Normally when you drive a car you truly love, it's like hot chocolate.
It warms your soul, and you want to come back for more. This car, the
Audi R8, is nothing like that. It's not hot chocolate at all. This car
is like crack cocaine.
I love the R8 sure
enough, but it terrifies me. It's so powerful, so beautiful, so
thrilling, that simply stepping near it makes my pulse quicken and my
blood pressure rise. I only drove it for a few days, but I'm pretty sure
it reduced my lifespan by at least a year or two.
No, the R8 doesn't warm
your soul. It grabs your soul around the neck and gives it a
420-horsepower beating until your soul's spleen is ruptured. Then it
forces your soul to come back for more. Just like crack.
THE BASICS: The
R8 follows a simple formula: extremely light weight plus extremely high
horsepower equals extreme performance.
More specifically, it's
a very expensive, two-seat German supercar with a huge V8 engine mounted
directly behind the driver's back and a body made from Tupperware and
Reynolds aluminum foil. It's stunningly beautiful. And it can go nearly
Power comes from a
4.2-liter engine that's mounted just in front of the rear axle. The
mid-engine design allows for excellent weight distribution and better
handling when the tires start to lose traction, which doesn't happen
easily because it has Audi's famous all-wheel drive system and tires as
wide as Tennessee.
It also has the best
suspension system I've ever driven. Not only does it perform amazingly
well through corners, with the kind of grace and predictability most
cars can only dream of, but it also has a magic switch that changes the
suspension from Racetrack worthy to Cadillac worthy.
I'm not exaggerating.
It's an enormous difference when you're floating on glass one second,
then flip the switch and -- WHAM! -- You can suddenly feel every
particle of dust between your tires and the asphalt.
It's clear Audi wanted
this to be a comfortable car for everyday driving, and not just because
of the magnetic suspension that can feel like Grandma's car. It's also
much roomier than many comparable supercars, with enough head and
shoulder room for the Jolly Green Giant.
The cockpit in the R8
is simple and totally focused on the driver, as it should be in such a
high-performance machine. Plus the R8 is largely hand-assembled, using
the same platform as the Lamborghini Gallardo, so it's extremely
OK, so how much does it
cost? Well, the base price is $109,000, and the one I drove cost around
$130,000, thanks to the upgraded leather package and the world's worst
transmission, but more on that later.
That may sound like a
lot of money, and indeed it is, but when you consider the Ferrari’s and
Lamborghini’s it compares with cost closer to $200,000, that $109,000
price tag suddenly starts to look like a bargain.
THE STYLE: No
other car looks anything like the R8. Its body would fit better on the
set of "Deep Space Nine" than on a roadway, so not surprisingly, this
growling spaceship gets plenty of stares.
For the most part, the
styling is dominated by the school of "form follows function." Giant air
intakes feed the monster engine, and the overall shape is designed for
high-speed stability. It's one of the few street-legal cars that
actually generates downforce as it picks up speed, meaning the shape is
designed to suck it onto the road like an upside-down airplane wing.
The R8 also has some
completely arbitrary styling features that make it one of the most
original and memorable cars ever built.
The most important
visual element is what Audi calls the "sideblades."
These blades, and with
the low-slung shape, make the Audi R8 one of the most original and
recognizable cars ever built.
The sideblades are
really giant air intakes that feed clean air into the engine, and you
can have them painted a contrasting color that stands out from the body
paint. I love them for three reasons: One, they emphasize the engine's
position in the middle of the car. Two, they make the R8 look shorter.
And three, no other car has them. They're absolutely brilliant.
Another strange visual
feature is the R8's pixie eyelashes. A row of LEDs lines each headlight
to give the car some personality, almost like the Audi is wearing
mascara. I love it.
But the best feature,
hands down, is the window that exposes the massive engine in back. It's
a frame for this piece of aluminum modern art, showing off the heart of
Some people may not
like this car's unusual styling, but even its detractors have to admit
one thing: the Audi R8 forces you to look at it.
Any time you drive an exotic car, it gets lots of attention. That can be
a good thing if you need an ego boost, but it's also a major drawback.
You can't go anywhere
without complete strangers suddenly turning into Morley Safer, grilling
you about every detail of the car. And you can't park it and leave it
without worrying that someone will either scratch it, dent it, or try to
Even worse, if you
don't want to get a manual transmission, your only other choice is a
$9,000 piece of garbage Audi calls the R tronic.
My test car was fitted
with the R tronic, and honestly, I would have paid Audi another $9,000
to beat it with a baseball bat until it was dead.
It's essentially a
robotic manual transmission that doesn't use a clutch pedal. It can do
shifts faster than are humanly possible with a regular transmission, but
at low speeds it shifts like it's being controlled by a 15-year-old kid
driving a manual transmission Rambler, for the first time. It's jerky,
unpredictable and extremely unpleasant.
When you drive more
aggressively, accelerating quickly from each stop, the transmission
isn't so bad. But if you expect it to do smooth Grandma shifts to match
the smooth Grandma suspension, you're out of luck.
The problem even
contributed to me getting pulled over by a small-town cop for
accelerating the spaceship too quickly. I tried to explain that the R8
is extremely difficult to drive slowly because of the transmission,
which is the honest-to-goodness truth, but I'm not sure he believed me.
Assuming you stay away from Audi's R tronic trans, it's hard to find
anything whatsoever to fault with this car. After driving this
remarkable machine, every other car suddenly feels like a horse and
Its body makes you
salivate. Its suspension is magical, its performance is otherworldly,
and the engine sounds like God rolling a timpani.
What was tested?
The 2008 Audi R8 Quattro R tronic with a base price of $118,000. Options
on the test car include: paint upgrade - $650, enhanced leather package
- $5,500, premium package - $3,500, navigation system - $2,000. Total
MSRP price as tested, including the $2,100 gas guzzler tax and a $995
destination charge: $132,745.
Why avoid it?
The R tronic transmission is weird, plus it turns everyone with a camera
phone into a paparazzi.
Why buy it? It's
an exotic car you can drive every day. It combines jaw-dropping
performance with surprising comfort at a price that's impressive,
considering its Lamborghini DNA.
In fact the only
problem I really had with it was the serious, stomach-turning withdrawal
pains when they took it away.
By Derek Price ©
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Byline: SuperCar Review provided by Tony
Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
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Column Name: The Stunning, Exotic Audi R8 is a
Topic: The 2008 Audi R8
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Series #: 2008 - 29
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