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10 Things You Should Know About the 2017 Audi R8

Cherise Threewitt
by Cherise Threewitt
October 31, 2016
5 min. Reading Time
2017 Audi R8s red blue ThermalClub ・  Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

2017 Audi R8s red blue ThermalClub ・ Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

Audi recently invited Autobytel to check out the all-new 2017 Audi R8 V10 and V10 Plus. We drove the R8 from Palm Springs, California, to The Thermal Club to experience the way this German sports car seamlessly transitions from street to track. 

Perhaps even more impressive—forward-thinking Audi made this track day a ladies-only event, as a way to highlight and showcase the R8’s unique road manners. Audi brought in Lea Croteau, an experienced race car driver and track instructor, to coach us through the road course and show us the redesigned Audi R8 in a controlled-yet-thrilling environment. Here are 10 things we learned about Audi’s street-legal sports car.

10) Women will appreciate a good track day just as much as men.

By hosting a ladies-only track day at The Thermal Club, Audi showed that women are eager for the experience. The 2017 R8 lends itself well to coaching, so the majority of our laps were in lead-follow format.

What that means, for the uninitiated, is this: After we were fitted for helmets, our instructor, Lea Croteau, took the wheel of the lead R8. She guided us through the course, following the fastest and most efficient line. We followed in single-file, just a couple car lengths between each car, trying to mimic Lea’s movements as she explained what she was doing, and why. Lea has a knack for coaching in common-sense terms, making it easier to understand the relationship between driver and car. With just a few cars on the track at a time, this was the ideal scenario to practice the principles of high performance driving, regardless of each woman’s individual experience level.

 Photo by Audi

Photo by Audi

9) Learning curve? Piece of cake.

A lot of track-ready cars are intimidating, even those designed to be usable on the street. The Audi R8 stands out in this regard. The interior is uncluttered and easy to navigate—everything you need is right there. But don’t take it from us—take it from a pro.

“The R8 is intuitive, and I think that has to do with Audi design, period, and that's been a standard for Audi for a long time,” explains Lea. “Once you get a brief tour, it's easy to grasp everything you need.”

Lea’s observation certainly rang true on the track. Only about half of us had driven an R8 before, but we all showed confidence after just a couple of laps.

 Photo by Audi

Photo by Audi

8) It’s cozy.

The Audi R8’s cabin is particularly accessible in terms of proportions and design. The seats have very strong, supportive bolsters that help hold the driver in place, and the design isn’t as masculine as people might expect. The R8 V10 Plus comes with rigid sport seats (new for this year), while the V10’s seats are slightly more flexible.

“I think that, what I appreciate about the R8 as a female, is the ease of the controls and the ergonomics of the car are comfortable for women,” explains Lea. “I like using the word ‘cozy.’ As a female, I lean toward smaller cars. I don't like having extra space.”

Lea encourages drivers, especially novices, to take time finding a proper seating position. Adjust the seat to maintain a slight bend in your knee and you can comfortably keep your hands in the 9- and 3-o’clock positions on the wheel, so you can tell when the car’s front wheels are straight.

“It seems so super basic, but you want to be prepared in case something happens,” Lea explains.

 Photo by Audi

Photo by Audi

7) The Audi R8 makes it easier to understand the physics of racing.

Schoolkids go to amusement parks and ride roller coasters to learn the basics of physics, but we’ll take a track day, any day. A track day is physically and mentally exhausting, but the R8 is easy to handle and inspires confidence.

A key element of Lea’s coaching technique is encouraging drivers to understand the car. Lea says, “You can drive any car quickly as long as you understand and respect the physics."

The 2017 Audi R8 has a wide track and a low stance, which makes it very easy to control on the road and on the track. Its rear mid-engine layout provides optimal weight balance, and the quattro all-wheel-drive system keeps the corners planted.

"I feel the pivot point of the car right under my butt,” says Lea. “The car communicates with you.”

 Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

6) It’s photogenic.

The 2017 Audi R8 doesn’t look much different than the first generation—there wasn’t much to improve upon—but the subtle changes suit it well.

