2008 Audi R8

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2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI — Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.4

Bottom Line:

More than an R8 with a bigger engine, the R8 5.2 FSI is a stronger car than its V8 brother in nearly every aspect, featuring a proprietary Nurburgring-tuned suspension and subtly tweaked body panels, and weighing only 68 pounds more.
Pros:
  • Near-bottomless power
  • Excellent suspension
  • Lots of standard equipment
Cons:
  • Outdated R tronic transmission
  • Not easily distinguishable from V8 version
  • Terrific engine note is muted

View Pictures:  2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI

The 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI could be construed as a budget supercar — if such a thing exists. But you wouldn't know it from the performance, which is world-class.

The R8 is essentially a slightly detuned version of the Lamborghini Gallardo, but costs the equivalent of a second mortgage less. In the face of other, more expensive competition, the R8 5.2 FSI offers clinical precision in lieu of a boisterous personality.

Model Lineup
The R8 5.2 FSI comes in only one trim. Aside from the fantastic 10-cylinder engine, buyers get a laundry list of standard equipment. Audi Magnetic Ride allows the driver to stiffen or soften the suspension, while the springs and roll bars have been specifically tuned on the famed Nurburgring racetrack in Germany to handle the extra weight and power from the new engine. Subtle exterior changes differentiate the 5.2 FSI from the 4.2 FSI, including the world's first all-LED headlights. High beams, low beams, daytime running lights and blinkers are all long-life diodes. A restyled front fascia and side skirts further the high-end uniform, and large, twin-oval exhaust tips let the world know this is the V10.

Under the Hood
As fun as the gadgets are, the real news is in the engine bay. Audi has shoehorned a tuned version of its direct-injection 5.2-liter V10 engine into the R8 engine bay. This is the same 10-cylinder mammoth nestled in the Lamborghini Gallardo, but with slightly less power — a fact that haunts you every time your right foot goes down. The 5.2 FSI produces 525 horsepower (105 more ponies than the V8 version) and 391 lb-ft of torque. Even more impressive, the 10-cylinder engine weighs just 68 pounds more than its little sibling.

The R8 5.2 FSI can run zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and if you're brave enough, the car will carry you all the way to 196 mph. Those are figures good enough to put the car solidly in the company of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.

Audi offers two gearboxes for the R8 5.2 FSI — a 6-speed manual and a somewhat dated automated manual gearbox, dubbed R tronic. The 6-speed manual transmission incorporates a metal gated shifter, which may give up a few hundredths of a second in shift time, but brings priceless personality and satisfaction to the R8 once again. The 6-speed R tronic gearbox is unquestionably fast — offering shift times in the 0.1-second range — but is a relatively dated single-clutch system.

Both transmissions are bolted to a quattro all-wheel-drive system with a slightly modified torque bias — the 5.2 FSI defaults to 15 percent front and 85 percent rear, as opposed to 10/90 in the 4.2 FSI. Audi reworked the quattro system to account for the greater torque of the V10 engine. Despite the slightly reduced rear bias, there's plenty of rearward torque, allowing the rear end to be playful without all of the terror typical of overpowered lightweights.

Inner Space
Step inside and there are leather seats in place of the Alcantara units in the V8 version. Audi's multimedia interface with navigation is standard, though we would like to see the company's all-new third-generation MMI make it aboard the R8 as well. A handy rearview camera takes care of parking woes, and stepping up to the V10 will also net you a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system capable of going all the way to 11. Bluetooth hands-free calling is standard, as is a parking system with proximity sensors.

The dash and center stack are minimalistic, with bare-essential controls within finger reach. A flat-bottomed steering wheel fits well with the design, and houses controls for the audio system, while a red-trimmed sport tachometer and speedometer dominate the gauge cluster.

On the Road
This is the R8 Audi should have built from the beginning. The 5.2 FSI engine provides unending power in smooth, heaping buckets. Motoring around town is as simple as you can ask from a car like this, but get into some twisting asphalt and away from stoplights, and the R8 5.2 FSI's strengths become evident. The retuned suspension is scalpel-sharp and gives the all-wheel-drive titan physics-bending grip, made better by the twin magnetic ride settings.

When it comes to gearbox selection, stick with the 6-speed manual. With precise shifts and gear ratios that make the most out of every engine revolution, the gearbox is what we want out of a car with the R8's athletic intentions. While the R tronic will give your left leg less of a workout, we would really rather see a dual-clutch gearbox in its stead. In-traffic shifts aren't nearly smooth enough for a vehicle at this price point, and on track the abrupt nature of the single-clutch shifts can upset an otherwise perfect balance.

The combination of a titanic engine and complex all-wheel-drive system doesn't do anything to benefit fuel economy. Still, with 12 mpg city/20 mpg highway in manual trim and 13/20 mpg in R tronic guise, the R8 is certainly ahead of the supercar curve.

Right for You?
The 2010 R8 5.2 FSI starts at $146,000 and is technically available from dealers in the U.S. right now. Sizable waiting lists everywhere mean that unless you know someone in the homeland, odds are you aren't going to be able to pick up the keys anytime soon, even if you have the cash in hand. In our book, it may be worth the wait. The R8 5.2 FSI is a serious car with the looks to match, and the world-class hardware on board makes it a steal compared with other exotics.

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.

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BB06 - 9/20/2014 11:45:24 AM