4.2 FSI quattro R tronic
will scorch to the
ton in ten seconds,
scythe through the
trickiest and most
with ease, tear
round a track
without a trace of
take you from
Monaco in subtle
style. It can do all
that and its also
one of the easiest supercars
drive that you can buy...
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE R8, apart from the blindingly obvious the
striking good looks is that the race track it its true home, an
impression firmed up after you've heard the luscious tones of its 424bhp
V8 powerplant at work. And while first impressions are often wrong, this time
Because the R8 owes much to motor racing Audi's R8 race car has won
the legendary Le Mans endurance race an amazing eight times since first entering
in 2000. And it was in recognition of this unprecedented success that the R8
supercar was created.
Not surprisingly, given the R8's heritage, you quickly realise that this streamlined,
ground-hugging projectile is a very fast car indeed. Just a glance though the
rear glass screen/engine lid to admire the 4.2-litre V8 will reassure you of
that. Sited amidships directly behind the cockpit, it's as emotively suggestive
of raw power as is the similarly-displayed V8 inhabiting the engine bay of a
Despite the supercar-grade visual drama and head-turning looks, buying into
the mid-engined R8 experience is less expensive than joining Club Ferrari. The
basic on-the-road price of the Audi R8 is £77,405 but that's for the manual
version; the R tronic sequential transmission model reviewed here would set
you back £82,495. And spec'd to the same level as our test car, you'd be writing
a cheque for £93,575.
You can't wait to experience the R8's scorching 0-62mph acceleration or take
it someplace where you can sample the 187mph top speed without going directly
Swing open the long door and you'll find form and function fluently entwined
in the roomy cabin; fine leather and superbly-considered aluminium generate
the right ambience with more than a hint of race-track inspiration provided
by the physical layout and the flat-bottomed steering wheel. The sports-style,
leather covered seats look inviting and offer fine support (everyone who sat
in them commented on how good they were) and, combined with extensive reach
and height adjustment for the steering wheel, contribute to the first-rate driving
Two opposing 'teardrop' instrument clusters make up the instrument pack, each
holding one major dial and a smaller secondary gauge Left: rev-counter/oil
temperature; Right: 220mph speedometer/battery condition. These are separated
by the driver's information display and two more small dials for coolant temperature
and fuel. The delightfully-tooled aluminium selector lever and knurled rotary
controls for the air conditioning shine like jewels in a dragon's den. Overall
the cabin, the appealing layout and quality touches notwithstanding, is above
all a driver's workplace.
Storage space is not too bad for this class of car. Inside the cabin there's
a long, slim glovebox and long, but not very deep, door pockets plus an 8-inch-wide
shelf behind the front seats. To save space, the six-disc CD autochanger is
installed into the rear bulkhead, accessible from between the seatbacks. Under
the 'bonnet' there's a deep but modest 102-litre well bear in mind similar
supercars offer much the same; some even less. But to prove that the wealthy
have the same needs, there is a pair of cup-holders!
in traffic the V8 feels
ripe for mischief...
Neither have the finer things in life been overlooked: no fear of getting lost
with the DVD-based SatNav with 6.5-inch colour screen and 3D map display, and
a Bang & Olufsen 465W 12-speaker sound system guarantees you will be suitably
entertained along the way. Of course, if music's not your thing, then there's
always the splendid symphony provided by the 4.2-litre 8-cylinder 'ensemble'
playing on demand just behind your head…
All round visibility is surprisingly good for a car with its engine amidships,
although over-the-shoulder visibility is obviously limited when parking
which is where the parking sensors prove their £610 worth.
Other essential cabin equipment includes electronic climate control, driver's
information system, supportive and grippy manually-operated sports seats with
electric lumbar support, multi-function wheel with gear-change paddles for the
R tronic two-pedal transmission, auto lights and wipers, electrically-operated,
power-folding heated door mirrors, one-touch auto up/down windows, drive-off
automatic central locking and, for the Apple of your 'i', an AUX-in socket.
Both the driver and the passenger are protected by a front and side airbag;
the passenger's front airbag can be key-switch deactivated.
