Audi doesn't have much supercar heritage, but it learns fast because the mid-engined Audi R8 saw off all-comers when it was launched in 2007.
It was only really let down by its optional semi-auto gearbox – a slow-witted robotised manual. However, this has now been replaced by a more sophisticated twin-clutch 'box, which Audi calls S tronic.
To coincide with the launch of its new gearbox, Audi has given all versions of the R8 new LED headlights and 'dynamic' rear indicators, where the light moves towards the outside edge of the car, effectively pointing to the direction the driver is turning.
There's also more standard equipment, while at the top of the range, Audi has introduced a new V10 Plus model, which is lower and lighter than the standard V10 and produces an extra 25bhp. Here, though, we drive the entry-level V8 model.
What's the 2013 Audi R8 V8 S tronic like to drive?
The new gearbox is much easier to live with than the R tronic 'box it replaces because it shifts more smoothly and allows you to creep forward in traffic by just lifting off the brake pedal; you no longer have to dab the accelerator.
It's still not as slick as the PDK twin-clutch gearbox in the Porsche 911, however, and suffers from a fair bit of shunt at town speeds. However, the S tronic is at its best on fast, challenging roads.
Put it in 'Sport' mode, then floor the throttle, and the car not only builds speed ferociously quickly, but shifts so fast that there's no let-up in acceleration.
You can leave the 'box to change gear by itself, or take control by pulling on paddles behind the steering wheel.
Best of all, though, the electronics blip the throttle on the downshifts to match the revs of the gear below. It's enough to make even the most ham-fisted driver feel like a racing god.
The R8 also provides immense traction, thanks to its standard four-wheel-drive system, and it combines strong grip with tight body control in corners. The steering is precise, if a little slow to react.
Ride comfort is impressive, although the R8 is prone to following ruts and cambers in the road.
What's the 2013 Audi R8 V8 S tronic like inside?
Not much has changed here. The R8's cabin looks smart enough and is solidly built, but the five-year-old design is starting to show its age.
Many of the switches and instruments are borrowed from now-discontinued Audis, and the whole driver environment feels nowhere near as special or as classy as the latest 911's.
On the plus side, the driving position is excellent and the dashboard layout very logical.
The other good news is the R8 now comes with more standard equipment than ever. Even the entry-level V8 coupe has satellite-navigation, heated seats, Bluetooth and Audi's music interface, which helps to account for the revised car's slightly higher price.
Should I buy one
The new R8 S tronic is sure to be a big success. It deserves to be, too, because the new gearbox adds more appeal to what was already a brilliant supercar.
True, the 911 is a more rounded proposition and it ultimately has higher handling limits, but the R8 looks more exotic and is definitely worth considering.
What Car? says...
Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
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