Audi has updated its R8 flagship to keep up with the relentless pace of the supercar class. There are several minor visual tweaks to keep the now-six-year-old R8 looking fresh, and a substantial revision under the nip-and-tucked skin to improve performance. The new 2012 Audi R8 is available in coupe and open-top Spyder bodystyles from late 2012.
There's also a totally new model: the flagship R8 Plus, bearing more carbonfibre, black-painted details and a further power bump.
What are the main spec change for the 2012 Audi R8?
At last, the R8 has acquired a dual-clutch transmission. Previously, Audi underestimated the demand for auto R8s, offering only the clunky R-tronic automated manual gearbox. This has been rectified with Audi's S-tronic 'box, which doesn't just make the R8 faster (three-tenths have been shaved off each car's 0-62mph time) but cleaner, too: fitment of the S-tronic reduces CO2 emissions by 22g/km.
Mercifully, Audi hasn't discontinued the sumptuous open-gate manual gearbox, despite the relatively small fraction of R8 sales it accounts for. The question is, with such a competent auto now R8-compatible, would your fantasy R8 be a self-shifter, or a three-pedal model? Tell us in the comments below.
Power outputs remain the same as before. The 4.2 V8 FSI churns out 424bhp, and the 5.2 V10 FSI develops 518bhp. Equipped with S-tronic, the cars hit 62mph in 4.3sec and 3.6sec respectively. If you crave even more performance from an R8, fret not, as Audi has created an even hotter R8 Plus for true power (and carbon) nuts.
The 2012 Audi R8 Plus
The R8 Plus gets a 543bhp version of the Lamborghini-derived 5.2-litre V10 engine. It's good for 62mph in 3.5sec, and 197mph flat out. The R8 Plus is available as a coupe only, and can be marked out from lesser R8s by its optional matt paint, blackened exhausts and trim, and carbon front splitter and rear diffuser. How very speed bump-friendly. Together with the lightweight bucket seats and retuned dampers, the R8 Plus should be the most track-day-happy R8 of the bunch.
What's new visually on the 2012 Audi R8?
Starting at the front, you'll spot a reshaped grille with sharper surfacing, and three crossbars in the side intakes. Above, the headlights have been restyled - all R8s now get full LED lamps as standard. There's a similar story at the rear: LED tail-lights incorporate 'dynamic indicators' - the light 'proceeds' to the outer edge of the cluster, pointing the direction in which the driver wants to turn. That's attention to detail for you.
Bazooka-sized round tailpipes, first seen on the limited edition R8 GT, are now fitted to all R8s.
When can I buy a new, LED-festooned Audi R8?
There's no specific on-sale date as yet, but Audi promises European customer they can expect to see updated R8s rolling out before the end of 2012. UK pricing is being disclosed later this week, but the maximum you'll have to pay is €173,200 - for the R8 V10 Plus - which works out around £135,000 at current rates.