Extras totalling £9,600 were fitted to our test R8 including an Extended Leather
pack (£2,445) that spreads even more fine Nappa leather throughout the cabin
to complement the standard-fit leather upholstery, the Magnetic Ride system
(£1,320), SatNav with DVD (£1,760), Acoustic Parking (£610), Bang & Olufsen
sound system (£1,760) and three-stage heated seats (£270). You'll need to spend
a little more if you want power-operated seats, but again it's worth it.
Other standard equipment that can't be seen from the cockpit includes a set
of 19-inch double-spoke design alloy wheels shod with 235/30 rubber at the front
and 295/30 tyres at the rear, über-cool LED daytime-running lights, quattro
all-wheel drive, Electronic Differential Lock traction control, internally-vented
disc brakes with 8-piston callipers at the front and 4-piston at the rear (ceramic
brakes are, incidentally, a £6,600 option) and ESP Version 8 the latest
generation electronic stability programme that networks the ABS, EBD, ASR and
EDL systems. Owners who have a mind to push their R8 to the limit on a racetrack
can switch off ESP, complete with its traction control feature.
What you won't find in the R8 is a Start button. Two switches you will find
and which you will definitely take pleasure in are sited just
behind the stubby selector lever: the first is marked 'SPORT'; the second bears
a self-explanatory damper icon. Sport mode does exactly what it says, holding
off upshifts for optimum acceleration, while the 'damper' button switches the
Magnetic Ride adaptive suspension system between Normal and Sport modes.
we mentioned earlier: no Start button; just a key. Twist it and the V8 bursts
into life with a muscular metallic bark that quickly settles to a civilised
idle. The R tronic can be started in manual mode or Neutral; when the engine's
switched off you see a message on the driver's display warning you to leave
it in first gear. If you haven't used this type of transmission before, you
need to know that it is not an automatic but effectively a manual 'box
only the clutch and gearchanges are controlled electronically for you.
to the magnetic
rides Sport setting
and the R8 feels track-
The other characteristic of the driver-biased R tronic is that if you use the
paddles to shift up or down while in Auto, the system them stays in manual mode
from that moment on until you nudge the lever back to the left to re-engage
Auto. And when the R8 is stationary on an incline it will roll (as would a normal
manual gearbox with the clutch down) unless the footbrake or handbrake is applied.
Move the selector lever left into Auto and pull away.
In the first 100 yards four immediate impressions hit you. First, the steering
feels great and imparts a nicely-weighted sense of connection. It's also fast
and reactive; the R8 changing direction fluently, obediently and immediately.
A turning circle of 11.8 metres which is small for a sports car
helps here. The rim, incidentally, is just the right diameter; firm and wrapped
in smooth leather. Second, the brakes are meaty and extremely powerful. Third,
get used to being stared at and pointed at because the R8 has the same capacity
to attract the public as a Hollywood A-lister. And fourth, even trickling along
in traffic the V8 feels and sounds ripe for mischief with the promise
of the awesome performance yet to come.
Designed to be high-revving (it revs to 8,250rpm), the dry-sumped, quad-cam
V8 is also flexible: it will pull cleanly from a 'traffic-calmed' sub-20mph
in fifth gear. Peak power is served up at 7,800rpm while maximum torque of 317lb
ft is on the menu from 4,500 to 6,000rpm. And while it is gratifying to drive
at regular speeds in town and cross-country, find yourself a challenging open
road and, space permitting (the R8 has a deceptive and almost startling ability
to shrink long straights) you'll experience relentless acceleration.
This amount of power in a car weighing barely more than a tonne and a half is
a surefire recipe for dramatic performance and the R8 does not disappoint.
Officially, the 0-62mph sprint is despatched in 4.6 seconds, but well run-in
examples have been clocked in the low 4.1s/4.2s placing the R8 firmly
in Ferrari 430 (4.0 seconds) and Porsche 911 GT3 (4.1 seconds) territory. The
more telling 0-124mph figure is, officially, 14.9 seconds with 'the ton' gone
in a 10-second burst. Top speed is 187mph. Extended, the V8 pulls hard
thrillingly hard making a magnificent sound as it closes in on the redline.
