+ (For) Stunning looks, performance, handling and everyday usability
– (Against) Lack of luggage space and poor levels of standard kit
With the R8, Audi has built a car that challenges the established supercar elite for performance and desirability. Better still, it’s as easy to live with as a TT.
Not many cars grab as much attention as the mid-engined Audi. Inspired by the firm’s 2003 Le Mans concept car, the R8 rivals much more expensive machinery from Ferrari and Lamborghini when it comes to desirability. Neat touches include LED lamps and a glass engine cover, which allows onlookers to admire the powerful 4.2-litre V8 motor. For the ultimate in attention grabbing looks, choose white paint in combination with a bare carbon-fibre finish for the panels behind the doors.
Measuring just 1,252mm in height, the R8 can be tricky to get into and out of. However, once inside, occupants will find a roomy cabin that is beautifully built and trimmed. The dashboard wraps around the driver, while the open metal gate of the manual gearshift looks great and is a joy to use. Unfortunately you’ll need to travel light, as there’s only 100-litres of capacity in the nose-mounted luggage compartment.
There’s only one engine choice at the moment, but you won’t feel short-changed as the normally aspirated 414bhp 4.2-litre V8 delivers impressive performance, together with a deep, growling soundtrack. The sprint from zero to 60mph takes 4.6 seconds, while the top speed is just under 190mph. Those wanting even more power will have to wait for the Lamborghini-engined 5.2 V10 version or the oil-burning 6.0-litre V12 TDI.
Despite its intimidating supercar looks, the R8 is actually very easy to drive. Visibility is excellent, while the four-wheel drive transmission serves up strong grip. Add in the direct, well weighted steering and you have a car that has the dynamic polish to match the excellent Porsche 911. We’d definitely recommend spending extra for the excellent Magnetic Ride – it improves body control even further, without damaging ride comfort. However, the optional R tronic paddle-shift gearbox is expensive and less pleasurable to use than the standard six-speed manual, which click-clacks satisfyingly around its exposed metal gate.
No thoroughbred supercar is ever going to be cheap to run. However, with prices starting at around £80,000, the R8 is actually decent value. Given the performance and jaw-dropping looks, it undercuts rival models from Ferrari and Porsche, yet matches them for desirability. Fuel economy isn’t as bad as you’d think, with the direct injection V8 easily capable of cracking 20mpg.
With four airbags, standard xenon headlights and ESP, the Audi covers all the safety bases. Buyers wanting extra peace of mind can plump for the optional carbon ceramic brakes, which offer strong, fade-free stopping for potentially the life of the car.
Less impressive are the R8’s green credentials. Despite lightweight aluminum construction and a hi-tech direct injection motor, the two-seater emits 349g/km of C02 – although this drops to 325g/km with the optional R tronic gearbox.