With a whopper of a V-10 engine mounted behind its high-tech cabin, the 2021 R8 is Audi’s halo car. It shares its engine and mechanics with the raucous Lamborghini Huracán, but the R8’s tamer personality and looks make a subtler statement. That can be a good or bad thing depending on what you have in mind for your six-figure supercar. With as much as 602 horsepower on tap, the R8 truly flies, and the exhaust note will send shivers down your spine. Inside, all of Audi’s coolest tech features are on display, including a reconfigurable digital gauge cluster with standard built-in navigation. Fine materials are used throughout and make the cabin feel on par with the R8’s asking price.
What’s New for 2021?
Audi has introduced rear-wheel drive on the 532-hp entry-level versions of the coupe and Spyder. This setup replaces last year’s base offerings, which came with a 562-hp V-10 and all-wheel drive. Now, in order to get all-wheel drive, you must step up to the more expensive and more powerful R8 Performance models, which make 602 horses.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The R8’s V-10 engine is offered in two strengths, both potent enough to knock the wind out of unsuspecting passengers and capable of searing your eardrums with their otherworldly exhalations. The R8’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic isn’t exactly the smoothest gearbox, though. It occasionally downshifts too abruptly and perhaps too deeply, causing neck-snapping acceleration followed by an almost immediate upshift to a higher gear. The base R8 comes standard with an adaptive suspension, while Performance models are fitted with a more aggressive fixed-damper setup. Both soak up bumps admirably and provide a comfortable ride that you could tolerate without fatigue on long trips. The R8’s supple nature comes with a drawback, however: In full-attack mode, it simply doesn’t handle corners as confidently as its rivals, and sometimes it feels more unsettled than you’d expect a supercar to be. The standard steering setup is direct and relays information from the road to the driver’s hands with sufficient feel.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
An economical choice it is not. But does that really matter? For the record, all-wheel-drive R8 variants, regardless of roof type or horsepower rating, have the same EPA estimates for fuel economy—but they aren’t impressive. In fact, the R8’s fuel-economy numbers (13 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway, if you really want to know) are so low that all buyers must pay a $1700 gas-guzzler tax as part of the sale price. So be it.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Minimalism never felt so luxurious. By having the instrument cluster double as the infotainment screen, Audi provides a refreshingly simple layout and lets the beautifully sculpted sport seats and high-resolution digital gauge cluster take center stage in the R8’s cockpit. Audi allows for quite a bit of customization when it comes to interior colors and textures: Black, gray, brown, and red leather are offered in either a flat or quilted pattern and with matching or contrast stitching. Overall, it’s a beautifully executed cockpit with easy-to-reach controls, including slick features such as the ignition button located on the steering wheel. No one buys a supercar for its practicality, and the R8 doesn’t buck the segment trend by offering real cargo capacity. In our testing, it provided space for just one of our carry-on suitcases, so pack light.