Review: 2008 Audi R8
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The low-slung, all-wheel-drive 187-mph Audi R8 is one of the first viable competitors to the fastest versions of the iconic Porsche 911 and even to far costlier cars such as the Ferrari F430.
The mid-engine 2008 R8 seems well worth its under-$120,000 list prices. It has head-turning styling and a 420-horsepower V8 tucked under a clear glass cover, which gives it some show-biz pizzazz.
The hand-assembled R8 has advanced aluminum construction and is the fastest Audi ever built. It soon feels as if it would be happiest on a race track or no-speed-limit European highways, but is an "everyday supercar," like the 911, and thus can be driven daily.
Auto buff magazines have been doing backflips after testing the R8, which goes on sale in September. I drove a European version modified to U.S. specifications.
It shouldn't be surprising that a car such as the R8 comes from Audi. It's won many major races. For example, it has been a 5-time winner at the prestigious Le Mans 24-hour race in France. The R8 is aptly named after Audi's Le Mans winning car.
While it works efficiently, the R tronic shifts roughly when left in automatic mode because the R8 is an ultrafunctional take-no-prisoners car.
Slipping this transmission into "sport" mode evens out the shifts a lot, but delays upshifts from lower gears for a long time and thus allows high engine revs at fairly low speeds. ("It stays in the lower gears at higher revs in sport mode so the car can really jump when you want it to," an Audi spokesman said.) Manual shifts with the R tronic work fine.
Race Car Look
The high-revving (7800 rpm) engine emits a soft-but-menacing rumble at idle and a spine-tingling staccato snarl during fast acceleration. Cruising is quiet.
Allowing good high-speed stability are such items as aerodynamic underbody diffusers that use onrushing air to help the R8 pinned to roads.
The R8 is no lightweight, despite its aluminum construction. It weighs 3,605 pounds and fuel economy thus is an estimated 13 mpg in the city and 20 on highways with the manual and 13 and 19 with the R tronic. Buyers thus face a gas-guzzler tax of $1,700 to $2,100.
The ride is on the firm side, but supple, helped by a rigid aluminum space frame and magnetic ride adaptive damping system. The brake pedal is firm and a little touchy in town, but permits easy high-speed braking.
A driver must deal with over-the-shoulder blind spots, but the windshield is huge, the cowl is low and outside mirrors are large. They fold flat against the side windows to avoid expensive damage.
Other annoyances: It's easy to accidentally activate the emergency flashers with your hand when manually shifting the R tronic transmission with the console shifter. There also are steering-wheel shifter paddles, but they can be rather awkward to use.
It's impossible to see where the front and rear of the R8 ends, so it's a good idea to get the optional Premium Package to avoid body damage. It has Audi's parking system, which warns when the R8 is getting too close to stationary objects.
While small, the front cargo compartment is usefully shaped, and the space behind the front seats will take a golf bag or a few duffle bags.
Audi has been building outstanding cars for a long time, so it seems as if the R8 is overdue. Well, it's here now, allowing an alternative to other outstanding high-performance sports cars.