New & Used Audi R8: In Depth
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The Audi R8, is an attractive, fast mid-engined, two-seat sports car that also has a V-10-powered supercar version available. There are both coupe and “Spyder” convertible models available, which may even be better options than its aging Volkswagen Group stable mate, the Lamborghini Gallardo.
The R8 broke cover at the 2006 Paris Auto Show, to immediate acclaim. Audi paired the first 2008 R8 with its own 4.2-liter, 420-horsepower V-8 mounted midship, behind the driver and passenger. Elsewhere, Audi borrowed liberally from the Lambo parts bin to create the R8: the four-wheel-drive system is related to that in the Lamborghini Gallardo, as is the semi-automatic R-tronic gearbox that shifts for those unwilling to go with the enthusiast flow and the standard six-speed manual gearbox. Distinct from the Lambo exotics, the Audi R8 sports an aluminum space frame that gives it a cabin some five inches longer than the Gallardo--and as a result, it has much more interior space, not to mention a far more logical interior layout.
Even in base form, the R8 offers up stunning straight-line and cornering performance. A tenacious handler, the R8 also has excellent electronic power steering and grabby four-wheel brakes with anti-lock control. For safety there are also side-impact and curtain airbags, although neither crash-test organization in the U.S. has seen fit to put an R8 through that final exam. In all, TheCarConnection's editors praise the R8 most for its surprising practicality and its balanced handling, with reservations expressed for its tiny cargo area and obstructed rearward views.
The R8 carried into the 2009 model year mostly unchanged. However, starting in 2010, Audi introduced a string of new versions. The first was a V-10-powered version that drills out 525 horsepower and dramatically drops acceleration figures below the four-second mark. A Spyder version was then in 2011 introduced; fitted with the V-10 engine and the R-tronic transmission, and priced well above the R8 V10 coupe's $150,000 sticker, it was the one to have for those who wanted exclusivity. The Spyder's fabric roof was power operated, although the Spyder lost the Coupe's distinctive "sideblades" in the transition. For 2013, mild exterior and interior appearance updates came alongside an all-new S Tronic dual-clutch transmission. Replacing the previous, balky R Tronic, the new S Tronic transmission offers slick, quick shifts in both normal and sporty driving.
At the top of the lineup for 2012 was the R8 GT, which with 200 pounds less curb weight and 560 hp, rocketed into existence 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 199 mph--and only 333 copies were to be sold worldwide. Taking its place at the top of the R8 performance range for 2013 is the V10 Plus, which generates 550 horsepower and shaves 110 pounds from the weight of the standard V10 Coupe, but without the extreme edginess or limited sales targets of the R8 GT.
For 2014--Audi is skipping the 2013 model year entirely, selling the 2012 models through the arrival of the refreshed R8 early in 2013--the R8 gets some mild appearance updates and some more significant mechanical changes. At the top of the list is a new dual-clutch transmission that replaces the previous automated manual (a six-speed manual transmission is still available). This new dual-clutch is exactly what should have been in the R8 all along, offering paddle-shifted manual control while also managing almost psychic levels of automatic-mode predictive downshifts and upshifts based on the driver's use of the brake and throttle.
A new V10 Plus model also joins the range for 2014, replacing the previous R8 GT, and though it's a touch less hardcore than its predecessor, it's still very much a track-worthy supercar. Standard R8 and R8 V-10 coupe and spyder models share in the mechanical and appearance updates as well.
At last check, Audi had abandoned plans to produce a top-of-the-line, turbo-diesel V-12 R8 model, which was to be inspired by the automaker's R15 and R18 TDI Le Mans race cars. An all-electric e-tron model may still be in the cards, however.