While Audi is predictably keen to portray the R8’s mechanical simplicity as proof of a finely honed dynamic purpose, the reality is more due to how quickly the rest of the supercar segment has moved. The lack of adaptive dampers and the presence of a conventional limited-slip differential practically qualifies the Performance RWD as an analogue contender in an increasingly digital world. And although both the coupé and Spyder versions I drove had carbon-ceramic brakes and Audi’s ratio-tweaking Dynamic Steering, it seems that neither of these will be offered as options in the UK.
You won’t spit out your tea on learning that the V10 remains the starring feature. Audi’s determination to give the R8 a different character from the closely related Lamborghini Huracán means that the mighty engine remains muted at lower speeds and with the switchable exhaust in its quieter mode. Yet its savage side is easily engendered, the engine turning louder and angrier as it gets towards its altitudinous redline, with a ripping, sharper-pitched exhaust note than that of a V8. By 6000rpm, it already sounds better than most junior supercars – Huracán excepted – with nearly another 3000rpm to go before the limiter calls time.
While fractionally slower than the Performance Quattro, it never feels lacking in urge. Audi quotes a 3.7sec 0-62mph time, which is just a tenth of a second slower; and in the more aggressive dynamic modes, the dual-clutch automatic gearbox delivers upshifts with a satisfying savagery.
The V10 lacks low-down torque when compared with more modern turbocharged engines, but it also boasts a much crisper throttle response and the finesse to seemingly add urge one horsepower at a time.
The Spyder I drove on a route comprising mostly narrow mountain roads only felt obviously rear-driven in slower and tighter turns, especially when in the most permissive Performance Dry dynamic setting. This allows a liberal amount of rear-end slip before intervening hard, butthe R8 remains better at sports car finesse than muscle car hoonery, its cornering line more easily tweaked and tucked by gentle inputs and weight transfer than by trying to overwhelm the rear tyres.