Audi R8 VS Ferrari Portofino
- Howling V10
- Amazing traction
- Looks more aggro now
- No high-tech safety
- Interior short on flexibility
- Didn't get to drive it on 'real' roads
- Comfort and composure
- Epic engine
- Gorgeous design
- Hefty cost
- Doesn't sound terrific all the time
- Cramped rear seats
There is typically no need for introductions when it comes to the Audi R8. But the 2019 Audi R8 isn’t the one you’ve come to know - its been sharpened up in terms of both its appearance, and its performance.
This heavily facelifted version of the second-generation Audi R8 keeps its high-revving V10 engine, and turbochargers have been kept at bay, too. It can’t hold off the march of progress for much longer, though - it’s almost certain this will be the last V10-engined R8… thankfully it has only just launched, so it should be on sale for a few years yet.
I got a chance to drive the new Audi R8 V10 Performance model in Spain at the model’s international launch drive this week - but only on Circuito Ascari race track.
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Forget California! Ferrari is an Italian brand, so when the time came for the marque to redo its entry-level model - as well as rename it - the geographical tack was at last rightfully placed in its home country.
Enter the all-new Ferrari Portofino 2019 model.
If you’ve travelled the Italian coast, you might know Portofino. It’s located on the picturesque Italian Riviera at the edge of the Ligurian Sea, between Cinque Terre and Genoa, and it’s known for attracting wealth and celebrity to its exclusive shoreline.
It’s gorgeous, classic, timeless; all terms also suitable for this new convertible model, which looks so much better than the California did. And, quite truthfully, it looks more Italian, which is important for this macchina, a true auto sportivo italiana.
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This iteration could well be the final Audi R8 with a V10 engine, and what a note to go out on. Emissions laws and the ever-present push towards electrification are almost certain to see the next-generation R8 take a very different tack to this model. Lucky, then, that this is the best R8 yet.
I know the final score doesn’t necessarily reflect that - but that’s because it falls short on ‘regular’ car things. Even so, it’s an epic machine.
Would you have an Audi R8 over one of its rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The overall score doesn’t necessarily reflect how good this car is, but that’s because we have to factor in safety kit and equipment. Those things matter, sure. But if you really want a Ferrari Portofino, you’ll probably read the drive impressions and look at the photos, both of which should be enough to push you over the line if you’re not quite there yet.
The Ferrari Portofino 2019 model is not just bellissimo to look at, it’s also a more Italian offering. And that’s buonissimo.
Do you think the Portofino the best Ferrari-offering? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Wow, it was possible to make the Audi R8 even more attractive - the brand’s designers have gone and done it with this facelift, which sees a number of changes to the exterior styling that combine for a more aggressive, sharper look.
The ‘Singleframe’ grille now looks even more menacing, having been widened and flattened, and any trace of chrome has been removed. As the chief designer told us, a supercar is no place from chrome. There are three small slats above the grille, which hark back to the iconic Audi Sport quattro model of the 1980s.
Further, the front splitter is wider, the rear diffuser has been made even more prominent, and there are new oval exhaust pipe outlets - previously reserved for Audi RS models only.
My only ‘errr’ moment with the design is the mesh cooling section at the rear bumper, which appears a touch unfinished in combination with some colours, and it’s also very rectangular, meaning the new exhaust tips are at odds with it. But it all has a purpose, and applies to the regular R8 and the LMS racer.
There are three new exterior packages available, which change elements such as the front splitter, door sill trims (side skirts) and diffuser. On the base car, there’s a high-gloss black look; on the V10 Performance there’s a matte titanium look to these bits. Optionally, there’s a high-gloss carbon package.
Further, customers can get the badges and Audi rings painted in gloss black, while body paint colours now include 'Kemora grey' and 'Ascari blue'. There’ll be 19-inch and 20-inch wheels offered, depending on the model.
Inside, there’s been a bit less of a noticeable change. Check out the interior photos to see for yourself.
It’s a more angry-looking entry-level car for the iconic Italian brand, but not in an ugly way.
