What's New for 2014
After a year hiatus, the 2014 Audi R8 returns with revised model nomenclature, a mild face-lift, weight-saving measures and, best of all, a new automated manual transmission that provides a more legitimate automatic-transmission option for customers who want it.
Since its debut for the 2008 model year, the Audi R8 has captivated the hearts of drivers and the public alike. With its rear-biased all-wheel drive, nearly telepathic responsiveness, lightweight aluminum-intensive construction and exotic pseudo-futuristic design, the R8 is the brand's first proper halo car for the United States. Of course, it hasn't hurt that the supercar has had a co-starring role in the Iron Man movie franchise as well.
At the core of every 2014 Audi R8 is a highly tuned V8 or V10 engine. While neither engine's output is exceptional for this class of car, they both sound exceptional and drive all four wheels through the R8's standard AWD system. One very positive development this year is the new "S tronic" dual-clutch automated manual transmission option. It replaces the car's previous "R tronic" single-clutch automated manual, which was notorious for its rough-shifting nature. Fortunately, Audi still offers a traditional manual transmission for those who still like to row gears old-school style.
No matter who's doing the shifting, we've always loved how the Audi R8 drives. The engine's midship placement enhances the R8's responsiveness and visceral nature, and the steering, which is still hydraulic-assisted, provides great feel and responsiveness. Mostly, though, the R8 distinguishes itself from past and present supercars by providing all of this excellent performance without the sacrifices that other ultrahigh-performance cars require. Specifically, the R8 offers decent ride comfort, good outward visibility and comfortable seats. It's a supercar you can drive every day if you so desire.
Of course, there are some drawbacks, and they apply to the entire 2014 R8 lineup. Cargo space is limited, making the R8 a poor choice for a long road trip. And although Audi made a variety of changes this year, upgrading the car's electronics interface was unfortunately not one of them. As such, the outdated navigation system interface will have you pining for Audi's newer electronics suite.
Even with these drawbacks, the 2014 Audi R8 still shines brightly among exotic cars, including the ones that cost tens of thousands more. And keep in mind, there isn't a loser in this rarefied class. Whether you're shopping it against such comparatively affordable models as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, 2014 Nissan GT-R or 2014 Porsche 911, or higher-end exotics such as the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Gallardo, McLaren MP4-12C and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, the R8 holds its own. It would be an appealing addition to any garage.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Audi R8 is a two-seat midengine exotic supercar available in V8 coupe and convertible (Spyder), V10 coupe and convertible, and V10 Plus coupe trim levels.
Standard equipment on the V8 coupe includes 19-inch wheels with summer tires, an adaptive suspension, cruise control, full LED lighting, automatic climate control, heated eight-way power seats (with four-way power-adjustable lumbar), leather and faux suede upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth and a seven-speaker sound system with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The Convenience package adds front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, power-folding mirrors and interior storage nets. Carbon-ceramic brakes, a fully leather-upholstered interior (extra for diamond stitching), a faux suede headliner, a navigation system, an iPod interface (deletes the CD changer) and a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system are also available.
The V8 convertible adds an electrically powered soft top and a retractable rear window that doubles as a wind deflector. The R8 V10 convertible has those features plus a V10 engine, different suspension tuning, different wheels, the Convenience package, premium leather, the navigation system and the Bang & Olufsen audio system. The R8 V10 coupe has all of these standard amenities as well.
The coupe-only R8 V10 Plus model includes all the V10 coupe equipment plus a higher-output engine, the carbon-ceramic brakes and an abundance of carbon-fiber trim pieces. But for further weight savings, it has a smaller fuel tank and deletes the adaptive suspension and power seats.
Further model-wide R8 options include a variety of carbon-fiber exterior and interior trim packages. The coupes can be equipped with alternate "side blade" finishes.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Audi R8 V8 is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 mounted behind the passenger compartment that sends 430 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque through an AWD system. A six-speed manual transmission with a gated metal shifter is standard, while a new seven-speed double-clutch automated manual, known as S tronic, is optional and includes steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. In Edmunds performance testing, the R8 V8 with the gated manual transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy rings in at 11 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined with the manual and 14/23/17 with S tronic.
