2012 Audi R8 S tronic review
Unfortunately, the lack of a decent automatic gearbox put off a lot of potential buyers.
That’s why Audi has developed this new seven-speed S tronic version. The new twin-clutch gearbox is much like the one in the latest Porsche 911 PDK, and effectively replaces the old R tronic – a robotised manual 'box that was jerky and slow-witted.
To coincide with the launch of the new S tronic, 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.
R8 gets new headlights and dynamic rear indicators
A new V10 Plus version also joins the line-up. This hardcore, range-topping edition has 25bhp more than the regular R8 V10, along with lower and stiffer suspension.
It also weighs 50kg less than the standard car, thanks to various carbonfibre body parts and new lightweight alloy wheels.
What's the 2012 Audi R8 S tronic like to drive?
In a word, brilliant. The new S tronic gearbox is an absolute revelation, because it’s so much smoother and snappier than the old R tronic.
It makes the R8 far more docile and easy to drive around town, swapping gears smoothly and allowing you to creep forward in traffic by just lifting off the brake pedal; you no longer have to dab the accelerator pedal.
Don’t think for a second the S tronic is all about making life easy, though. Press the 'Sport' button on the centre console and the gearbox changes character completely, becoming much sharper and more alert. Floor the throttle and car lurches forward, before firing through its seven gears at lightning speed.
You can also change gear manually using paddles behind the steering wheel. This gives you complete control over shifts, meaning the gearbox won’t change down if you accelerate hard.
New S tronic gearbox is lightning fast and blips the throttle on downshifts
Better still, 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.
In other respects, the R8 is as great to drive as ever. The 424bhp V8 version is plenty fast enough and sounds great, but the 523bhp V10 version offers proper supercar pace (0-62mph takes 3.6 seconds), and sounds even more glorious.
Whichever engine you choose, the R8 handles brilliantly. There’s an immense amount of traction from the standard four-wheel drive system, while the car stays flat and composed through bends.
The R8’s steering is rather old-fashioned, because it’s powered by hydraulics rather than an electric motor. However, this is actually a good thing, because it gives you a better sense of connection with the road than you get with modern electric systems, making the R8 more rewarding to drive quickly.
R8 Plus is even more driver-focused and accelerates to 62mph in just 3.5 seconds
The new V10 Plus model is even more driver-focused. It’s quicker than the regular V10, accelerating to 62mph in just 3.5 seconds.
Unfortunately, the stiffer suspension does make for a firmer ride and, unless you’re on a racetrack, you probably won’t notice the improved body control. If you plan to use your R8 solely on the road, we’d suggest sticking with the cheaper V10.
Interior equipment has been upgraded - sat nav, Bluetooth and heated seats are all standard
What’s the 2012 Audi R8 S tronic like inside?
Not much has changed in here. The R8’s cabin looks smart enough and is solidly built, but the five-year-old design is unsurprisingly starting to show its age.
Many of the switches and instruments are borrowed from now defunct Audi saloons, and the whole driver environment doesn’t feel as special or as classy as the latest Porsche 911’s. On the plus side, the driver position is excellent and the dashboard layout is very logical.
The other good news is the R8 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 account for the car’s slightly higher price.
V10 models now have Nappa leather upholstery, which was previously available only as an optional extra.
Should I buy one?
When you consider that almost three quarters of Porsche 911 buyers go for the optional semi-automatic PDK 'box, the new R8 S tronic is sure to be a big success.
It deserves to be, too, because the new gearbox adds yet more appeal to what was already a brilliant supercar.
True, the latest Porsche 911 PDK is a slightly cheaper and more rounded proposition, but if you value driving thrills above all else, the R8 is still unbeatable for the money.
What Car? says…
By Will Nightingale