Having been in possession of one of the simplest, most instantly gratifying and incorruptible driving experiences given to a sports car in recent times, the R8 couldn’t have gone through a starker change.

It is now as complicated to configure to your own preference and the demands of what’s under its wheels as any rival we can think of.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Editor-at-large
The stiff springing makes the car easy to spin, while the power pushes the car wide quickly on exit

It was, at least, in the case of our test car, with its active damping and steering options. Even without them, the R8 V10 Plus comes with an Audi Drive Select system with five modes – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual and Performance – with the last of those intended mainly for circuit driving and split up into sub-modes for dry roads, wet roads and snow.

Really, only one of those modes does what it says on the tin particularly well and sets the car up optimally either for keen road or track driving – and it’s the Individual one, which is just a front for more complexity.

The R8’s firm springing and light, muted, variably direct steering somewhat undermine the idea that it can be driven as a comfortable GT, and those active systems only compound the car’s problems in Dynamic and Performance modes, exacerbating both the reactive firmness of the ride and hyper-sensitivity of the tiller.

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Take time to experiment and you’ll find that you can engineer in a passable sense of measure to the ride and both greater consistency and a little feel to the steering, by dialling down the R8’s adaptive systems. What you end up with is a liveable, albeit still wearing, ride compromise and handling that combines agility with security more than adequately.

But the tactility of the old R8’s steering, the fluency of its response to a bumpy road, the way its handling blended smart, confidence-inspiring turn-in with predictability under power… that’s all notable by its absence.

The handling balance is there, but vague steering feedback makes it hard to tap into it with much confidence, and the drivetrain’s willingness to allow you to adjust the car’s cornering line with power seems to vary, too.

The R8 is a sports car with a great deal going on between its gearbox and four contact patches, and although the previous one managed that complexity very well, this new one brings even more of it — and also makes it a more opaque part of the handling experience.

Our track testing was done in greasy conditions and with Performance mode (wet) engaged. All three of the Performance modes in effect freeze the variability of the active steering system but seem to do so at slightly too fast a ratio for the optimal meeting of high-speed agility and stability.

The torque vectoring system also interferes with the car’s surefootedness on entry to a corner. It seems to trail an inside brake in an attempt to sharpen up turn-in, but more often than not this only serves to unsettle the car.

Once it’s turned in, the R8 generates huge lateral grip but communicates its margins only averagely well. It resists understeer keenly, tilting into a tail-slide with power but keeping a smooth line thereafter can be tricky. Greasy conditions cost the R8 an undeterminable amount on lap time.

It coped well but could be more stable under braking and more predictable when it breaks traction. Wide tyres and stiff springs take away most of the advantage accrued by four driven wheels. Stability controls keep everything secure.

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