The car’s looks are mostly the result of its performance engineering; there’s nothing extra for decoration. The Audi R8 is designed around a multi-material space frame that consists of a lot of carbon fiber. The high-tech material makes up much of the car’s structural elements, and adds visual interest throughout. The V10 Plus version of the car also gets distinctive carbon-fiber accents, like a large rear spoiler.

Too much carbon fiber can result in a traditionally masculine look, but the 2017 Audi R8 avoids that fate. This performance car doesn’t discriminate.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

5) Paddle shifters are fun.

Audi doesn’t offer the 2017 R8 with a manual transmission, but paddle shifters are the next best thing.

The R8's paddle shifters are great for rev matching, which, for the uninitiated, means adjusting engine RPM to smooth a downshift, which helps a lot in advanced driving. Rev matching is one of those things that's not really necessary, but people do to show off, and some sports car manufacturers tune their paddle shifters so aggressively that you’d think they were releasing testosterone with each downshift.

Props to Audi for resisting that temptation. The R8 is nice because the paddle shifters help rev match, but it's "not a big dramatic thing,” says Lea.

 Photo by Audi

Photo by Audi

4) The Virtual Cockpit’s awesome no matter where you go.

Audi's all new Virtual Cockpit system uses Google Earth satellite imagery, which means it showed us the track as well as the road. (Most navigation systems use map data, which will show a track as an off-road area.)

On the road, having your route mapped out right in front of your eyes makes a big difference in ease of use; it’s a lot less complicated than constantly glancing over to a center stack or struggling to hear the directions over the audio system (or the engine and exhaust notes).

Another benefit of the Virtual Cockpit system: Everything is in front of you, controlled via simple steering wheel-mounted buttons. This enables a sparse, clean design throughout the cockpit.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

3) It’s more powerful than before.

The street-legal version of the Audi R8 (the one we’re talking about here) shares not only its name, but its design, with a professional race car. Both cars were developed by Audi’s in-house racing division, quattro GmbH, and are built side-by-side at a new facility in Heilbronn, Germany, opened just for R8 production.

So what does that mean for potential buyers of the 2017 R8? Well, the previous generation was offered as a V8 (430 horsepower), and that’s gone, and the V10 model topped out at 525 horsepower. Buyers now get the choice of the V10 (540 horsepower) or the V10 Plus (610 horsepower), both of which are naturally aspirated 5.2-liter engines. Don’t feel bad if your budget only covers the V10; during my turn driving the slightly more affordable model, it was eager to keep up despite the horsepower deficit.

 Photo by Audi

Photo by Audi

2) Launch control is a thrill ride.

Audi describes the redesigned launch control as “a more attainable process” for 2017. First, the R8 needs to be put in dynamic driving mode, and the electronic stability control needs to be switched to sport mode. The driver presses and holds the brake and gas at the same time, then releases the brake. At this point, the the lucky passenger giggles uncontrollably until the R8 comes to a stop.

And a note about the R8’s driving modes: They really do make a difference in how the car feels and behaves. I’m pretty skeptical of such systems in less powerful cars—they often feel gimmicky—but Audi Drive Select makes a noticeable difference in the R8’s handling and throttle response.

 Photo by Audi

Photo by Audi

1) You can drive your R8 to the track and then drive it home.

Clearly, the R8 is a particularly smart choice for a woman who’s interested in a high-performance car, though it’s hard to say whether this demographic has been underserved in the past, or simply uninterested. Audi’s put together a car that has the potential to attract women who might have been turned off by the masculine vibe of performance driving. With two seats and a tiny cargo space, the 2017 Audi R8 can’t do everything (and we won’t pretend otherwise), but as a sports car it’s really pretty useful. It’s got great road manners, unlike many performance cars that are simply too difficult, uncomfortable, or dangerous to drive daily.

“The car gives you some good feedback, but it has enough safety systems built in that it lets you have a lot of fun without going over the edge,” says Lea. “But at the same time, it allows you turn all that stuff off for maximum enjoyment and maximum performance.”

 Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt

Photo by Cherise LaPine Threewitt


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