2022 Audi R8 RWD Performance review: Still an exciting motoring experience

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SINGAPORE - Driving the Audi R8 is like being in a mosh pit. It’s a noisy, intense, sometimes violent experience, and will undoubtedly piss those who aren’t in it, off. Even if you are wracked by environmental guilt after, there is no denying the silly smile plastered onto your face.

We covered the Audi R8 last year, when we drove the topless Spyder version, and used the same rock and roll metaphor. But driving it again in its final form for Singapore just hammers home what an exciting sports car the R8 is, even as it sings its swan song and shuffles off to the Great Rig In The Sky. 

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In contrast to the Spyder we drove last year, this version of the R8 is more hardcore. It’s not as hard core as the 333 unit final edition, the R8 GT (none for Singapore, apparently), but the ‘Performance’ tag means it has 570hp rather than 550hp, and is 0.1 seconds quicker in the 0-100km/h blitz.

The whole idea for enthusiast drivers is that rear-wheel drive should offer a more engaged, plugged-in driving experience, at the expense of accelerative performance and the quattro safety net.

The R8 Spyder ‘non Performance’ RWD we tested last year.
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With regards to that, Audi will offer only the RWD models here for the R8’s long goodbye, a pity since the quattro version was one of the quickest point-to-point cars we tested, but presumably it would add too much to the cost (more on that at the end).

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This is still the second-gen model, in typical sports car fashion it hasn’t been radically changed since it debuted in 2015. Not a bad thing, and seven years isn’t even that long in sports cardom, if you check around.

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The R8 looks fast standing still, despite it being yellow and not red. Its best angle is the rear ¾, where you see the wide, flat posterior and huge dual exhausts (what I lovingly call the Devil’s Bungholes) and the clear window putting the dual cylinder covers of the V10 engine on dramatic display.

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Slipping into the low slung cabin requires effort, but isn’t particularly difficult – no high sills or awkward bucket seats to trip you up – which reflects the first R8 (2006) and its original ‘everyday-sportscar/911-competitor’ ethos.

There’s sport seats, lots of carbon, a real gearshifter, and not much space: There’s more room behind the seats than the Spyder – 226-litres. You can carry quite a bit if you try hard, and especially if your passenger is vertically-challenged. The frunk can take 112-litres.

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You can tell the R8 comes From Another Time because there are manual aircon controls and proper air vents, which preface the fact that it doesn’t have a touchscreen. We recap all of this in the Spyder review, but it suffices to say this could give the younger members of the CarBuyer team a mini-aneursym.

But we’re also very glad the R8 holds onto the rotary Audi Multimedia Interface dial, since the R8 is most certainly the kind of car you do not want to drive with one hand while desperately mistyping ‘Telik Blanguh’.

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The V10 is a real piece of work, even if just a year has gone by since we last experienced it. We’ve gone from the Naturally-Aspirated Era, to the New Turbo Era, and now the Electrified Age. While the 5.2-litre V10 is from another era, in this day and age, the lack of turbocharging and hybrid tech almost becomes a middle finger to environmental concerns.

That, depending on the owner, is either a Very Good/Bad Thing. 

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That means it’s magnificent. Hold a gear and gun it and it’ll start jumping and jiving, but then it comes on-cam around 5,000rpm and really starts to wail, back off as you realise you’ll fry your licence and you’re rewarded with a chorus of pops and bangs. EVs may be many things, but I can confidently say they will never be this aurally pleasing.

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Take things down a notch, or ten, and the R8 is still very much capable of the daily grind if you activate comfort mode, it’s content to pootle along without menacing you into breaking multiple laws, though not many will resist the siren song of the 5.2-litre V10.

It’s an expensive song though, since the beast needs feeding. There’s no hybrid system, unless you count basic start-stop functionality, and we never saw anything better than 18.0L/100km.

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The V10 is a real piece of work, even if just a year has gone by since we last experienced it. We’ve gone from the Naturally-Aspirated Era, to the New Turbo Era, and now the Electrified Age. While the 5.2-litre V10 is from another era, in this day and age, the lack of turbocharging and hybrid tech almost becomes a middle finger to environmental concerns.

That, depending on the owner, is either a Very Good/Bad Thing. 

PHOTO: CarBuyer

That means it’s magnificent. Hold a gear and gun it and it’ll start jumping and jiving, but then it comes on-cam around 5,000rpm and really starts to wail, back off as you realise you’ll fry your licence and you’re rewarded with a chorus of pops and bangs. EVs may be many things, but I can confidently say they will never be this aurally pleasing.s

PHOTO: CarBuyer

Take things down a notch, or ten, and the R8 is still very much capable of the daily grind if you activate comfort mode, it’s content to pootle along without menacing you into breaking multiple laws, though not many will resist the siren song of the 5.2-litre V10.

It’s an expensive song though, since the beast needs feeding. There’s no hybrid system, unless you count basic start-stop functionality, and we never saw anything better than 18.0L/100km.

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But another thing still holds true in 2022 as it did in 2006 : The R8 is actually decent in terms of sticker price. First off, keep in mind we’re in an era when a Bentley Flying Spur costs a million bucks and more.

As pace and grip go, the R8 is fast, but it’s not quite on par with the latest breed of turbo/electro monsters: Maserati’s MC20 is a little more expensive, has a turbo V6 which also sounds very good, but still isn’t NA. 

Ferrari’s PHEV 296 GTB is the great green hope for sportscars and is hopeless, crazily fast, but should cost almost twice as much as the R8. Porsche’s 911 GT3 is the original maestro in the Puristic Expression of Germanic Sport Dynamism mode, though at S$760k without a COE or options, it’s quite a bit more costly. 

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The analog ‘slowness’ of the R8 does have the benefit of a driver being able to hear more of the V10 without being too illegal, though they’ll certainly look and sound it. It also reinforces the idea of an R8 as an analogue, naturally-aspirated expression of driving joy in an increasingly obvious environmental/social backdrop.

To use another musical metaphor, it’s original thrash metal to the PHEV supercars’ industrial-speed metal.

The thing is, Hetfield and Co. never had to worry that their guitars were killing anything but peoples’ hearing. If you want to live fast with the R8 we can suggest reigning in the blood – why not get an R8 and give up burgers? The cows will be happy, you’ll be happy, and your neighbours won’t. 

Audi R8 Coupe V10 Performance RWD 

Engine 5,204cc, V10
Power 570hp at 8000rpm
Torque 550hp at 6400rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch 
0-100km/h 3.7 seconds 
Top Speed 329km/h
Fuel Efficiency 13.5L/100km
VES Band / modifier C2 / +S$25,000
Agent Premium Automobiles
Price $771,036 with COE
Availability Now
Verdict  Rear wheel drive, more than enough power, and proper top-down driving thrills make Audi’s R8 RWD a thrilling throwback worth owning

This article was first published in CarBuyer.