2022 Audi R8 V-10 Performance RWD First Test Review: On the Brink of Extinction

2022 Audi R8 V-10 Performance RWD First Test Review: On the Brink of Extinction

06/17/2022

Pros

  • Outstanding engine
  • Epic handling
  • Surprisingly good day-to-day practicality

 Cons

  • Sluggish transmission
  • Poorly thought-out dynamic steering system
  • Convertible’s lumpy looks

The freshly refreshed 2022 Audi R8 is among the last of a car breed that is not merely dying, but pretty well dead: the naturally aspirated supercar. To drive it on a curvy road is to live out an ages-old sports-car fantasy of instantaneous power, Velcro-like grip, and the ability to snap the tail out at will, all to the accompaniment of an 8,700-rpm V-10 screaming out a song you’ll hear in your dreams for years to come. Given the coming rarity of cars like this, it’s easy to overlook the R8’s flaws. We’ll try our best not to get sappy, but forgive us a little sentimentality along the way.

Audi R8 V-10: End of an Era

The R8’s centerpiece is its 5.2-liter V-10, which not only lacks any sort of electrification but doesn’t even have turbochargers. Wait, why did we write that word in the plural? Because in the context of supercars, multiple turbos are the norm. Not here; the rear-drive version of the R8 serves up its 562 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque (up 30 hp and 8 lb-ft from the 2021 rear-drive model) while relying on nothing but its pistons’ ability to create suction on the intake stroke. This is power made the old-fashioned way, provided you’re young enough to consider direct fuel injection and variable valve timing old-fashioned.

Even the cabin is a bit of a throwback. Most notable is its lack of a center screen—when was the last time you saw a car without one of those? Mind you, the 2022 Audi R8 does have moving-map navigation and a backup camera (it’s old-fashioned, but not primitive), with displays on the instrument cluster. No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though; after all, we’re here to drive, not to play Subway Surfers.

If all that isn’t puritanical enough for you, consider the fact that the R8s we drove—both coupe and convertible versions, though we only put the former through our test process—don’t even have all-wheel drive. Quattro-equipped R8s are even more powerful, offering 602 hp and 413 lb-ft, and with shorter ratios in the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission’s top five gears.

On the Test Track: RWD vs. AWD

Does the 2022 Audi R8 RWD’s power deficit make a difference? It did at the test track. We engaged the most aggressive chassis setting (called Performance Dry—oh, those Germans, so literal!) and launch mode, which held the engine revs just north of 3,000 for the launch. The R8 was off like a rocket; 60 mph came up in 3.2 seconds. That’s an impressive number, but it loses a bit of its luster when you realize the last all-wheel-drive R8 Performance we tested did the run in 2.6. We’re sure we lost some time to the very audible wheelspin, but we thought the drama was a worthwhile trade-off for the slower pace.

The R8 Coupe we tested was equipped with the $12,900 Dynamic package, which notably sharpened its responses on the road and in our handling tests. We measured 0.98 g (average) of lateral grip on the skidpad and set a lap of 23.8 seconds at 0.83 g through our figure-eight course, trailing the all-wheel-drive version by just 0.3 second. The chassis balance was magical, with minimal understeer, nary a threat of oversteer, and just a slight wiggle-slide of the tail on corner exit. The track-oriented carbon-ceramic brakes warmed up quickly and drew the coupe down from 60 mph in 112 feet.

Does the R8 Need the Dynamic Package?

Along with the coupe, we sampled a convertible R8 Performance Spyder that lacked the Dynamic package, and we were surprised (and not entirely displeased) at the differences between the two chassis setups. The Dynamic-equipped coupe is a true sports car, with a notably firmer ride and better control of body movements over bumps. No matter which mode we chose, the R8 Coupe stayed firmly planted, even with Performance Dry mode selected, but it swung its tail out when driven aggressively.

However, outside of the test track, we apparently didn’t drive aggressively enough to keep the brakes at an ideal temperature. They felt rather grabby, reminding us that sometimes track-oriented performance features are best left at the track. Our coupe test car also featured the $1,400 Dynamic Steering system, which alters the steering ratio based on speed. A noble idea, perhaps, but poorly executed—we found if we drove too close to the speed where the ratios switch, the steering could be unpredictable, and we had no idea how much (or little) input we’d have to give.

