Ignore the naysayers who say the Audi R8 is too refined to be a proper supercar, or that it has begun to show its age - after a few tweaks for the 2014 model year, the automaker's flagship remains one of my favorite exotics.

Audi has treated all of its R8 models to a host of enhancements for the 2014 model year that include new LED headlights and tail lamps, larger steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, new exhaust finishes, updated alloy wheel designs and fresh exterior colors. However, the most significant news is the arrival of a proper seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission (it replaces the six-speed R-Tronic). The rapid-fire gearbox shaves a coupe tenths off the 0-60 sprint and improves fuel economy for both the eight- and ten-cylinder models (thankfully, a traditional six-speed manual is still on the order form).

I recently spent time with the new-for-2014 V10 Plus model, which is only available in a coupe body style. Compared to the standard V10 models, the Plus sheds upwards of 130 pounds thanks to lightweight manual seats (not fitted to my test car), carbon-ceramic brakes, reduced sound bay insulation, a smaller fuel tank and an assortment of carbon-fiber pieces (including side blades, front splitter, rear diffuser and spoiler). But that's not all, as the V10 Plus also receives a bump in output that pushes its ten-cylinder to an even 550 horsepower.

Driving Notes:
  • My six-foot two-inch frame has always found the R8 Coupe to be very comfortable - a standout in a segment of cramped coupes. The enhanced cabin is nothing short of breathtaking, with beautiful carbon-fiber and aluminum accents, tactile switchgear and a fit-and-finish to rival Rolls-Royce. My Brilliant Red test car was fitted with the optional diamond-stitching full leather package ($6,300) that seems a worthy investment, if just to watch your passenger's jaws drop when they climbed in.
  • The naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter V10 has been massaged to produce 550 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, a 25 horsepower increase over the standard V10, which Audi says is good for a 3.3-second sprint to 60 mph (with the help of launch control). Nobody will miss the old, sometimes clunky, single-clutch gearbox. The new dual-clutch unit shifted smoothly during normal driving, yet it eagerly cracked off the gears when driven aggressively (don't waste your time with the console-mounted shifter, as the wheel-mounted paddles are much easier to use). Power at the low end of the tachometer was plenty strong, but the V10 really came to life once it started vigorously spinning. Run it to the 8,500 rpm redline between each shift, and its screaming audio track will remind you why enthusiasts still appreciate fine, naturally aspirated engines.
  • Zipping through the canyon roads in the mountains above Malibu put the R8 V10 Plus right at home. Its mid-engine handling and balance was exceptional. The damping is fixed to a very firm setting, even though lesser R8 models offer a variable magnetic suspension, but it never felt overly harsh for its role. A low center of gravity and a wide stance provide excellent stability, and the turn-in was quick, accurate and sharp. The massive carbon-ceramic brakes are unflappable - right up there with the world's best.
  • Audi has engineered the Quattro all-wheel drive system to send upwards 85 percent of the torque to the rear wheels, translating to a rear-bias driving dynamic (override the stability control, and then mash the throttle mid-corner, and the R8 V10 Plus responds with an easily controlled powerside). Floor the accelerator out of the corner, and the front wheels pull the nose around as if it were hooked on a wire.
  • The R8's strength has always been its ageless styling, comfortable cabin and driving demeanor. As a result of the enhancements, the new V10 Plus is much more feisty than its lesser siblings while exhibiting a performance edge that only increases its appeal.
  • With the spectacular limited-production R8 GT but a memory, this is the new king of Audi's model range - it wears the crown very well.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      The smaller fuel tank is not an OK way to save weight, IMO. Especially when it is in a car that (should) be driven harder and if anything needs MORE fuel.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Maybe they have an optional bigger tank like Porsche has.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Yeah, seems like the tank itself would be a fairly minor bit of lost weight, and owners should have the option of filling a big tank partially if they're that concern with the weight of the fuel :)
      • 2 Years Ago
      Saw one of these on the road. Looks amazing at night with the lights.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Love this car!
      • 2 Years Ago
      Not that the dual-clutch isn't nice, it's just that this is one of the last supercars you can get with a manual. The only other I can think of w/ all-wheel-drive is the Carrera 4S, and I'd much rather have the audi.
        • 2 Years Ago
        the new dual clutch is pretty amazing concerning reviews all over the globe.
      • 2 Years Ago
      still one of the best looking cars on the road, even if its not as fast as the GT-R or have the History of a Vette or 911 i still think of it as one of the greats
      • 2 Years Ago
      Cool car but don't like the way it looks. It would be cool if they could take the great tech specs and redesign the looks of it.
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's sad when, these days, I feel mildly underwhelmed by anything with less than 600hp.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Audi should have optional package for this car w/ or without that cheesy carbon fiber piece on the side.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This car is such a turd. You pay all that money for something that looks like a cross between a fresbee and a UFO and its still slow. Nothing but hype.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Your car sounds very exciting since you have such high standards.
        • 2 Years Ago
        i feel sorry for you being poor and having a miserable taste for cars.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Not the best looking car. A pretty assertive front let down by a weak rear and that carbon fiber vent. The car reminds me of a hyena. They look strong from the front but the droopy rear ruins that image. GT3>This car
      • 2 Years Ago
      10X better than anything BMW offers.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I guess it must look better in person, because I don't see anything jaw-dropping about the interior. Don't get me wrong, it's attractive, but it doesn't seem spectacular looking at the photos.
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    2015 Audi R8
    MSRP: $115,900 - $199,900
    2014 Audi R8
    MSRP: $114,900 - $170,545
    2012 Audi R8
    MSRP: $114,200 - $210,300
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    MSRP: $114,200 - $146,000
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