as its current brother-from-another-mother at Lamborghini, the Huracan, the new R8 had the same 5.2-liter V10 with a bump in horsepower. The standard car came with 533 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, and the R8 V10 Plus had 602 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque.These two models made up the R8 models between the 2015 and 2016 years.

In 2019, the R8 was given an aesthetic refresh and got some added power. The base coupe got 562 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque the second time around, and the newly renamed R8 Coupe Performance Quattro retained the same power as the previous V10 Plus.

This is the current generation of the R8 we still have now, with a new model likely headed our way soon. Because of the way things have been going in the car world, the 3rd generation R8 will probably be a hybrid, with a fully-electric car eventually replacing it.

So, with the 2nd generation R8 we have fewer options, but who’s going to complain about a screaming V10? So, for a cheaper, more base level V10 model you can expect to pay around $135,000. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s a newer model that’s more refined. So, if you want some more matured styling, then this is the way to go.

The Audi R8 – Highlights

audi third generation r8 electric

The R8 is one of the most usable supercars in both the used and new markets. You can really have your cake and eat it too, with great visibility, room in the main cabin and storage for your groceries, and enough comfort for a date night or to pick your favorite kid up from school.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we think the R8 looks professional, and it’s aged very well despite even the first generation being 13 years old. In fact, because it’s still relatively new, but still relatively old, the R8 falls into a cost-effective sweet spot for our savvy viewers.

Plus, and we really don’t think we need to reiterate this, but early models came with a gated manual. Manuals are just plain better, and gated ones are the cream of the crop.

So that’s our “Dummies Guide to the Audi R8”, the Lamborghini with Audi reliability.

Brad Danger
Mr. Danger loves cars, finance and living the Ideal Lifestyle!