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Unique in Audi's range as a mid-engine supercar, the R8 has built its reputation from scratch in just a few short years. Despite not having the track record of Lamborghini or Ferrari in supercar construction, Audi has put the Italians and everyone else on notice.
For 2012, the R8 is available in three core guises: the Spyder (convertible), Coupe, and R8 GT. The Spyder and Coupe are two takes on the standard R8, while the GT sharpens both looks and performance to the next level. All three share the same basic low-slung, cabin-forward, athletic-haunched stance, however, as well as the same key styling elements, like the aggressive front end, the side "blades," and the brow-like LED daytime running lights.
The Coupe and Spyder are both available with a choice of either a 4.2-liter V-8 rated at 430 horsepower or a 5.2-liter V-10 good for 525 horsepower. Either will provide exhilarating performance, but the big V-10 is the way to go if you're hankering for real speed. Of course, the most focused of the group, the R8 GT, is an even better choice in that regard, generating 560 horsepower from a tuned version of the same V-10, with less weight, a more focused setup, and better overall handling.
All R8s handle very well, however, owing to their rear-biased quattro all-wheel drive, mid-engine weight distribution, and finely tuned magnetic-ride suspension settings.
Inside, the R8 is surprisingly roomy, with tall drivers finding no fault in space available. Materials are high-quality, the design is modern and appealing, and all of the Audi technology and convenience options you'd expect are available, including MMI navigation with real-time traffic, Bluetooth, and a high-end audio system.
As for safety, the 2012 Audi R8 hasn't been tested by the NHTSA or IIHS, but it offers a wide range of standard and optional safety equipment, including driver and passenger dual-stage airbags, side airbags, knee airbags, head and thorax airbags, stability control, parking system with rearview camera, hill hold assist, and a body shell designed to distribute and absorb crash energy.
- Beautiful looks from every angle
- A very practical supercar
- V-10's thrills
- Museum-quality details
- Near-faultless handling
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- Rearward visibility is poor
- Entry and exit are tough
- Cargo space is minimal