FIRST DRIVE | The new 2019 Audi R8 is a last naturally-aspirated hero

Ronda, Spain — Confession time: I love the R8. Every time I get the nagging thought that it may be the last big-banger naturally aspirated junior supercar. The end of cars such as the R8 is inevitable, and what we’d all lose is immeasurable.

The R8 Performance quattro delivers authentic, unsynthesized character like no other car near its price point.

The revamped R8 just looks meaner, with optional laser headlights and standard LEDs. Chrome is stripped away from the nose there are three horizontal vents, a front splitter that trails off down the sides, and a huge air diffuser at the rear.

The engine note — at any point in the rev range — is one of the most heart-warming sounds known to man and the throttle response verges on synapse-fast. And it helps you to shift your butt faster and further than ever before, with a 3.1-second burst to 100km/h and a 331km/h top speed.

The charm isn’t just the speed. It’s the shameless beefiness with which it gathers it, attacking the horizon, the ears and every piece of skin that touches part of the car with equal enthusiasm.

At 456kW and 580Nm the Performance version hits 7kW and 20Nm harder than before. Even the stock R8 quattro’s power has seen its power rise from 397kW to 419kW and lifted its torque 20Nm to 560Nm, and it’s capable of sprinting to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds and topping out at 324km/h.

This is a car that prefers to give life to the 5.2l engine’s performance, not just to deliver it. Every single point in the rev range has its own character and sound, and it runs into every other point in the range logically and beautifully, creating symphonies of intake noise and throatiness and sheer gristle rising to arias at 8,500rpm.

While the beautifully crafted manual gear-lever faded into history with the first-generation R8, it left the R8 with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that spreads drive to all four wheels. It can spread them very quickly from one end to the other, too, and is capable of firing all of the torque to the front or the rear, as needs be, and from side to side via the skid-control system.

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