Audi R8 LMX, £160,000
The Audi R8 was the future once. A prototype appeared in 2003 and was so modern-looking that it became the basis for Will Smith’s car in the film I, Robot , set in 2035.
The production car arrived in 2007, and a year later Robert Downey Jr drove one as Tony Stark in Iron Man. Even now it turns heads with the contrasting blades down the side, angled nose and beautiful proportions. It is on the verge of becoming the past, though – in its present form, at least. The current generation of R8 is being replaced, and this, the LMX, is the final version to be produced.
Only 99 are being made, and all have been sold. Audi has stopped making the other variants too, to make way for the new generation, due to be shown at the Geneva motor show next month.
This, then, is it. What should be the finest example of Audi’s first supercar. It’s been given 20bhp more than the previously range-topping V10 Plus model, taking the 5.2-litre V10 engine to 562bhp. That brings the 0-62mph acceleration time down (by a tenth of a second) to 3.4 seconds. Top speed is 198mph.
There’s a great-looking rear carbon-fibre spoiler. Mirrors, grilles and front spoiler are finished in carbon as well. The standard paint colour is an electric blue.
You’ll be pushed to notice the power boost. It does little to alter the character of the R8, which is docile and gentle when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, cruising on the motorway or simply taking your time. The dual-clutch gearbox works as a smooth automatic, and the car will even shrug off speed bumps without scraping its underside or crashing uncomfortably. In Standard mode, the ride is comfortable. The car is even relatively practical, with a deep storage area under the bonnet and space behind the two seats.
Proper supercar performance from the Lamborghini V10 is just a twitch of the right foot away, though. Drop down the gears (or let the auto do it for you) and put your foot to the floor and you feel as if you’re in one of those cartoon sequences in which a square-angled saloon suddenly spins its rear wheels, compresses itself and then streaks towards the horizon.
Evidence from the track proves that the car will still slide on demand. Eight years old it may be, but in terms of performance and handling the car still feels fresh
Put it into Sport mode and the gearbox switches to the lower gears and holds the engine at higher revs, the ride becomes stiffer and the car twitchier – though more playful than terrifying. Braking is accompanied by barks from the engine as the gearbox shifts down – or do it yourself and the dual clutch gearbox swaps cogs quickly – but it’s not as satisfying as using a manual.
All this action is restrained by strong carbon ceramic brakes and the quattro four-wheel-drive system. This feeds most of the power to the rear wheels – you can feel the car rotating more sharply as you accelerate mid-corner – but will send increasing amounts to the front wheels if that is needed to keep the car stable: evidence from the track proves that the car will still slide on demand. Eight years old it may be, but in terms of performance and handling the car still feels fresh, if a little heavy.
It’s in the technology that the supercar is showing its age. The showstopping feature on the LMX is supposed to be the headlamps, taken from Audi’s Le Mans race-winning cars.
It’s not just that headlamps are one of the less interesting features of racing cars, but that the results aren’t that impressive. Lasers are used to create a cone of light that can illuminate the road up to 650 yards ahead on high beam.
The lights are bright, but not noticeably brighter than other hi-tech lamps. In fact, the system is worse: the automatic main beam has a simple on-off function; if there’s a car ahead or oncoming, then the main beam will be off. When the road is clear, full light service is restored.
BMW, Mercedes and even Audi itself in the new TT have far more useful and advanced systems that can block out sections of light to avoid dazzling other cars but leave the rest of the road fully illuminated.
This is all before you get to the dashboard, which feels ancient. Audi’s new TT has a screen behind the steering wheel so that the driver can set the position and size of gauges, route guidance and readouts. The R8 LMX has a tiny black-and-white screen with giant blocky pixels that appear to have been programmed by Atari. By the time you decipher the sat nav in the centre console, the R8 has crossed half a county, and woe betide anyone who tries to connect their phone via Bluetooth. It appears to be impossible.
For a supercar that’s designed to be used every day, the interior features are not up to the mark. You may well forgive it all when you start up the V10 and focus on the view out of the windscreen, but it would be the same story if you had the V10 Plus model, which was sold for £33,000 less than the £160,000 Audi asks for the LMX.
Yes, the car features limited-edition numbered kickplates, some exceedingly nice leather and Alcantara trim and a bit more power, but the cost is high. It may all be academic now, given that the only cars available are on the second-hand market, but this last-of-the-line model can’t justify its price – it’s a three-star version of an exceptional car.
We like: A supercar that’s as easy to drive as a hatchback
We don’t like: Dated interior; expensive special edition
Audi R8 LMX specifications
- Engine: 5204cc, V10
- Power: 562bhp
- Torque: 398 lb ft
- Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch
- Performance: 0-62mph in 3.4sec
- Top speed: 198mph
- Fuel: 21.9mpg (combined)
- CO2: 299g/km
- Road tax band: M (£1,090 for first year; £500 thereafter)
- Price: £160,000
- Release date: Sold out
Audi R8 LMX rivals
Ferrari 458 Italia, £178,551
For Looks like an angel, drives like a sinner
Against Controls on the steering wheel are confusing
Browse the used Ferrari 458s for sale on driving.co.uk
Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4, £186,760
For Bedroom wall poster looks; glorious engine
Against Feels too tame; cluttered steering wheel
Browse the used Lamborghini Huracans for sale on driving.co.uk