Why We Love the 2019 Audi R8, the World’s Subtlest Supercar

In 2006, Audi introduced its R8 supercar based on the Lamborghini Gallardo, a mix of Italian exoticism and Teutonic restraint. It’s a mid-engined, AWD daily driver capable of blending in when necessary or blasting off as required. A bit of an oddity when it first debuted, by the time Tony Stark climbed out of one in 2008’s Iron Man, the R8’s icon status was assured.

More than a decade later, the R8’s platform is now shared by the luscious Lamborghini Huracán, though its outward styling remains pretty true to the original, mainly on account of its menacing front grille and signature “sideblades,” the (now slightly scaled-back) air intakes that instantly identify it as capable of extreme measures. Sharing almost 50% of its parts with Audi’s track-destroying R8 GT3 LMS race car, it’s a true wolf in sheep’s clothing, and we recently got behind the wheel for a week of serious fun.

The model we were given the keys to — the top-line R8 V10 Plus Quattro S Coupe — lost some of the car’s signature subtlety thanks to a Tango Red Metallic paint job and carbon fiber accents on the spoiler, diffuser and sideblades. Not to mention its upgraded 5.2-liter FSI dual-injection V10 engine, rated at 602 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. This variant has a base price of $194,400, though ours topped $215,000 thanks to 20” alloy wheels, a diamond-stitched full leather interior with carbon-fiber inlays and a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system.

2019 Audi R8 V10 Coupe Review (3 images)

Inside, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit combines a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument display with a steering wheel setup straight out of a track car, bedecked with buttons and hefty paddle shifters. The Audi Drive Select function literally lets you change the R8’s personality in an instant by switching between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Performance modes. It’s in line with the versatility that has made supercars such as this and the epic Ferrari 488 GTB such a pleasure to drive on everything from a winding country road to Midtown Manhattan. (Pro tip: toggle on the sport exhaust to get the full benefit of the car’s considerable vocal capabilities).

The R8 V10 Plus Quattro S was sheer enjoyment from the moment we pushed the big red START button and unleashed its 600 horses. The power was beautifully controlled, as you’d expect of any vehicle bearing the famed Audi Quattro badge. Six-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx has described it as “the best handling road car today,” and as we blissfully buzzed our way up the coast of Maine, we had no reason to argue. That said, you’ll never forget that this is a car capable of doing 0-60 in just 2.6 seconds — faster than a Bugatti Veyron — on its way to a highly illegal 207 mph.

Our man David Jacob captured some video of our test drive (see below) so you can get a feel for what it’s like to pilot the R8, a serious rival to the Huracán and just as likely to draw envious glances — though not nearly so many dirty looks.

All images via Jared Paul Stern