Audi enters mid engine world with R8!
At the heart of the R8 sits the 420-horsepower 4.2-liter aluminum V8 with FSI direct fuel injection that we are already familiar with from the Audi RS 4 sedan. With a redline of 8250 rpm, this engine pulls smooth and strong throughout the rpm range and propels the R8 from a standing start to 62 mph in just 4.6 seconds, according the Audi performance figures. A dry-sump lubrication system has been added to this engine for the R8 and a new exhaust system for the mid-engine application.
Showcased under a clear engine cover, the engine compartment can be customized with optional LED lighting and carbon fiber trim to draw further attention to the engine.
Some critics will certainly desire more horsepower, but this 420-horsepower V8 is one of the finest engines we have ever had the opportunity to experience and engine/exhaust sound of the R8 under acceleration is simply outstanding.
The exhaust system produces one of the most captivating aspects of the R8; the fantastic sound at full throttle. A combination of exhaust note and intake tone, the sound is all business under full acceleration, but the exhaust system is also quiet at cruising speed to eliminate the fatigue that can be caused by a loud exhaust on longer trips.
At full acceleration, the 4.2-liter V8 produces a very strong and powerful exhaust note—it's not the high-pitched scream of a Ferrari V12 or the distinctive growl of a Porsche 911 Turbo flat six—but a very purposeful yet precise roar that makes the driver want to keep his or her right foot firmly planted on the floor.
Transmission and Suspension
The R8 is offered with either a 6-speed manual transmission or the R tronic sequential manual gearbox that uses the same transmission and clutch but operates the clutch and changes gears automatically. R tronic can be used as fully automatic or in a manual shift mode by selecting the gear with the shift lever on the console or levers located behind the steering wheel.
The six-speed manual transmission has a modern version of the metal shift gate that's similar to what might have been found in a sports car 30 years ago. Unlike the tall shift lever and metal gate in a vintage sports car, we found the modern version in the R8 to be smooth and easy to shift—the lever is a little bit shorter and the gates are a little bit wider. The clutch and shifter are both very smooth and the six-speed manual would be our choice for everyday driving.
On the track though, the R tronic is the hands-down choice because every downshift is perfectly executed with engine rpm matched exactly to vehicle speed. The driver can upshift without even lifting off of the throttle—upshifts occur in a fraction of a second—and both hands can stay on the wheel at all times.
The Audi Space Frame of the R8 is lightweight but very rigid and creates a stiff platform from which the engineers can tune the suspension which utilizes double wishbones for both the front and rear suspension.
Our test cars were equipped with the Audi magnetic ride suspension which can be changed instantaneously at the push of a button to a more firm, sport setting. We found that even on the normal setting the suspension was very firm and could be a little choppy over rough road surfaces.
Cast aluminum 18-inch wheels are standard and 19-inch wheels are optional. High-performance brakes feature 8-piston calipers at the front and four-piston calipers at the rear. Ceramic brakes will be offered as an option at the end of 2007.
Traction control and stability control are both standard equipment but can be deactivated in two stages if the driver wants complete control for track driving. We found that even with all systems on, the settings are pretty forgiving and not intrusive to the driving experience. We could make adjustments in the corners with the throttle and the stability control would allow the rear end to step out a little without any aggressive intervention.
Switching to sport mode defeats the traction control and allows a greater degree of slip before the stability control will intervene, and switching off the stability control leave it completely up to the driver.
We found the R8 to be very easy and predictable to drive with a very crisp and precise feel and no bad habits or surprises to compensate for. The nimble, crisp feel continues when the R8 is pushed and the excellent steering turn-in is a real asset on the track.
In our short track session, we didn't have time to push the absolute handling limits of the R8, but the infield road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway did offer a variety of corners at different speeds to get a good sense of the handling characteristics of the car. Top speed on the straight was a little over 100 mph, followed by a very hard braking zone.
Audi refers to the dominant interior design characteristic of the R8 as the "Monoposto," which is an arch that runs from behind the steering wheel down into the center console and into the driver's door, surrounding the driver. It definitely gives a feeling that the car wraps around the driver and delivers excellent ergonomics with everything the driver needs easily within reach.
The R8 offers good interior room for a mid-engine sports car, with enough room in either seat for a person 6-feet 5-inches tall to drive or ride comfortably. Like any sports car, the R8 is rather short on luggage capacity although it's not bad for a car in this category. The front luggage area might hold a small suitcase but will probably require soft-sided bags.
Audi claims that the storage space behind the seats will hold two golf bags and while that may be true, it won't be the bag that most real golfers already own but a custom size that requires leaving a few clubs at home.
The first customer Audi R8s will be delivered in Europe during the spring of 2007 and the first U.S. cars will arrive later in 2007. Pricing for the U.S. has not been finalized but is expected to start at about $130,000.
Audi describes the R8 as a car that can be driven everyday rather than an exotic that must be pampered. Without a doubt, the Audi R8 has moved right to the top of our wish list.