The Audi R8 is an all-wheel-drive, mid-engined supercar that shares a platform and numerous other mechanical components with the Lamborghini Gallardo. Despite its high performance capabilities, the R8's user-friendly nature and comfortable cabin actually make it suitable as a daily driver.
First introduced in 2008, the R8 now features Spyder (convertible) and V10 variants.
For the latest model year, Audi freshened the R8's styling and replaced the antiquated six-speed single-clutch gearbox with a thoroughly modern seven-speed dual-clutch unit that improves efficiency and provides smoother, quicker shifts.
Though it's beginning to get on in years, the R8 remains one of more appealing supercars on the market due to a mix of stirring driving dynamics, surprising practicality and, of course, double take-inducing good looks.
From its aggressive mid-engined proportions to the unusual contrasting "blades" behind the doors, everything about the R8's appearance screams "exotic." Revised headlights, taillights, bumpers and other minor stylistic updates help cognoscenti tell the latest model apart from its predecessor. Like much else in the R8, the arresting sheetmetal is constructed from aluminum in order to keep performance-sapping mass to a minimum - Audi says the car checks in at just over 3,400 pounds.
The heart of the R8 is a high-revving 4.2-liter engine that delivers 430 horsepower at 7,900 rpm. Peak torque is 316 lb-ft from 4,500 to 6,000 rpm, with no less than 90 per cent of output maintained from 3,500 all the way to 7,600 rpm. A gated six-speed manual that clacks its way through the gears like a glorious vintage Italian sports car is available, but maximum performance times are achieved with the standard seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
With the dual-clutch fitted, the R8 is capable of hitting 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.2 seconds. Top speed is quoted at 186 mph.
Making the most of the R8's power is a quattro four-wheel drive system that distributes output variably to the front and rear axles by way of a viscous clutch. It's a boon for acceleration and also makes the R8 more sure-footed than many of its peers when the weather turns ugly.
Fuel economy - rarely a point of interest for supercar buyers - suffers due to the potent V8 and all-wheel-drive. The stick-shifted model returns 11/20 city/highway mpg, while the dual-clutch-equipped variant is good for 14/23 mpg.
Along with aluminum double wishbones at the front and rear, the suspension features an 'Audi magnetic ride' adaptive damper system that can be configured to provide sporty driving dynamics or a softer ride. The latter is cushy enough that the R8 could conceivably be used as a daily driver.
Direct, hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering offers a feedback-filled, characterful counterpoint to the numb electric-assist systems that feature in many modern performance machines.
The Inside Story
The cabin matches the visual drama of the exterior thanks to details such as sweeping trim and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and high-quality materials are employed throughout. Buyers looking for an even more luxurious experience can choose from a long list of optional extra, including supple Nappa leather upholstery, an alcantara headliner and carbon fiber trim.
While there's plenty of space for driver and passenger, the R8 isn't blessed with an overabundance of trunk space. The front trunk (known as a frunk) measures just 3.5 cubic feet and is oddly shaped; Audi claims that a pair of golf bags can be fitted behind the seats, although that might not be achievable for taller drivers.
Navigation and entertainment functions are accessed through Audi's MMI system, which is one of the more intuitive infotainment setups on the market. However, unlike in other Audi models, the R8's MMI controls aren't located in an easily accessible position center - instead, they're mounted somewhat awkwardly on the dash. Luckily, a standard voice command system eliminates this problem.
Equipment and Trim
Standard features on the R8 include combination leather/alcantara upholstery, a navigation system with SiriusXM Traffic, a seven-speaker, 140-watt AM/FM/CD stereo system with SiriusXM satellite radio, heated seats, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic climate control and full LED exterior lighting.
The Fine Nappa Leather Package brings premium upholstery to the seats and door inserts. An extended version of the Package, dubbed Full Fine Nappa Leather Package, extends the treatment to the door inserts, dashboard and instrument panel.
The Diamond Stitch Full Leather Package adds an exquisite diamond stitching pattern to the seats and door inserts.
A Leather Package brings colored leather elements to the seats, headrests, door pull and door inserts.
The Storage Package adds two nets on the back of the seats, a luggage net on the rear shelf and a folding compartment under the passenger seat.
Stand-alone options include a 12 speaker, 465-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system and a rearview camera that's bundled with front and rear ultrasonic parking sensors.
Dual front, side/thorax and knee airbags are fitted as standard. Traction and stability control systems and electronic brake assist are also included.
The R8 is built on a small-lot production line in a specially constructed block at the Audi plant in Neckarsulm. The entire production process -- from the bodyshell construction to final assembly -- is organized in the same way as a craft workshop. Small teams of specialists accompany every step of production, ensuring that every car built is up to quality standards.
Those in the market for an exotic performance car like the R8 should also consider the tastefully-styled Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the potent Porsche 911 Turbo as well as the Nissan GT-R, which can't match he Audi's interior refinement but is blindingly quick.