Sure, some angry faces aren’t pretty. But I bet if Elle Macpherson or George Clooney got cranky at you, you’d still probably find them attractive. And so it is with the Portofino, which has a mildly menacing front end, some scintillating curves over its taut metalwork, and a pair of high-set hips with bold tail lights.
It is undeniably more muscular than the old California was. And filling the wheel arches are 20-inch wheels, which measure eight inches wide at the front (with 245/35 rubber) and ten inches wide (285/35) at the back.
This isn’t a compact car, either - with dimensions of 4586mm long, 1938mm wide and 1318mm tall, the Portofino is longer than some mid-sized SUVs. But boy, does it pull its size off well.
And like many of the beachside manors in the seaside town for which the new model is named, you can shutter yourself in to combat bad weather. The folding electronic roof system takes 14 seconds to raise or lower, and can be operated at speeds up to 40km/h.
I actually think it looks better with the roof on. It’s not often you can say that about a convertible…
Okay, so Audi claims “the driver sits in the new R8 like in a race car”.
Having been a passenger in the Audi R8 GT3 car the brand had on show, I can tell you that’s not entirely true - because while you do sit about 12 centimetres higher than that ground-hugging beast, the regulation R8 model is superbly comfortable.
What the brand is getting at, though, is that the focus of all the interior design is to serve the driver. As such, there’s no central media screen - instead, there’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (Audi ‘virtual cockpit’) which is where the driver takes charge using steering wheel controls.
The system is crisp to look at, but it can be a little hard to get used to the controls, especially for sat nav inputs and so on. And that’s even with the central MMI rotary dial with touch pad.
But the other controls are great - I love the air-conditioning knobs, the gear selector and the switchgear, which all has a technical and beautiful finish to it. The steering wheel is a delight to hold, and the push-button starter is a real eye-catcher in red.
The seats in the cars we tested were superbly supportive and very comfortable, but the lack of adjustment of the fixed buckets means you might find yourself a bit too upright (if you get to spend more time in the car than we did).
And even though it’s a supercar, the R8 offers a level of practicality. Sure, the door pockets are virtually useless and there are no properly usable cupholders, but that gives you an idea to the intent of the car. There are, however, storage spots behind both of the seats, and there’s a centre storage area in front of the shifter and in the armrest.
And while the R8 has a mid-mounted engine, there’s still a boot: the R8 coupe’s rear cargo bay offers enough room for a suitcase or two soft smaller bags for a weekend away, with 226 litres of cargo capacity - according to Audi, that’s enough for a golf bag. There’s a secondary storage area under the bonnet, which adds an extra 112L of space. Don’t buy the Spyder if practicality is important to you, as it has even less storage space.
You aren’t buying a Ferrari if you want the most practical car for the money, but that doesn’t mean there isn't some semblance of pragmatism to the Portofino.
There are four seats. I know, it’s amazing to think there’s a point in making the Portofino a 2+2 seater, but according to Ferrari, owners of the outgoing California model used those back seats about 30 per cent of the time.
I wouldn’t want to be in the back row that much. It’s designed to play host to little kids or small adults, but anyone nearing my height (182cm) will be very uncomfortable. Even tiny adult males (like fellow auto scribe Stephen Corby, for example) reckon it’s tight and not a pleasant place to be back there. (link to existing review). But if you have kids, there are two ISOFIX child seat anchor points.
The boot space is not huge, but with 292 litres of cargo capacity with the roof up, there’s enough room for a weekend’s worth of luggage for a couple (Ferrari says you can fit three cabin bags in that configuration, or two with the roof down). And - a tidbit for the actual customers out there- it has more luggage capacity than you get in a new Corolla hatch (217L).
As for cabin comfort, the front seats are sumptuous, and there are some nice elements like the 10.25-inch infotainment screen, which is pretty easy to use, if a little slow to load when you’re skipping between screens or trying to key locations into the sat-nav system.
There are also two 5.0-inch digital screens in front of the driver, mounted either side of the rev counter, and the front passenger can have their very own display with speed, revs and gear on show. It’s a neat option.
While it may have some long-distance touring pretence, the Portofino isn’t a beacon of loose-item storage. It has a pair of cupholders, and there’s a small storage tray that will fit a smartphone.
