- Poster-car look, with surprising practicality
- Smooth, high-revving V-8 engine is great with either gearbox
- Well-balanced handling
- Firm but well-controlled ride
- Spectacular engine bay
- Rearward visibility can be challenging
- Arcing roofline and low seating position makes entry and exit difficult
- Only enough cargo space for a change of clothes
The 2008 Audi R8 looks and sounds like an exotic, but it has the day-to-day livability and comfort of a grand-touring coupe.
The 2008 Audi R8 is an all-new mid-engine, all-wheel-drive sportscar, powered by a 420-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 engine. The R8 shares some mechanical components with the Lamborghini Gallardo, though the R8 was extensively reengineered by Audi to make it more livable and to meet the German brand's standards for comfort, safety, and maintenance intervals.
But the 2008 Audi R8 looks the part of an exotic, with lots of vents and air ducts that cool the engine and vent the brakes, a shape penned for beauty at speed, huge staggered wheels and stunning LED details. A glass engine cover displays the engine at night, to those who look at it from overhead, like a museum piece.
The R8's lightweight aluminum body means the vehicle weighs only about 3,400 pounds. The engine is mounted just behind the front seats.
The R8's engine isn't especially torquey--it needs to be revved a bit to extract all the power, but it tosses off brisk performance through either an automated manual transmission or a lovely manual gearbox with a gated shifter. The so-called R-tronic automated-manual is the choice for the track, where it nails quicker shifts than almost any driver, and expertly blips the throttle on downshifts. The R8 tucks in with a light and nimble feel at lower speeds yet also has a feeling of heft and stability at more than 100 mph. Its all-wheel-drive system can ship up to a third of the torque to the front wheels, which helps it put power down drama-free. The V-8 barks out a nice baritone, but it's not loud enough to fatigue.
The 2008 R8 sits nearly five inches longer than the Lamborghini Gallardo, which shares some of its technology. Inside it's much more commodious, with several inches of additional seat travel. Tall people can drive the R8 and find ample space inside. It's not the easiest car to climb in, but once you're there, headroom is decent.
The cockpit is driver-centric, like a racecar, with displays angled toward the driver. Cargo space amounts to a small bin in front of the driver and passenger. There's also a small rear cargo shelf big enough only for a small duffel bag. The R8's cabin is shy on small-item storage, too.
Major options on the 2008 Audi R8 include upgraded leather, carbon-fiber trim, navigation, parking sensors, and Bang & Olufsen audio.
The 2008 Audi R8 has not been crash-tested. Standard safety gear includes a performance stability control mode, side airbags and knee airbags.