This year marks the tenth anniversary of the introduction of Audi’s supercar-scaring R8. It really was a bit of a leap for the company which typically mastered unsteer-laden sedans to jump into a mid-engine, rear-biased all out sports car, but when they put their mind to it they sure did an impressive job. The design built off existing themes in Audi’s show car history such as the Spyder and Avus concepts of the 90s, but the real foundation work was laid with the twin-turbo Lamborghini V10-powered LeMans quattro show car in 2003. Of course, such a crazy concept would never come to fruition, right?
Fast forward only three years later and the road-ready and newly coined “R8” was brought to the market. Architecture was heavily borrowed from existing models within the company’s umbrella; the basic platform was shared with the Audi-owned Lamborghini Gallardo, while the initial engine came from the RS4 in the form of the 4.2 liter, all-aluminum FSI V8. At 414 horsepower, it might not have given a 599GTB driver much concern, but it surely gave the crew heading into Porsche dealers pause.
From the get-go, journalists swooned over the performance and dynamics of the R8. It was lauded as one of the best packages you could buy – even Clarkson liked it! Even before the mega-V10 model rolled out for 2009’s model year, the 4.2 offered blistering performance in a budget (for the market) package. 0-60 was gone in 4.6 second, the standing quarter in 12.5 and it’d do nearly 190 mph flat-out – at least, that’s what Audi claimed. Car and Driver eclipsed the 60 mark in 4.0 seconds in theirs. At around $120,000 new with some options, the R8 was more dear than any Audi had ever hit market.
But there was something even more odd and unique that this car did, or rather, didn’t do, and it’s one of the main reasons I don’t often write them up.…
Is there such a thing as a practical supercar? If there is, I’d have to suggest that the Audi R8 is perhaps the best representation of such a thing. First, let’s define if it’s a supercar. Even the base R8 has the sonorous and high-revving 4.2 FSi motor that has powered the B chassis RS products for the last few models. Rated at 420 horsepower and 317 ft.lb of torque, it’s enough to launch the somewhat heavy R8 from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds and a top speed just shy of 190 m.p.h.. As super sedans blur the lines between supercars and normal production cars, these numbers aren’t outrageous – but the R8 4.2 can run step in step in a Lamborghini Diablo, for example. Couple that with near perfect weight distribution and massive tires, and the R8 will easily out turn many marques of more mystique with its ability to generate the full gravity of the earth through turns – on street rubber. Yet this performance comes without the price that many used to have to pay for the luxury of speed; the R8 is happy to lounge around town at pedestrian speeds, bathing its occupants in comfort. And with all-wheel drive, it’s even usable year-round. Practical? Maybe it’s not the best choice for a family, but it’s certainly a driver’s car for those that love to drive in every condition. But perhaps best of all, it’s relatively affordable – only costing about the same as many Porsche 911 models:…
When they launched the original Quattro, Audi redefined how performance could be packaged. With supercar performance but day to day practicality, the Quattro established a niche that made Audi unique amongst not only German manufacturers, but indeed the automotive world. Since then, however, the idea of all-wheel drive and turbocharged platforms have spread not only to sister companies Porsche and Volkswagen, but indeed to Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Opel and even outside Germany to Japan. So Audi once again redefined its packaging; in the case of the TT, they brought expensive styling to the masses, and in the case of the R8, they brought supercar performance and packaging to a 911 budget. But it’s not just Audi that has raised its game; tuning firms are held to much higher standards then they were in the 1980s. Go back and look at some early Callaway turbo setups, for example, and you’ll see what was cutting edge in the 1980s – levels of fit and finish that just aren’t acceptable today, along with driving characteristics not suitable to most owners. Computerized engine management has transformed what is possible in the tuning world to the point where today’s packages often retain OEM-levels of driveability with otherworldly performance on tap. Two great examples of this can be found in HPA’s turbocharged Audi TT and Heffner’s twin-turbocharged Audi R8:
When I bought my first Audi in 1995, I became a big fan of the marque; but if you had told me then that Audi would produce a V10 mid-engined aluminum supercar in just over a decade, I would have laughed at you. In fact, I think every Audi nut would have laughed at you. Looking back over Audi’s history, the R8 was so out of character with what the company produced it would be as if Ferrari were to produce a Prius. But what was particularly shocking is that it was deeper than just that; it would be as if Ferrari produced a better Prius than Toyota did. The accolades that have been thrown on the R8’s mighty shoulders are equally impressive to what that achievement would be. As the halo car for Audi, the R8 has taken the marque to a whole new level of performance as well as a completely different clientele. For example, I was able to instruct last year at a arrive and drive supercar event – there were three Ferraris, a Lamborghini, a Mercedes-Benz SLS and an Audi R8 4.2 coupe there. That the Audi to even be included in that group was a feat in and of itself, but while the line of people interested in driving the Lamborghini stretched until the horizon the brilliant R8 sat there most of the time lonely. It was ironic, because pretty much universally the instructors all said it was dynamically the best car there.
So, while it still may not be the dream car that hangs on everyone’s walls, the R8 truly offers supercar level performance at a budget price compared to the rare Italian competition. Of the R8s, the true screamer is the 5.2 liter V10, and if you want to get a little (or, a lot) wild you can spec out one in Spyder configuration, such as today’s 2011:
Model: R8 V10 Spyder
Engine: 5.2 liter V10
Transmission: 6-speed DSG automatic
Mileage: 7,627 mi
Price: Reserve Auction
– 2011 R8 Spyder –
The Coventry Motorcar is proud to present this low mile R8 in showroom condition.