2020 Audi R8 V10 Review: Be Honest—You’d Forgotten About It, Right?

The perpetual underdog of the supercar class, Audi’s R8 gets more visually aggro.

If there's such a thing as an unloved supercar, it's the Audi R8. Not because it's not great, but in a way because it's too good. Unlike so many of its counterparts, the R8 isn't hard to drive, or awkward to get in and out of, or prone to unpredictable mechanical and electrical problems—but people have come to expect some of these quirks from the most extreme echelon of automobilia, and the lack of any oddities seems to be a de facto indicator that the R8 isn't part of the club—for some folks, anyway.

Which, of course, is total poppycock. The R8 is among the very best of the supercars, precisely because it's so friendly even with the unholy furor of a high-revving, naturally aspirated V-10 engine located right behind the driver, where it should be. Bonuses: all-wheel drive, excellent poise and balance, and a whole host of visual updates for the 2020 model year, applicable to both the coupe and Spyder convertible variants.

So, what's actually new for the 2020 Audi R8? Mechanically, there's only one significant update: the base R8 V10 gets a 30-hp bump from 532 to 562 horsepower. Unfortunately, we can't tell you what it's like to drive with the extra juice, as Audi only brought top-tier R8 V10 Performance-spec coupes and Spyders for us to try. Other minor mechanical updates for the 2020 R8 include an optional carbon-fiber front anti-roll bar that saves 4.4 pounds over the steel bar (but was not equipped on any of the test vehicles we drove) and a subtle reworking of the R8's steering feel and variable-ratio system based on lessons learned with the rear-drive R8 RWS. The tires are also updated for 2020, with all models riding on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires using a unique-to-Audi compound.

The updates are otherwise primarily visual, with more carbon fiber being available for those so inclined, huge new oval tailpipes that replace the previous trapezoidal tips and bring the R8 in line with Audi's RS range of cars, and new front and rear fascias now stuffed with even more honeycomb grillework. Also new on the front end is a trio of tiny vents located above the huge main inlet and below the frunk's lower lip—another RS signature styling element. Some new appliqué options for the side sills (gloss black on the standard R8 V10, titanium or optional carbon fiber on the R8 V10 Performance). Two new colors join the range, too, with Kemora Gray available on all versions and Ascari Blue an options on R8 V10 Performance variants.

Inside, you'll find new Pastel Silver and Palomino Brown upholstery color options, and a new phone holder with wireless charger in the forward portion of the center console area. There's also a choice of fixed-back carbon bucket seats for extreme performance, though you'll most likely want to do what Audi did for our drive and skip those entirely for the much more comfortable and adjustable 18-way sport seats.

If that sounds like not a lot is new, well, you're right, but you're also not quite right. The sum total of all of these updates to the R8 is to make it look and feel quite a bit more playful. Sure, the R8 was already plenty playful and capable when pushed, but now it looks like it even when it's parked—and therein lies a lot of the appeal of most supercars. Because let's face it, they're going to spend more time parked in front of nice restaurants and beautiful houses than they are being exercised at ten-tenths on the track, or even seven-tenths on the street.

Provided, of course, you can find somewhere to unleash even 70 percent of the R8's performance potential. With 602 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque on tap from the 5.2-liter V-10, and Quattro all-wheel drive routing that power to the ground quite efficiently through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, the R8 V10 Performance coupe is capable of 3.2-second zero-to-60-mph runs, and every single variant of the R8 now tops 200 mph at top speed.

Beyond the exhilarating straight-line performance, the R8's mid-engine layout and innate balance make for a very good dance partner in the twisty bits. There's a bit more understeer than neutrality near the limit, and it can get a bit squirmy under braking (as can many mid-engine cars), but you'd have to be mental to push the car hard enough on the street to run into any of these traits—the R8's performance envelope is certainly large enough to enable you to mail your own butt right into jail for reckless driving.

A lucky few will drive away in the special Decennium model, built to celebrate a decade of V-10 engines in the R8. Just 50 examples of the Decennium will head to the U.S. of 222 to be sold worldwide, and they'll all be coupes painted Mythos Black. With such limited production volume, no Decennium models were on hand for our test.

Our stint behind the wheel of the 2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance in the hills around Santa Barbara was all too short, but we did find the steering feel to be good, though not palpably better than it already was, and the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires' grip exceeded our fearlessness. Overall, the R8 is still a very rewarding car to drive hard, no matter whether you choose the Coupe or the Spyder—in road use, you won't notice any performance difference. It's just a matter of whether you prefer the wind in your hair.

Our one quibble with the R8 is the suspension. Where most of the competition in the segment has some sort of adjustable system, the R8 continues to soldier on with solid steel. That makes for a reliable and predictable demeanor, and those are valuable traits, but the resulting compromise between body control at high speed and everyday comfort means the R8 can feel somewhat underdamped and therefore skittish at higher speeds on undulating or bumpy roads. That combines with the tendency to squirm under braking—a trait worsened by unsettling bumps—to lend the R8 just enough uncertainty to dissuade the driver from pushing much beyond six- or seven-tenths on the open road. While this sounds like a big criticism, the experience of it is subtle, and, as noted above, the R8's seven-tenths is well beyond any legal road driving you can do.

Driven like you'll actually drive your R8 most of the time, however, the new car is every bit as comfortable yet quick to respond as you'd hope. And the sound of that V-10 wailing away behind your head—it's a thing to be experienced, and not just because such things are fading into the history books.

2020 Audi R8 V10 Performance Coupe & Spyder Specifications
ON SALE Now
BASE PRICE Coupe, $199,445/$219,445; Spyder, $211,645/$230,345 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 5.2L DOHC 40-valve V-10; 602 hp @ 8,100 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 6,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, AWD coupe or convertible
EPA MILEAGE 13/20 mpg (est)
L x W x H 174.4 x 76.4 x 48.7-48.9 in
WHEELBASE 104.3 in
WEIGHT 3,638/3,913 lb (coupe/Spyder, mfg)
0-60 MPH 3.2/3.3 sec (coupe/Spyder, est)
TOP SPEED 205/204 mph (coupe/Spyder)
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