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The experienced auto experts at TheCarConnection.com have studied the range of reviews that cover the 2008 Audi R8, and incorporated some of the most useful insight and information in this review. And in order to bring you the best advice on what distinguishes the R8 from its exclusive rivals, TheCarConnection.com’s editors have driven the Audi R8.
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 every bit the part of an exotic, with extensive ductwork for engine cooling and brake venting, a silhouette that looks designed for high-speed runs, and huge wheels with a staggered size, front-to-back, and stunning details such as the LED light bar at the front. 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 construction and racing-inspired details were derived from Audi's experience with the racecar of the same name. The entire vehicle weighs only about 3,400 pounds and has a near-perfect (rear-biased) weight distribution to take advantage of the engine's mounting, just behind the front seats.
The engine in the 2008 Audi R8 isn't particularly torquey for a V-8--it needs to be revved a bit to extract all the power, but it delivers very brisk performance with either the standard six-speed manual or optional R-tronic gearbox. The manual gearbox has distinctive metal shift gates inside and shifts easily; the R-tronic gearbox can shift roughly in leisurely driving, but it's the choice for track driving, where it nails down shifts faster than the most experienced drivers and blips the throttle expertly on downshifts to maintain control. The R8 feels light and nimble at lower speeds yet also has a feeling of heft and stability at triple-digit speeds; meanwhile, the all-wheel-drive system, which can send up to 35 percent of torque to the front wheels, puts the power to the pavement without drama. And the sound from the V-8 is a nice baritone, but not so loud that it brings on fatigue.
The 2008 Audi R8 is about five inches longer than the Gallardo and has several more inches of seat travel and legroom than the Italian stallion; even tall people will find the R8 ample in space. Headroom isn't tight once you're in, but some might bump their head on entry or exit. The layout of the cockpit area is very driver-centric, like that of a racecar, with controls and displays angled toward the driver. Cargo space is limited to a modest area underhood at the front of the car and a cargo shelf that's good only for a small duffel bag. The R8's interior lacks storage compartments and cubbies for small personal items.
Major options on the 2008 Audi R8 include carbon-fiber trim, upgraded leather upholstery, a navigation system, parking sensor system, and premium Bang & Olufsen sound.
The 2008 Audi R8 has not yet been crash tested. A performance-oriented electronic stability control system is standard on the R8, along with side impact airbags and dual knee airbags.
- 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