Topgear Audi R8 V8 Valvetronic F1 Exhaust Review

One of the most captivating things about a high-performance car is the sound. I have always felt that the sound that a vehicle makes is almost as important as the way it looks and drives. A performance car is all about that enjoyable experience where every time you press the throttle down, a smile lights up your face.

The Audi R8 from our project looks stunning and after all the improvements we have made, it is great to drive as well but it still felt like something was missing. And we realised that the missing link was its sound. It did have that V8 burble going for it but the noise was rather muted and almost lifeless.

Even at high RPM, the sound wasn’t as thrilling as on some of the other supercars out there. I wanted to remedy this by changing the stock exhaust system. I wanted something that made a noticeable difference to the exhaust note without breaking the bank (relative to the cost of the car) and more importantly, I needed something that didn’t sound noisy all the time. I still wanted it to be quiet when I need it to be. The Topgear Audi R8 V8 Valvetronic F1 Cat Back Performance exhaust seemed to fit the bill perfectly, so I decided to give it a try.

Topgear Audi R8 V8 Valvetronic F1 Exhaust Install

The Sound

New Exhaust

The exhaust note I wanted was something that would announce that a supercar was approaching and nothing does that better than the high-pitched scream of a racecar engine. The Topgear Audi R8 V8 Valvetronic F1 exhaust achieves that by using an X-Pipe design. This design allows the exhaust system to produce an F1-like sound, whilst also aiding the performance. It improves gas flow, which also helps to increase the power output of the engine.

As you might have surmised from the name itself, this exhaust system takes its inspiration from the world of F1 and not the hybrid F1 of today but the naturally-aspirated era from a few years back. The F1 cars zooming past with their shrieking high-pitched engine note was an experience worth savouring and this exhaust system is the closest you can get to replicating that feeling and even bettering it in a road car, as you won’t just be a mere spectator.

One of the best features of this exhaust system is its valve mechanism. This makes it quite versatile while also making this a practical solution. There is a time and place to sound like a supercar, but those aren’t usually in a quiet neighbourhood or near schools and hospitals etc. Thankfully, this exhaust system from Topgear gives you the ability to choose how you want your car to sound, based on the way these valves are actuated. It allows your car to have multiple personalities depending on the valve position. It can be civilised when you want it to be and it can let people know that a supercar is approaching when you feel like tearing through the streets.

Valves Open

This is where you will hear and feel the biggest difference. The R8 was a bit too civilised before. It would operate in an inconspicuous manner. That is fine for cars that are meant for formal settings and luxury cruising but the R8 isn’t meant for either of those, so this exhaust system has finally injected a dose of youth and vigour into this model.

Revving the engine gives out this sweet sound full of powerful high-end frequencies that not only sound quintessentially like a high-performance engine but something that is even rare among sportscars. You see, if you are brave enough to pin the throttle and let the RPM climb all the way up, this vehicle starts to sound like a sports bike which I never thought was even possible in the R8 V8.

While most people have a love-hate relationship with high-performance vehicles, the way they sound is something that is universally liked and the R8 sounds just as good when the valves are fully open. The trade-off here is that the low-end of the sound spectrum is gone now. That characteristic V8 burble is not present anymore and while I do miss that deep bassy sound, the guttural scream that this exhaust system brings is a much more exciting alternative.

Valves Closed

As I had mentioned earlier, I did not always want to sound like I was driving a car with a race car engine. It would be highly inappropriate to do so near people’s homes or a sombre setting and that is where this mode comes in. It can also be useful on long motorway drives. It still sounds good but the excessive exhaust noise is effectively muted to normal-ish levels.

Cold Starts

Starting up the R8 had always felt like a dull affair. Supercars need to have a sense of flamboyance to them and the Audi R8 did not have that in the sound department. That has now been fixed. The valves open by default and the car screams to life and that race car-like scream continues for about 60 seconds while it gets warmed up. This system will not make your neighbours very happy unless they love the sound of a high-performance engine as well. It has, however, made me look forward to turning the ignition on in this car every morning and that is a brownie point for the exhaust system in my books. You can instantly close the valves once started, but it is still quite loud until warm.

Stock Exhaust

The stock exhaust had started to show its age. So, aesthetically, it was already at the point where a replacement was warranted but it was the sound that was always the issue. As I alluded to earlier, it did have a nice V8 burble but that was about all the character it had. Even that was only noticeable in any significant way when the engine was revved hard.

Most of the time it was just too quiet and muted. The car never had a problem accelerating or going fast but the sensation was often lost because of how muted it sounded. That was my biggest issue with the driving characteristics of the Audi R8. I know it sounds somewhat superficial but the sound plays a big part in how a car feels and the Audi R8’s stock exhaust was just not as exciting as the rest of the car. It too had a valve system that was controlled by a combination of the RPM and throttle input and even when the valves were fully open, it was just a small improvement and still quite underwhelming.