Price and features
It’s expected Audi Australia will again offer the R8 in two different specs when it launches in Australia around the fourth quarter of 2019.
That means a base model (if you can call it that) V10 variant, and a higher-grade V10 Performance grade with more power and torque. The latter is expected to be the bulk seller - the current V10 Plus model accounts for some 90 per cent of R8 sales. Maybe they’ll drop the base car - time will tell.
It’s too early to have a stab at pricing and specifications, because nothing has been confirmed as yet and we’d be on Audi keeping prices relatively stable or maybe bumping them up - hey, you’re getting more power for your money, after all!
But you can bank on goodies like LED headlights, auto high-beam lights, leather seat trim, DAB+ digital radio, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 13-speaker sound system, auto headlights and wipers, push-button start and keyless entry and a fair bit more.
The V10 Performance model we drove had 20x8.5-inch front wheels and 20x11-inch rear wheels, with super grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
For a guide, the current start price for the V10 is $366,340 plus on-road costs, while the V10 Plus (which will be renamed V10 Performance) currently lists at $402,430 before on-roads. Those prices are for the coupe - the Spyder convertible adds roughly $20,000 on both grades.
Considering some of the competitors, it is a little pricey - although it’s the cheapest way into V10 supercar ownership.
So, what are its rivals? Lamborghini has the Huracan (essentially an R8 twin - priced from $378,900 in RWD, or $428,000 for the AWD model), or you could take a look at a McLaren 570S ($395,000), Mercedes-AMG has the GT (from $261,130) and there are about 20 versions of the Porsche 911 you might consider (from $220,500). If the Spyder is more your go, I’d take a look at the Ferrari Portofino ($398,888), too.
It would be silly to think that people who can afford a Ferrari aren’t conscious of finance. Most people who can buy a car like this are very specific about what they will and won’t spend their hard-earned cash on, but according to Ferrari, about 70 per cent of projected Portofino purchasers will be buying their very first Prancing Horse. Lucky them!
And at $399,888 (list price, before on-road costs), the Portofino is as close to an affordable new Ferrari as you’ll get.
Standard equipment includes that 10.25-inch media screen that runs Apple CarPlay (an option, of course) and includes sat nav, DAB digital radio, and acts as a display for the reversing camera with parking guidance lines, plus there are front and rear parking sensors as standard.
The standard wheel package is a 20-inch set, and of course you get leather trim, 18-way electronically adjustable front seats, plus heated front seats and dual-zone climate control, and there’s proximity unlocking, too (keyless entry) with a push-button starter on the steering wheel. Auto LED headlights and auto wipers are standard, as is cruise control and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Speaking of Ferrari’s fantastic Formula One-inspired wheel (with paddle shifters), the version with the carbon fibre trim and integrated shift LEDs fitted to our car cost an extra $8300. Oh, and if you do want CarPlay, that'll be $6793 (which is more than the best Apple computer you can buy), and that reversing camera will add $6950 to the price. WHATTTT???
Some of the other options fitted to our car included the Magneride adaptive dampers ($8970), the LCD passenger display ($9501), adaptive front lighting ($5500), a premium hi-fi sound system ($10,100), and a foldable rear-seat backrest ($2701), among plenty of other interior elements.
The as-tested price for our just-under-four-hundred-grand Ferrari, then, was actually $481,394. But who's counting?
The Portofino is available in 28 different colours (including seven blue hues, six grey options, five red and three yellow paint choices).
Engine & trans
The new R8 retains the same 5.2-litre V10 (FSI) naturally-aspirated engine, but Audi’s engineers have wrung its neck to squeeze more power and torque out of it.
There are two tunes available - the regular version, which has 419kW of power (up from 397kW), and 560Nm of torque (up from 540Nm). It only comes with a seven-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch automatic transmission, and comes with quattro all-wheel drive.
The claimed 0-100km/h time is just 3.4 seconds for the coupe and 3.5sec for the Spyder convertible. It tops out at 324km/h, or 322/km/h in the convertible.
The higher-grade version is by far the most potent R8 yet, with 456kW of power (up from 449kW) and 580Nm of torque (was 560Nm). Again, S tronic and quattro, and this time around with a 0-100km/h acceleration claim of 3.1sec for the coupe (3.2sec convertible). Top speed is 331km/h or 329km/h, depending on body type.
