2020 Audi R8 Coupe And Spyder First Drive

It’s usually a bad sign: Rocking out of Los Padres National Forest in the updated 2020 Audi R8, I spot two California Highway Patrol cars lying in wait on Highway 33, one of the fantasy driving roads the state is known for. But these officers aren’t here to hand out tickets, but to lend a hand — closing off the road so we can run repeated launch-control starts in these mid-engine, all-wheel-drive supercars.

2020 Audi R8 Coupe

The drag-racing demo, in both coupes and Spyder convertibles, highlights reasons why one might drop $197,150 on the R8’s V10 Performance edition, or $209,350 on the Spyder V10 Performance. (They replace last year’s V10 “Plus” models). One is the 602-hp, naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10. It’s a spectacular anomaly in a world dominated by turbocharged powerplants, the last of two production cars in the world with a V10. The other is its Italian cousin, the Lamborghini Huracan. Audi powers its R8 LMS race car with the identical V10, and both R8 coupes and racers are built on the same assembly line.

There’s also a coupe-only Decennium edition, limited to 222 copies, with the final 50 coming to the States. It’s a trim package that comes only in Mythos Black paint and all-black interior, with an intake manifold and wheels in matte-bronze finish and side blades, rear wing and other components in gloss carbon fiber.

Every little bit helps for the R8, a relatively chunky sports car — especially compared with carbon-fiber monocoque McLarens — that plops as much as 3,957 pounds on the scales (for a base Spyder). All told, the wide-flanked R8 looks familiar, yet formidable, its ability to draw admirers undimmed by time.

As it’s evolved, the R8 has steadily become more rewarding to drive, less victimized by understeer and more limber-feeling at the helm. For 2020, the electrically assisted steering reduces the assist during cornering to deliver more weight and feedback though the wheel. Optional Dynamic Steering (at $1,400) aims for more-natural feel as well, with less-aggressive ratio adjustments relative to vehicle speed and steering angle.

This is a supercar for a more practical-minded, German-favoring buyer, a contrast to the flashier form and naked emotionalism of the Lamborghini Huracán. Those Audi fans are just the type to do some practical math as well: The standard R8 Coupe undercuts the Huracan Evo’s price by about $90,000.

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