Before and After Sound Examples

Construction and Design

The biggest fear of replacing stock parts is ending up with something that is of sub-par quality. The Topgear Audi R8 V8 Valvetronic F1 cat back performance exhaust does not belong in that category. It is constructed out of super high-quality stainless steel. It is also very well put together with all the welding joints showing that it has been made by highly skilled craftsmen and the quality control is of an extremely high standard as well. It is quite sturdy and won’t come apart if dropped like some aftermarket parts too.

It is reassuringly solid but not as heavy as the stock exhaust system, which means that there will be a minor increase in the power to weight ratio of the car as well. The X-pipe design is what gives this exhaust system that characteristic high note sound. It also improves the airflow, which accounts for a slight increase in the power output as well. To cap it all off, it is aesthetically pleasing and adds to the impression of the Audi R8 being a real supercar.

The valve system gives the R8 V8 versatility and a dual personality. It can be cultured and civilised one moment and be a loud and in-your-face type of supercar the next, all with the push of a button.

The Installation

I got this installed in-house by Topgear themselves, based in Dorset, England. It does take some work to put in. The entire rear end of the car has to be removed. This includes the rear wheels, wheel arches, bumper, spoiler, and pretty much anything else that covers the exhaust system. The stock heat shield is reused.

It would take about 6-7 hours for a professional to instal it under normal working conditions. That can be a downside for some people but changing an exhaust system is something that has to be done correctly, as an improperly installed exhaust system can cause problems, especially one that has as much power and torque as the Audi R8. It is also worth noting there is also some electrical work that needs to be completed for the remote control fob to operate the valves.

The Driving Characteristics

Petrolheads have always seen the Audi R8 as a more civilised version of the old Lamborghini Gallardo. They even share a lot of features but the exhaust note isn’t one of them. The Gallardo was notoriously difficult to drive quietly and every time the RPM got above 2000, it would start bellowing as a supercar should.

The R8 lacked that sense of theatre. It looked and drove like a supercar but it sounded like something much more sensible and dull. The Topgear Audi R8 V8 Valvetronic F1 cat back exhaust finally adds that element to it. While there is a slight improvement in performance as well, it is quite negligible and yet the car feels a lot faster than it used to. It could be a placebo effect but supercars, in my opinion, should always be about that feeling and sounding fast is just as important as actually being fast.

One of the most exciting parts of testing this exhaust system was driving with the valves open on a street lined with tall buildings. The sound was reflected back at me and it was just so pleasurable. The notes would change subtly as I drove past the buildings and the gaps in between them and it made me feel like the conductor of a petrol-fuelled orchestra. You can only imagine what it sounds like inside a tunnel!

Valvetronic – Loud and Quiet

So, the stock exhaust was great when you didn’t want to attract attention to yourself or disturb others. But when the valves are open, this all changes and makes it as excitingly loud as a supercar should be. The Valvetronic system allows it to retain the best characteristics of both worlds. The remote-controlled valves allow you to choose between being quiet or making your presence known, from the comfort of the driver’s seat itself.

How It Changes The Car

The stock exhaust system was probably designed more to meet emissions regulations than to please driving enthusiasts. In the R8 it just couldn’t cut it as a supercar. It had the looks to attract attention but nothing to hold the gaze. In essence, it was quite a forgettable car unless you were eight and a big fan of Iron Man.

The new exhaust system will let people know of your arrival and will keep them engrossed long after you have driven away. From the driver’s seat, everything is much more exciting. Every gear shift is more pronounced and each time you press the throttle, it somehow carries more meaning. As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t any noticeable increase in performance but the car just feels much faster and I reiterate – that feeling is everything with a high-performance car.

Track Use – Valves Closed Under 100db

This exhaust is perfect for track use. As the exhaust is valved you are able to restrict the level of noise that the car puts out. Typically race tracks in the UK have a noise limit of around 105DB. We got the car tested at a local circuit and at around 5,000 rpm stationary with the valves closed the car recorded 99.5db.

So you will still be able to track the car with this performance exhaust no problem at all.

Other Exhaust Options for The R8?

Stock exhausts on most European cars, even the sporty ones, tend to lack imagination when it comes to the sound department. As such, aftermarket options to fix this shortcoming are numerous. However, choosing the right one is very important. I did a lot of research and most of them are costlier than the Topgear exhaust but offer boring sounds and are less well made. Here is the best source for R8 exhaust samples on the internet. You can pay up to £6,000 – 7,000 on some of the more expensive titanium exhaust systems if you like, but my pick was the Topgear unit and I am pleased with it.

Topgear Audi R8 V8 Valvetronic F1 Exhaust Verdict

At a price point of £1,849 direct from Topgear, it is a significant investment for an upgrade on a 13-year old car but it is very much worth it because you get a lot in return. It finally gives it the one thing it has always missed and as such, it isn’t just a repair but an upgrade in the truest sense of the word. It is of extremely high quality and it is tailor-made for the Audi R8, which makes it an excellent purchase. We have come a long way since this entire project began and this has made the most significant improvement to the car. It has completely changed the driving experience and for that, it gets my seal of approval.

If you are an R8 V10 owner there is also a Topgaer F1 exhaust for your car which sounds even better, take a look here.

Paul Hadley: Motor Verso editor, motoring journalist and all around car enthusiast.