The 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8 engine produces 441kW of power at 7500rpm and 760Nm of torque from 3000rpm. That means it has a sizeable 29kW more power (and 5Nm more torque) than the Ferrari California T it replaces.
Plus the 0-100 acceleration time is better, too; it will now hit highway speed in 3.5 seconds (was 3.6sec in the Cali T) and moves past the 200km/h marker in just 10.8sec, if you believe Ferrari’s claim.
Top speed is “more than 320km/h”. Didn’t get a chance to test that, sadly, nor the 0-200km/h time.
The kerb weight for the Portofino is 1664 kilograms, while the dry weight is 1545kg. The weight distribution is 46 per cent front, 54 per cent rear.
Don’t expect to see the official claimed fuel consumption figure on a regular basis. The number is 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres for the most potent coupe version, while the lower-power version uses a claimed 11.4L/100km.
The engine has cylinder deactivation for less intense situations, and there’s engine stop-start, too.
It uses 98RON premium unleaded fuel, and has an 83 litre fuel tank capacity.
The twin-turbo-V8-powered Ferrari Portofino uses a claimed 10.7 litres per 100 kilometres. Not that fuel costs are a big concern if you’re spending $400k on a car.
But that’s more than, say, a Mercedes-AMG GT, (9.4L/100km; 350kW/630Nm) but not as much as a Mercedes-AMG GT R (11.4L/100km; 430kW/700Nm). And the Ferrari has more power than both of those, and it's quicker, too (and more expensive…).
Fuel-tank size for the Ferrari Portofino is 80 litres, enough for a theoretical mileage range of 745km.
I can’t say what it’s like on public roads, but my stint on a shortened track at Circuito Ascari near Ronda in Spain left me grinning ear to ear.
And so it should, with the immense performance of the V10 engine - tested on track in the higher output R8 Performance spec with the full 456kW and 580Nm complement of grunt numbers.
Driving the R8 reminded me of that one time in under 11s rugby league when a much smaller defender managed to lift me up and dump be on the ground - an impressive effort, because I was heavy enough to be running around in under 15s. At that time, it took a second for me to realise what had happened, and was enough to leave me a bit short of breath.
The same sensation came to mind as I loaded up the throttle and threw myself at the horizon from the pit exit. Under a heavy right foot, the world around me started to blur and the first corner of the track suddenly approached after the crest. I had to try and remember what the lead car had shown me in the sighting laps prior, where to turn, how hard to get on the gas.
But I was distracted by the mind-bending physics I was experiencing, not to mention the theatre of the R8. The sound really is hard to beat - the howl of a high-revving V10, unmuffled by turbochargers, is something to behold when it’s enveloping you, and the fact the noise emanates from behind your ears almost makes you want to push it even harder.
1 – 6 – 5 – 10 – 2 – 7 – 3 – 8 – 4 – 9. That’s the firing sequence of the V10. Just thought you might like to know.
The gearshifts cut through the noise with prodigious sharpness, and when I chose the 'Performance' drive mode (which firmed everything up, enabled even more manic acceleration and disabled traction control) the shifts were brutal, often resulting in a shockwave through the car. It was some seriously good feedback for me as the driver, though it may not bode well for longevity…
There was tremendous traction from the quattro all-wheel drive system from a standstill, and across a long, banked corner on the track I felt super confident, pushing harder than I know I would have dared in a rear-drive car.
I managed to get a steer in both an R8 with the regular steering system and a model with the brand’s ‘dynamic’ steering set-up. Both have been retuned to be “more direct and precise throughout the entire speed range”.
I preferred the dynamic steering set-up which can vary the steering ratio based on the speed, and is “very direct” according to Audi - and even more so when Performance mode is engaged.
I found it to be super predictable at lower cornering speeds, and therefore more manageable to an amateur like me. One of Audi’s test drivers told me that he prefers the normal steering set-up, because at ‘really big speed’ it’s easier to predict.