Equipped with either transmission, the Audi R8 V10 boasts a 5.2-liter V10 that produces 525 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, the V10 Coupe with the manual went from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and the V10 Spyder, also with the manual, did it in 3.9 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 12/19/14 with the manual and 13/22/16 with S tronic.
The R8 V10 Plus boosts power output to 550 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. Either transmission is available. In Edmunds testing, an S tronic-equipped V10 Plus hustled to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 13/22/16 or 12/19/14 with the manual transmission.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, side airbags and knee airbags. Front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are standard or optional, depending on the trim.
This year, to shed weight and aid in cooling, Audi has changed the design of the non-ceramic brake discs used on all models, except the V10 Plus. Before that change, in Edmunds brake testing, multiple Audi R8s have come to a stop from 60 mph between 104 and 106 feet, which is very good. Meanwhile, a 2014 R8 V10 Plus with the carbon-ceramic brakes came to a halt in 106 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
There are several subtle changes to the Audi R8's interior for 2014. There's a thicker steering wheel rim with perforated trim and new shift paddles (S tronic only); available diamond-pattern stitching for the Napa leather seats; new gloss-black and genuine aluminum elements; and added leather trim in general. As in the past, the R8 has a finely crafted cabin with top-notch materials.
The lightweight R8 seats are comfortable for long-distance travel, and the driving position suits a wide range of people. We like the center stack's elegant swoop away from the driver, but this means that major controls require an inconvenient reach. Additionally, the navigation and audio controls are operated by an unintuitive, dash-mounted MMI knob and constellation of buttons located beneath the display screen. Compared with the electronic interfaces in the Mercedes SLS AMG and Porsche 911, the R8's is noticeably antiquated. One exceptionally clever idea, however, is the integration of the microphone for Bluetooth into the driver's seatbelt.
Audi says there's enough room behind the R8 coupe's seats for a pair of golf bags, but you'd have to be pretty hard-pressed for country club transport to try that. The 3.5-cubic-foot front trunk is awkwardly shaped and barely provides enough space for an overnight bag (a Porsche 911 feels like a minivan by comparison). As such, the R8 is not the best choice for a long-distance road trip.
The Spyder models' convertible soft top may be operated at speeds up to 31 mph. It takes roughly 20 seconds in either direction to transform. The Spyder's thermal-resistant leather seats effectively lower surface temperature, which is a nice attribute for open-top motoring.
The 2014 Audi R8 rides firmly despite its adaptive suspension, and road noise is pronounced relative to most other Audis. But by exotic-car standards, the R8 is a remarkably comfortable and quiet daily driver. Low seating height notwithstanding, visibility is especially good in all directions. On twisting roads, the R8's preposterous power, quick reflexes and heroic grip conspire to make this 3,600-pound supercar feel as nimble as a lightweight roadster.
Speaking of power, the V10 adds an appreciable amount, as well as a uniquely racy soundtrack, but even the base V8 is one of the best-sounding and most tractable engines we've experienced. Unlike the slow-witted and duly criticized single-clutch gearbox offered in past years (and no longer available for 2014), the new dual-clutch automated manual is now the transmission of choice. Sure, the manual shifter is mechanically rewarding and visually stunning, but the quickness and infallibility of the automated manual is unbeatable in terms of true performance as well as comfort.
While the V10-powered R8 models have a performance advantage, it's hard to justify the additional outlay of cash in light of how slight the acceleration advantages are and how truly good the V8 versions are. Furthermore, unless you're spending an unusual amount of time at a racetrack, where hundredths of a second actually means something, we'd pass on the 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus as well. The V10 Plus' weight-reduction regimen reduces some of the R8's everyday appeal. Although well sorted for hard driving, its nonadaptive suspension doesn't deal as well with real-world conditions, and its carbon-ceramic brakes sometimes feel grabby and sound screechy.