The Takeaway: Audi’s 2022 R8 RWD is one of the most interesting supercars I’ve ever driven. It’s all things to all who can afford it. It can be quiet and civilized around town, yet raw and vicious on backroads—thanks to clever engineering.
- Base Price: $148,700 ($187,095 as tested)
- Engine: 5.2-liter V10
- Horsepower: 562 hp
- Torque: 406 lb-ft
- 0-60 time: 3.4 seconds
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
- Top speed: 204 mph
You’re probably surprised to see a supercar review start by mentioning practicality. These machines have a track record of being anything but. However, the R8 is genuinely usable as an everyday supercar. When you’re not giving it the beans, it’s pretty easy to live with on a day-to-day basis—though that’s not to say it’s a no-compromises daily driver.
Keen supercar enthusiasts will note that it doesn’t have a front axle lift. This feature has become a staple on most supercars, lifting the nose to avoid scraping it on steep approaches—think of situations like a driveway, harsh curb cut, or even an uphill intersection. However, the R8 simply doesn’t need this because the front end is already tall enough that it clears most of these obstacles. Sure, it wasn’t a catch-all—there were still a couple of intersections I had to slow down and attack at an angle—but these were few and far between.
Along with the surprising ground clearance up front, the R8 itself is actually quite a small supercar. It’s not much bigger than my Volkswagen Golf GTI daily driver—omitting height, obviously. This means that it can shoot gaps in and around town with no worries. Its petite dimensions also made parking in our tight, awkward garage space an absolute breeze.
My only complaint is that the car could be quite harsh at times in low-speed stop-start situations. Approaching or leaving an intersection sometimes required a bit more precision on the pedals to avoid throwing your passenger through the windshield. While inching towards an intersection, the carbon ceramic brakes tended to be really grabby when cold.
However, all of this is not to say that Audi’s R8 isn’t inherently a supercar.
10-Cylinder Aural Experience
When you buy an Audi R8, you’re getting many things for your dollar. However, its 5.2-liter V10 engine that revs to 10,000 rpm is a significant piece of its supercar puzzle. It’s the same powerplant that you get in the Lamborghini Huracan, and it’s an absolute tour de force. It triumphantly converts gasoline into noise, celebrating the occasion with one of the most special exhaust notes I’ve ever heard.
V10s have a special aura that us car enthusiasts often swoon over. It’s hard to put a finger on why they occupy such rarified air, but part of the appeal is their complex tone. Sure, V8s can be brash, too, but they are often just in your face all the time when you have your foot hard down.
Meanwhile, the V10 in Audi’s R8 supercar sounds feral, almost like a wild animal that’s angry about something. I’ve never driven a car that makes so many different noises while climbing through the rev range: It growls low-down in the revs, snarls in the middle, and roars at the top.
Part of the supercar’s special sauce is its mid-engined layout with the powerplant mounted behind the cockpit. Not only does this allow the V10 to be put on display at all times, but it also allows those in the cockpit to better hear its song. Part of the complexity of the supercar’s soundtrack is that you’re hearing induction noise (from the airbox) as well as the engine note itself from the exhaust.
An Interior Fit For a Driver
The living quarters of any high-dollar luxury cruiser or supercar always have a very particular feel. However, if the interior of Bentley’s Flying Spur aims to replicate the lobby of a luxury hotel, the inside of the R8 feels like the cockpit of a fighter jet.
A quick look at the steering wheel shows buttons galore, with four driver-select toggles located under all of the media controls that you’d expect on a modern automobile. The most important is the push-button start, while the other three cycle through the drive modes, open or close the valved exhaust, and engage performance-mode. It doesn’t necessarily make you feel like a Formula 1 driver, but it definitely makes you feel special.
Another focal point of the R8’s interior is the lack of any central infotainment system. Instead of the borderline iPad tablet expected in modern sportscars, you get some vents and air conditioning controls. Very minor things for such a high-dollar supercar, but physical temperature controls are refreshing in this modern climate of replacing tactile controls with touch-sensitive alternatives.
It’s no surprise that the R8 is most at home on a racetrack. What do you expect—it’s a purebred supercar with over 500 horsepower. The best we could do here in Pennsylvania—while obeying all traffic safety laws—was to let the R8 stretch its legs around some of the excellent ribbons of tarmac surrounding our eastern Pennsylvania office.
While the R8 is definitely daily drivable, it still feels like it’s a racehorse waiting to giddy up. Once you do lay into the loud pedal, the initial response is sharp and the powerband is buttery smooth. Each gear just feels endless—it pulls hard until redline, continuing the same process in basically every gear.
Clicking through the gears with Audi’s S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox is an absolute joy, with near-instant changes. With any gear selected, the next is already going at speed and waiting to be engaged; the transmission has two shafts with even and odd gears on them—which can be meshed through a multi-plate clutch in the blink of an eye.
Powerful cars are great, but propulsion needs to be balanced with stopping power. Thankfully, our tester has been optioned out with Audi’s Dynamic Package, which adds carbon-ceramic brakes in the front and rear. Spoiler alert: you need to prepare yourself before dropping anchor in the R8. Everyone talks about the V10 powertrain being the focal point of this car, but honestly, the brakes are super underrated.
Gone But Not Forgotten
One way or another, 2023 will be the last year of the internal combustion R8. Audi has mentioned plans to give the supercar a proper send-off with one last special-edition model. In the meantime, Audi’s E-Tron GT RS will no doubt be able to match (or possibly beat) the R8 in a drag race. However, the experience of driving the two vehicles couldn't be more different given the lack of the V10’s sensory attack on your ear drums.
There’s talk that the R8’s replacement could use a hybrid powertrain to expand its power output. However, this is a big ask with the last hoorah due mere months away. A stripped-down, pumped-up RS variant with slightly more power combined with more aerodynamic appendages—producing extra downforce—is more plausible.
Either way, Audi says the R8’s replacement will most definitely be electric. And I don’t think that’s a massive deal—as long as they can capture the spirit of the original. Electric supercars (and hypercars) are still in their infancy and we have so much to learn.
Matt Crisara is a native Austinite who has an unbridled passion for cars and motorsports, both foreign and domestic, and as the Autos Editor for Popular Mechanics, he writes the majority of automotive coverage across digital and print. He was previously a contributing writer for Motor1 following internships at Circuit Of The Americas F1 Track and Speed City, an Austin radio broadcaster focused on the world of motor racing. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he raced mountain bikes with the University Club Team. When he isn’t working, he enjoys sim-racing, FPV drones, and the great outdoors.