Prod the stainless steel accelerator pedal as brutally as you like and, in spite
of 424bhp clamouring to overwhelm the four patches of rubber in contact with
the road, there's no hesitation and no wheelspin as the R8 takes flight. This
is down to the quattro all-wheel drive that effectively replaces wheelspin with
grip… and then more grip.
As impressive as the steering quality is the agreeable ride. The magnetic ride
system is well worth every penny of the extra £1,350 it costs, giving you the
choice, at the press of a button, of decent ride comfort or a stiffer-damped,
harder-edged and flat-riding setting for when you want to have some real fun.
Actually, both modes are surprisingly accommodating and, on some motorway surfaces,
the well 'tied-down' Sport mode is actually preferable for its ability to rein-in
suspension travel over crests and ridges.
In Normal mode, the R8 is unexpectedly comfortable and compliant, dealing forgivingly
with quite rough road surfaces yet without isolating you from what lies beneath.
Switch to the magnetic ride's Sport setting and the R8 feels 'track-ready'
yet still never harsh. Any reduction in comfort is rewarded pro rata by road
feel through the rigid aluminium body. The mostly hand-built bodyshell is formed
predominately from lightweight aluminium: an aluminium spaceframe chassis 'skeleton'
with forged aluminium suspension (double wishbones all-round) clad in all-aluminium
Enormous amounts of grip and high-speed stability are engineered into the R8
so much so that perhaps only a small percentge of R8 drivers are ever
likely to come close to exploring the road or track limits. The all-wheel drive
set-up makes it embarrassingly easy to dive into challenging corners safely
and quickly. Put the R8 through a series of sweeping bends and it feels unshakeably
poised, sticking to its line as if 'on rails'. The brakes, which on first acquaintance
seem slightly over-servoed (particularly at low speeds), quickly show themselves
to be as progressive as they are potent. It doesn't take long to get used to
the R8's realisitic driveability.
An under-floor diffuser and pop-up rear spoiler generate downforce to keep the
R8 pressed tight onto the road. The spoiler extends automatically at speeds
above 62mph and retracts at speeds below 22mph, or can be operated manually
via the button in the centre console.
Serious driving is best done with the R tronic in its manual mode, using either
the selector lever or the wheel-mounted paddle-shifts to play the ratios. With
the R tronic in its Sport mode, overtaking slower traffic can be done with fearless
purpose by tapping the left-hand paddle and dropping down to the most appropriate
gear in the blink of an eye, punching you towards the horizon and only relenting
when you lift off or tap the right-hand paddle to trigger an upshift. A well-considered
touch both aurally and for those concerned about how the world rates
their driving skills is the perfectly-timed 'double declutch' blip generated
by the electronics when changing down manually.
When the tempo is unhurried, the R8 is a fine means of travel: the V8 is fairly
muted unless hard-pressed and in spite of rolling on lo-pro tyres of sizeable
girth, road noise is extremely well suppressed and the cabin quite restful.
Simply put, while able to genuinely entertain the blue-blooded driving enthusiast
with its sporting ability, the R8 can also perform the role of inter-continental
express or even polished urbanite with an easygoing panache.
During testing, our admittedly hard-driven R tronic R8 averaged 17.7mpg. Officially,
urban, combined and extra-urban consumption are given as, respectively, 13.8,
20.7 and 29.4mpg. Motorway runs made at the legal limit, with the V8 spinning
at an unruffled 2,800rpm, should see notably better figures than we achieved.
R8 owners wishing to extend the touring range can specify a 19.8-gallon tank
over the standard 16.5-gallon item.
Hand-built in limited numbers (restricted to a maximum of 15 per day), easy-to-live
with yet possessing the driveability, power and pace of an out-and-out sports
car, the slinky R8 is that elusive beast of urban legend a genuine everyday
supercar. Drive one for several days and you'll never want to give this terrific
car back. We certainly didn't. Be assured that not only is the R8 Audi's star
turn, it is also a clever, well-thought-out and totally usable supercar and
a star in its own right. MotorBar
Audi R8 4.2 FSI quattro R tronic | £82,495
Maximum speed: 187mph | 0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 17.7mpg | Power: 424bhp | Torque: 317lb ft
CO2 325g/km | VED Band G £400 | Insurance group 20