The Audi R8 has been one of our favorite exotic sports cars ever since it first went on sale nearly 10 years ago with a striking design and impressive performance. But in recent years, the R8 has been getting a little long in the tooth, so the 2017 Audi R8 is fully redesigned compared to the outgoing model. Or is it? To a casual observer, the latest R8 might look a lot like the outgoing model, so we’ve created a close comparison that details all the key differences between the 2017 R8 and the outgoing model.
Take a quick glance at the new R8, and you’re forgiven for thinking that it looks a lot like the outgoing model. It offers the same distinctive shape and profile, along with the same long, flat hood and the same general dimensions. But if you look closely, you’ll see that the R8’s design has been modernized for 2017, with the sports car adding sharper angles, new headlights and taillights and, most importantly, diminishing the size of the distinctive side blade offered by the previous model. Park the 2017 R8 next to the 2015 model (Audi skipped the 2016 model year), and you’ll instantly see a few noticeable differences between the two.
The R8 offers more immediately noticeable changes on the inside. Specifically, the center-mounted infotainment system is gone — replaced instead by an LCD gauge cluster that tells you everything you need to know. What’s left is a far more bare-bones, driver-focused interior that reminds us a lot of a fighter jet’s cabin, especially with the new steering wheel that’s completely filled with buttons. Additionally, the 2017 R8 touts better interior materials than the outgoing model, with upgrades coming to the door panels, seats and switchgear.
The outgoing R8 offered two engines. Base models used a 4.2-liter V8 that touted 430 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque, which was mated to standard all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Drivers looking for more power could opt for a 5.2-liter V10, which boasted 525 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque or 550 hp and 398 lb-ft. V10 models were also offered with a 6-speed manual or an optional 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The new R8 is offered with only one engine: the V10. The latest R8 now comes standard with a 540-hp version of the 5.2-liter V10, while drivers who upgrade to the Plus can get a monstrous 610 hp. All-wheel drive is once again standard, but the 6-speed manual transmission is gone — replaced entirely by the formerly optional 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Features & Technology
Given the outgoing R8’s relatively old age, the new model makes some serious high-tech leaps over the old version. The biggest and most obvious is the replacement of Audi’s clunky, outdated MMI infotainment system with the new digital gauge cluster — an amazing feature that makes the latest R8 feel downright futuristic. But it doesn’t stop there, as the latest R8 also touts more stereo speakers, in-car Wi-Fi, vastly more adjustable power seats, an improved sport suspension and new keyless access with push-button starting. In other words, the new R8 offers a lot more to play with than the old model.
With that said, the new R8 still isn’t as high-tech as some rivals. Despite its brand-new design and the quick proliferation of modern safety features, the R8 remains without adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic braking and other similar equipment.
Although we haven’t yet driven the new R8, we’ve spent a lot of time in the old model, and we were highly impressed. It offered amazing grip, impressive cornering capabilities and an excellent exhaust note. Acceleration was strong too, even in its slowest form with the V8 and the stick shift.
Speaking of the stick shift, we’re sad to see it go for 2017. Call us curmudgeons, but the 3-pedal R8 was one of the coolest cars on the market, as it was one of the fastest, most powerful and most expensive models still left with a true manual transmission. We know the dual clutch is faster, but we mourn the loss of the true manual.
Given the R8’s low production volume, it hasn’t been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But both the outgoing model and the new R8 offer everything you might expect as standard equipment, including side airbags, anti-lock brakes, parking sensors and a backup camera. Interestingly, as we noted above, neither R8 features any of the latest safety gadgets such as lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, a blind spot monitoring system or rear cross-traffic alert. While we know it isn’t trendy for performance cars to offer such safety aids, we wouldn’t mind at least a blind spot monitoring system, as the R8’s low-slung design makes visibility a bit of a challenge.
Although the 2017 Audi R8 and the outgoing 2015 model look fairly similar, there are some major changes under the skin. The stick shift is gone, the V8 is no more, and the V10 now offers a lot more available hp and some seriously needed technology updates. If you’re looking for an exotic car, you’ll want the new R8 over the old model — even if you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart on the street.