The highest speed I saw was just a tickle over 200km/h, and I understood his take on it. Maybe normal steering for high-speed tracks, then? Or I just need to learn to drive faster…? Hey, no-one wants to be the guy who bins the $400k supercar on the very first rotation of about thirty over a two-week run of international journalists visiting to sample the newest, bestest and most expensivest Audi has to offer.
The models we drove were all fitted with the optional carbon ceramic braking package, which allowed the stoppers to resist fade for a lot longer - ideal for extended track time sessions, and they certainly stood up to my reliance on them on my few short stints on the track. They came in especially handy during a (very cool) night session where we were expected to remember the track layout about seven hours after our first outing.
It would have been great to drive it on real roads, because apparently that’s where the dynamic steering is most impressive.
Compared to the California T it replaces, the new model is stiffer, has a lighter all-aluminium chassis, gets a reworked transmission and also includes an electronically controlled limited-slip differential.
It’s faster, has more tech - like electronic exhaust bypass valves to make it sound better - and it's gorgeous.
So it's fast and fun? You bet. It has electronic power steering, which mightn’t be as tactile in terms of road feel as a vehicle with a hydraulic steering setup, but it is rapid in its reactivity, and arguably offers better point-and-shoot ability as a result. Old diminutive Corby criticised it for being very light and somewhat lacking, but I reckon that as an entry point to the brand, it serves as a very manageable steering setup.
The adaptive magnetorhelogical dampers do a magnificent job in allowing the Portofino to ride over rough patches of road, including pockmarks and potholes. It hardly ever feels ruffled, although there is some scuttle shake to the windscreen, as is often found in convertible cars.
The most surprising element to this Ferrari is that it is supple and reserved at times, but can turn into a manic machine when you want it to.
With the Manettino drive-mode dial on the steering wheel set to Comfort, you will be rewarded with sedate progress and cushioning from the road surface below. In Sport mode, things are all a bit more growly and rigid. I personally found the transmission in this mode, when left in Auto, was eager to upshift to help save fuel, but still responded pretty quickly when I put my foot down hard.
Turning Auto off means it’s you, the pedals and the paddles, and the car won’t overrule your decisions. If you want to see just how realistic that 10,000rpm tacho top is, you can test it in first, second, third… oh wait, you need to keep your licence? Just keep it to first.
Its braking is tremendous, with aggressive application resulting in seatbelt-tensioning response. Plus not only was the ride comfortable, the balance and control of the chassis was both predictable and inherently manageable in corners, and there was plenty of grip, even in the damp.
With the roof down, the noise of the exhaust is exhilarating under hard throttle, but I found it droned a bit under less-urgent acceleration, and in most instances of ‘regular driving’ it actually just sounded loud, rather than lush.
Things that were annoying? The throttle response is dull for the first part of the pedal travel, making for some testing moments in traffic. Not helping that is the fact the engine stop-start system is exceptionally overactive. And that there’s no fuel use readout on the digital trip computer screen - I wanted to see what the car was claiming in terms of fuel use, but I couldn’t.
The Audi R8 hasn’t been crash-tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but Audi claims the car’s spaceframe chassis offers “high crash safety”.
You get a reversing camera and parking sensors (optional in Europe, expected to be standard in Australia) plus the R8 comes with six airbags, including dual front, front side and curtain coverage. Spyder models miss out on curtain airbags.
Top spec models are expected to get the excellent laser headlights (auto high-beam light up to 600 metres throw distance), and all models come with LED headlights.
There is no ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash-test score available for any Ferrari model, and it’s fair to state that safety tech isn’t the reason you buy a Ferrari.
There is no capped price service plan for the R8, and no pre-purchase plan like you can get on the rest of the ‘regular’ Audi range.
Ferrari servicing won’t cost you a cent for the first seven years, and that’s whether you hold on to it or sell it - the new owner will have access to complementary maintenance for whatever is left of the initial seven-year period.
The standard warranty offer from Ferrari is a three-year plan, but if you sign up for the New Power15 program, Ferrari will cover your car for up to 15 years from the first registration date, and that includes cover for major mechanical components including the engine, transmission, suspension and steering. It reportedly costs $4617 for V8 models like this - a drop in the financial ocean at this price point.