2017 Audi R8 First Drive – Ideally Just What You Want!

Audi’s four-wheeled shark, the 2012 R8 GT, gets some more detailed coverage and spends some time with former F1 driver and Le Mans-winning Audi endurance racer, Emmanuele Pirro, in this final pair of R8 GT Week videos. Along the way, we get some great shots of the R8 GT in action.

We also get a closer look at some of the work Audi put into the R8 to turn it into the R8 GT, including a 20-pound savings with the battery, a 17-pound savings through a lighter rear bumper, and another 17-pounds saved with lighter carpet, plus plenty of carbon fiber. Check ’em out, then hit up our Audi R8 GT preview for all of the details. Unfortunately, unless you’re one of the 90 U.S. buyers already signed up for the $196,800 supercar, you’re out of luck–they’re all sold.

There’s driving, and then there’s driving a car that thinks it’s a racer. Thing is, the Audi R8 has the credentials to back that up, born from an unmistakably noble family of champions and given the same name as a Le Mans winning sports car. For the 2017 R8, Audi turned to the same engineering team that developed the Nurburgring 24 Hours-winning R8 LMS race car, including half a shared parts bucket. It’s something I found hard to forget when Audi invited SlashGear to Portugal, to be among the first to try the new R8 on the track.

“Motorsport is in Audi’s DNA, it is part of the brand’s character,” said Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, head of Audi’s technical development. “No other model of ours evokes more dynamic emotion; none is closer to a race car.”

Originally launched in 2007, and borrowing aluminum monocoque construction among other things from Audi’s racing stable, the R8 quickly gained a reputation for combining everyday usability with true supercar performance.

Several iterations followed, including an all-electric R8 e-tron, until Audi introduced the second-generation version, which will launch in the US as a model year 2017 car, at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.

Audi has redesigned the cabin for the 2017 car, and while in some places the changes are minor, they add up to a fantastic, driver-focused feel. The R8 is all about the driver, and nowhere is that illustrated better inside than the wheel.

ptional on the R8 V10 but standard on the R8 V10 plus is a performance leather steering wheel; it does so much more than merely change direction, however.

Dedicated buttons for the core driving features, along with multifunction keys and scrollers for navigating through menus and settings are arranged around the wheel’s grips. It may look complex initially, but after a little driving the main keys fall to hand quickly, and you rarely have to look away from the road.

Of everything the wheel offers, the four most important controls might well be the button for Drive Select mode, the ignition on the right, the switchable exhaust key below that, and finally the checkered flag button which summons your pre-saved dynamic preferences.

Another press takes you to Individual mode, which offers auto, comfort, and dynamic profiles with custom settings for dampers, engine, and steering. The Dynamic holds the lower gears longer, meaning the engine is right in the midst of its power band and ready to go at the slightest squeeze of the throttle.

Carving through the curvy backroads of Portugal, the R8 felt sharp as a razor, and sufficiently poised so that, even on an unfamiliar route, car can be pushed hard. Key to that is Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive, which I’m convinced remains one of the auto industry’s marvels.

By now, you may have heard about the Audi Virtual Cockpit. First introduced in the TT/TTS, and recently made available on the 2017 Q7, the analog instruments of the driver’s display are replaced with a gorgeous 12.3-inch LCD with a resolution of 1,440 x 540 pixels.

Audi’s MMI navigation and touch system comes standard on both the R8 V10 and the V10 plus, and there’s Audi Connect for wireless connectivity on the move. Keeping things running is the new MIB 2 NVIDIA Tegra 30 chipset, good for 8-billion computations per second.

All that processing power is put to good use. Imagine cruising around in a foreign country without a nav system; that spells disaster. Audi’s real-time Google Earth-based nav is best-in-class, and it’s placed right alongside the tach and speedometer.

For what it’s worth, Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal was a beast to tackle day or night. Over the course of eight laps, five for daytime driving and three for night, I got to explore some of the R8 V10 and V10 plus’ real performance abilities.

One such thing is launch control. On the steering wheel, hit the checker flag mode button to activate it; that turns off traction control, too. Press on the brake pedal with your left foot, stomp all the way down on the gas pedal with your right, and then… let go of the brake. You should hold on because you’re in for a wild ride.

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