Test Drive: 2017 Audi R8 Plus

Project yourself, if you will, many years into the future to the Museum of German–Italian Relations. Little Jacob and Andy are on a school trip, and they stare wide-eyed at the 2017 Audi R8 Plus that sits in the lobby. The museum guide is a decrepit, ancient creature who once worked as an auto-journalist back when gas flowed freely and pot was illegal.

In a time when super performance cars like Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren used smaller displacement turbo engines to meet emission and fuel economy targets, the Audi R8 and sister Lamborghini Huracán flipped the bird at all that nonsense.

“Welcome, children,” he sputters. “My name is Mr. B. I drove one of these cars once. Can anybody guess what made it go?”

“Beee-ya?”

“No Jacob, not beer. How about you, Andy.”

“Hydrogen!”

“Nope. A liquid called gasoline. It was beautiful. It smelled of speed, sex and hallucination. The more you burned, the faster you went.”

“But, Mr. B, isn’t gasoline why the earth is so hot now, and the trees all died, and the cities flooded, and Trump and Putin got married, and…”

In Pictures: 2017 Audi R8

“Details, kids, details. When new, this second-generation Audi R8 Plus cost $213,900. It was better than the old one because it was lighter, faster and handled better thanks to an all-new structure that included some carbon-fibre in the floor and bulkhead. It also got a redesigned front end and a new electronically controlled clutch that sent power quicker to the front wheels. So, children, do you know why this German supercar is in the Museum of German–Italian Relations?”

“Did Berlusconi pick up one his hookers in an R8?”

“Probably, Jacob. But the real answer here is the rear mid-mounted 5.2L over-square naturally-aspirated V10 that came from Lamborghini. It’s a masterpiece. In a time when super performance cars like Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren used smaller displacement turbo engines to meet emission and fuel economy targets, the Audi R8 and sister Lamborghini Huracán flipped the bird at all that nonsense, spinning their V10s to a racecar-like 8,700 rpm. The engine also sported both port and direct injection along with cylinder deactivation.”

“Was it noisy, Mr. B? Our new Apple iSnooze is so quiet you could hear a mouse fart. Well, except for that time when it ran over our dog.”

“Well Andy, the 2017 Audi R8 Plus could very well have been one of the greatest-sounding road cars ever built. There was a little button on the steering wheel that activated the sport exhaust. I had this on all the time. At 6,000 rpm the heavens opened up. Then from 7,000 to 8,500 rpm old Satan had his say. Jeeeezuz, that V10 sounded like the colonoscopy room at a hyena hospital. One that had run out of Propofol. And it was freakin’ fast, kids. Hit 85 grand, flick the right paddle and it started all over again. Seven gears… seventh heaven.”

“What are gears? Who’s Jeeeezuz? Why are you shaking?”

“Now, children, this second generation R8 came in two flavours. The base model at $184,000 used the same V10 engine but was it tuned to 540 hp and 398 lb-ft. This $213,900 Plus made 610 hp at 8,250 rpm and 413 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm. The Plus also got not-very-comfy fixed-rake shell sport seats, shorter gearing, industry-first laser high beams, non-adjustable hydraulic dampers, a carbon-fibre rear spoiler and carbon ceramic brakes. I’m going to open the door so you can look inside.”

“Oooooh. Mr. B!!! I know what that round thing is! It’s a steering wheel!”

“Good, Andy. And see all the buttons on it? That red one is the starter button. This one is for the sport exhaust, this one selects the drive modes – Comfort, Auto and Dynamic – and the button with the checkered flag cycles between three ‘Performance’ modes – Dry, Wet and Snow. And new-for-2017 this R8 got Audi’s slick configurable ‘virtual cockpit’ that showed everything in crystal-clear detail.”

“Does that mean you could stare at the screen and text, Facebook, Instagram, iChat and play Candy Crush while the car drove itself?”

“Children, children. You had to DRIVE the R8!!! That was the whole point! DON’T YOU POOR LITTLE DIGITAL BRATS GET IT???”

There’s a stunned silence. Some of the children look up from their iPhone 27s. Slowly, Mr. B’s cratered face stretches into a strange, maniacal grin. “Which one of you little whipper-snappers wants to go for a ride?” Little Jacob’s hand creeps into the air.

With that, Mr. B hobbles over to the closet, rummages around a bit and produces a red, rectangular plastic container. “Gas!” he declares, holding it up as high as his withered arms can manage. “Jacob, get your arse over here and help me get this in the tank. I’ve been hanging on to this for years.”

They pour the world’s last four litres of Ultra 94 through the R8’s snazzy filler opening and jump in the cockpit. “Now Jacob, push that red button on the steering wheel.” A couple of spins and the mighty V10 bursts to life. The museum’s windows rattle. Little Susie throws off her Google Glasses and pees herself.

“Okay, JB. Let’s blow this pop stand. Hang on!”

“Do some skids! Do some skids!” Jacob screamed hysterically as the R8 Plus blasts forth. Before crashing through the plate glass windows, Mr. B does a wee detour and takes out a pair of wax statues in the WWII exhibit. “Never did like those bastards!”

Out on the road, with the autonomous herd scattering like rats, Mr. B spins that epic V10 to the redline in every gear. Jacob hollers with glee every time the withered old goat at the wheel flicks a shift paddle. Like an anguished cry from the past, the wail of the V10 echoes off the parched and treeless landscape. Ah, but this combustion-fuelled taste of blissful freedom proves fleeting.

Competitors:
Aston Martin Vantage
Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG
Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet
Pre-owned Lamborghini Gallardo

2017 Audi R8 Plus
2017 Audi R8 Plus
Base Price $213,900
Optional Equipment Suzuka Grey $890; Audi Magnetic Ride $2,300; Le Mans package for V10 Plus $1,900; B&O sound system $2,300
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,895
Price as Tested $224,485
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.6
9 Exterior Styling
9 Performance
9 Interior
6 Comfort
5 Fuel Economy