2014 Audi R8


Review: 2008 Audi R8

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 9

Bottom Line:

Audi comes up with a genuine exotic car for reasonable prices.
  • Wild styling
  • Sizzling performance
  • Upscale interior
  • Abrupt automatic-mode transmission
  • Can't see front end when parking
  • Rear blind spots

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.

Comfortable Interior
The interior is spacious and comfortable, with such items as power/heated leather/Alcantara sport seats, automatic climate control, elaborate sound system, power windows and cruise control. Knee bags are even included as safety items.

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.

New Territory
The R8 enters new territory for Germany's Audi, which feels it's been unfairly overlooked, with many potential buyers opting instead for the German BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The R8 should considerably boost Audi's image because it's one of the fastest, flashiest sports cars on the market.

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.

Mixed Feelings
The R8 costs $109,000 with a 6-speed manual gearbox and $118,000 with a 6-speed "R tronic" automatic transmission. The manual shifts nicely, but I have mixed feelings about the R tronic.

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
Audi has given the R8 a race car's functional look. For example, wide "side blades" behind the front doors, which can be had in a contrasting body color, aren't the sort of item seen on cars. They house engine-bay air scoops because the R8 has a great appetite for air, like all high-performance sports cars.

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.

Sizzling Acceleration
The R8 does 0-60 in 4.1 seconds, and merging and high-speed passing on highways are virtually effortless. The front of the R8 looks ferocious, which caused slowpokes in the fast lane to quickly move over when they glanced at my test car in their rearview mirror.

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.

Superb Roadability
Roadability is outstanding. As with many super performance cars, the R8's steering is heavy, but quick and almost telepathic, controlled by a small, flat-bottom D-shaped steering wheel. The advanced all-wheel-drive system and large, wide 19-inch tires, electronic stability control and sophisticated suspension help provide the car with excellent balance and grace.

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.

Some Faults
The artful dashboard has easily read gauges, but sun visors with their unlit vanity mirrors don't swivel to the side and are small, as are sound system controls. The dual console cupholders are set too far back for convenient use.

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.

Agility Needed
Comfortable seats provide excellent side support and slide back far enough to satisfy tall folks. Long, light doors assist entry and exit, although agility is needed to get in and out.

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.


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BB03 - 9/17/2014 10:46:25 AM