Without the Dynamic package, the R8 Spyder was more of a grand tourer. Although its structure felt stiff as a girder, the ride was significantly softer than that of the coupe, to the point that the dampers sometimes had a difficult time keeping body motions in check. Selecting Performance Dry mode stiffened up the suspension noticeably, and in the Spyder it made a big difference in chassis balance. When it was switched on, the R8 Spyder would happily swing out its tail; switched off, the car stayed on course like an all-wheel-drive Audi. Without the Dynamic Steering and ceramic brakes, the car had better wheel and pedal feel at our more tepid real-world pace. The Dynamic package is a must-have for those who take their R8 to the track, but if you want it for the streets, you might choose to give it a pass. Either way, we recommend steering clear of the Dynamic Steering package.

Best and Worst Aspects: Engine and Transmission

What both versions had in common is the 2022 Audi R8’s best feature: the naturally aspirated V-10. Augmented in both cars by the $3,600 Sport Exhaust package—a must-have—the V-10 shouts out a mighty bellow that will kick any car fanatic’s adrenal glands into passing gear. We found ourselves using the paddle shifters to change gears at the most inappropriate times simply to hear the engine’s scream and the booming and popping of the exhaust echoing against canyon walls. There may be cars that sound as good as the Audi R8 V-10 Performance, but there are few that sound better.

Oh, yes, the paddle shifters—this leads us from the R8’s best aspect to what may well be its worst, which is the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. We used the paddles not just for grins but out of necessity, because with Sport mode selected, the gearbox always seemed to be about a half-second behind our needs and desires, an accusation we never thought we’d lob at an Audi.

As sluggish as the transmission was in Sport mode, its performance in Normal mode was even worse. We know what some of you are thinking: “Who the hell cares? Why drive an Audi R8 in anything but Sport mode?”

Tangent time: One of the R8’s greatest aspects is how well it works in everyday driving. Look around on the Audi’s dash, and you won’t find a nose-lift button. Know why? The R8 doesn’t need one. As low as it sits to the ground, it never seems to scrape on driveways or speed bumps. By supercar standards, the R8 is (fairly) easy to get into and out of, and it offers good visibility. It runs smoothly even when cold, and with all the buttons in normal mode it’s quiet and unobtrusive. It’s one of the only supercars that is truly practical as a daily driver.

Except, that is, for the transmission, which all but refuses to perform part-throttle downshifts in Normal mode. Problem is, the V-10 provides its power at higher revs, and without a downshift it delivers only casual acceleration. To command a downshift, you must push the accelerator nearly to the floor, which causes the R8 to buck, pause, then kick like a mule, with all its power coming on in a shouty rage that threatens to launch it into the car ahead. Enabling Sport mode allows part-throttle downshifts, but it also forces the transmission into lower gears when you’re just cruising along—and it turns up the noise. This behavior set means you can drive like an ol’ granny or you can drive like a maniac; there’s no middle ground. We expect that from the R8’s unruly cousin, the Lamborghini Huracán, but not the more mature R8.

End of an Era

Still, for those flaws, the Audi R8 Performance RWD is pretty darn wonderful. Which to pick, coupe or convertible? We love a good drop-top, but the R8 coupe is a far prettier car; the R8 Spyder looks awkward with the top up and, worse yet, hides the V-10 entirely from view. We much prefer seeing the engine displayed beneath glass in the coupe. A tough decision, but the coupe wins hands-down as an objet d’art.

The real winner in all this is the person who buys a 2022 Audi R8 V-10 Performance RWD. We repeatedly returned to our favorite curvy road, where we’d drive the R8 hard and then stop for repose, ears ringing, nostrils filled with the hot-oil smell of a car run hard. These are sensations we will miss. We already know Audi’s new E-Tron GT RS can match the R8’s performance, in glorious silence and without bad transmission behavior. (The only reason it isn’t even faster is because the VW Group saved the best performance for the Porsche-branded Taycan.) But no electric car can match the R8’s sound and fury, and we thought a lot about how much we’ll miss that—and then we quit thinking. With time running short, we were far better off simply driving the R8 some more, as much as we could, before we had to send it back to Audi.

Hot Reads

  • How Much Is a Tesla? Here’s a Price Breakdown
  • Difference Between Cross-Plane and Flat-Plane Cranks
  • New Details on Hoonigan’s Mad Build: an Eighties Subaru Wagon With 862 HP!!!
  • Your $55,000 HPD Honda Civic Si Factory Race Car Has Arrived
  • 2022 Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4Matic+ First Test: It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

Source: Read Full Article