As supercars go, Audi’s R8 is one of the more endearing examples. Unlike the stereotypical Lamborghini Huracán driver, you don’t normally see someone exiting an R8 wrapped in a gaudy, overpriced t-shirt from Ed Hardy, their hair slicked up into a pompadour that clears the car’s roof by less than a millimeter. No, the Audi driver looks like someone who probably has to work for a living to afford such baubles and isn’t all that interested in flaunting it. They’re someone who probably dreamed of owning a Porsche 911 as a child, made a lot of smart financial decisions as an adult, and ultimately found themselves with more money than they needed.
Whether or not this portrayal is accurate is largely irrelevant. The assumption is that someone who bought an R8 is focused on the fundamentals — fitting, considering that’s very much what the automobile is about. Refreshed for 2019, Audi is keeping the R8 true to form. Visual enhancements are subtle and minor mechanical improvements have been made everywhere else to help build a better car.
The mid-engined Audi will persist with the 5.2-liter V10, as expected. The manufacturer claims the sweet-sounding and naturally aspirated unit will continue forward in two flavors. At present, that means 532 horsepower or 610 hp for the Plus model. However, with its sister car, the Huracán, recently seeing an upgrade in performance, we expect Audi to bump up those figures a bit. But the Germans are being rather secretive about the updated R8. Odd, considering they teased it earlier this week and just made an official announcement for the 2019 model year.
That caginess extends to the suspension. We know it also saw improvements, but the hardware implemented is not fully known. However, Audi did say it tuned the steering for superior feedback, adding that a variable-ratio dynamic steering system exists as an option.
The car also gains new drive modes. Dry, wet, and snow will all be added to the car’s dynamic setting, which seems a little crazy. This author likes slinging vehicles through rain and slush more than most, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone wanting to test the limits of their “budget” supercar in a blizzard. That said, Audi gets a lot of praise for the adaptive all-wheel drive system in the R8 — which also sees improvements. Maybe it’s a match made in heaven.
Audi also retuned the ESC to help the car’s braking. The manufacturer now claims the R8’s 62-to-0 mph distance is nearly 5 feet shorter in ideal conditions. Meanwhile, stopping from 124 mph now requires an estimated 16.4 fewer feet. That ought to be handy on a track. Weight savings are likely modest, but every little bit helps. By implementing carbon and aluminum on a few select parts, the automaker hopes to stack those benefits. While it hasn’t given an official weight, Audi says the 2019 R8 sheds almost 4.5 pounds by swapping the front stabilizer to a carbon fiber-reinforced polymer.
Visually, it’s very similar to the 2018 model year. However, alterations to the front fascia give it a tastefully menacing presence. The most glaring change is a series of openings just above the grille, a nod to the original Sport Quattro. It’s still unclear if they direct air anywhere useful, however. On the back, a redesigned diffuser sits below a long, central vent, straddled by round exhaust ports. Overall, it makes a bolder statement, but doesn’t venture beyond the boundaries of the Audi’s signature styling.
New lightweight 20-inch, five-spoked “V” wheels are available as an option, while 19-inch rounds come standard. As in previous incarnations, carbon-ceramic brakes are available for those interested in track days. Audi also improved the R9’s dry sump system to keep oil moving around the V10 when subjected to repeated instances of lateral gravity.
R8 customers can choose from up to three exterior packages, depending on engine. These add various highlights to the front splitter, the side trims, and the diffuser. You an also have the Audi rings and badges on the exterior painted in a high-gloss black if you want. Two new metallic colors — Kemora Gray and Ascari Blue — join the exterior paint choices.