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Audi R8 – VehicleVoice Drives Audi’s Super Car

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Sonoma, California: Audi’s long awaited R8 has landed here in the States. This past week, VehicleVoice had the chance to review and drive the vehicle at Audi’s New Performance School at Infineon Raceway.
Purpose built to showcase new Audis to the press and host driving events for owners, the new facility at Infineon has the unmistakable Audi presence, with the proper applications of glass, steel, asphalt and, of course, aluminum. Both track and autocross courses were made available to the press for the day.


The R8 is Audi’s first attempt at the super-car segment. Based upon the Audi Le Mans Quattro, first shown in 2003, the production version debuted at the 2006 Paris Motor show. Today’s R8 is billed as the street version of all that Audi has learned with the five-time winner of Le Mans, the R8 prototype racecar. (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005. Twice winning the first three places.)
The basic layout incorporates a mid-engine design, Audi’s 4.2 liter, 420 hp V8 FSI engine, aluminum space frame and body, and (of course) Quattro® all wheel drive. The vehicle comes with a standard 6-speed manual, or can be ordered with Audi’s R tronic sequential-shift gearbox.
The Outside
The presence of this vehicle is truly unique to the super car segment. While it incorporates some of the fire-breathing dragon cues we are used to seeing in super cars, it accomplishes this in much a more subtle way. Like an Audi. Go figure. If there is such thing as a subtle super car, this is it.
Wide and low, the vehicle clearly communicates its ability to jump the line. Especially from the rear three-quarter view, you get the immediate sense that this is not the Audi of your typical Ivy League professor. The mid engine layout, while designed to give even weight distribution (44-F, 56-R) also gives the R8 a solid, planted look in profile. Immediately behind the doors are large ‘sideblade’ air deflector sweeps that are definitely the R8’s most striking design feature. Designed to pull air into the engine compartment for both breathing and cooling, they will also undoubtedly be used by owners to differentiate their vehicles. Audi’s bespoke program offers the option of customizing the ‘sideblade’ for a unique look to each of the 500 or so vehicles that will land on our shores each year. To display the heart of the R8, the engine bay is covered in glass and lit with white LEDs. Not exactly Audi-esque, but extremely cool. The nose carries Audi’s trapezoidal single frame grille, with a unique, first-time twist. The Audi four-ring badge is place above the grille, (not in it) on the front hood. LED daytime running lights and large air intakes complete the 007 appearance.

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The Track

VehicleVoice had the good fortune of being able to test our riving skills on both Infineon’s racetrack and an autocross course set up on site. After a brief review of the vehicle and the courses, we were set loose to push our personal limits. One rule. Keep on the ESP. We can live with that. After donning helmets and choosing vehicles, (manual, of course) we hit the tracks.
The vehicle is amazingly easy to drive. Low and wide are good when you are traveling at speed. The shift gate was fairly easy to get used to, and the adjustable suspension makes a huge difference on the track. While purists are still complaining about the ESP, we agree with Audi that these systems are becoming less obtrusive, and can enhance even spirited driving. Besides, taking away much of the worry about totaling a super car has its merits. The R8 launches with authority. With 90% of the peak torque being available from 3,500 to 7,600 RPM, you get the clear message that this vehicle has more potential in every situation. 0-60 is reached in 4.4 seconds, with the party reaching it’s fruition at 187 MPH. The curves at Infineon kept our party at 110 MPH.
Road Trip to Die For
With the end of the day approaching, VehicleVoice was granted an uncommon opportunity. “Rather than fly from Sonoma to Los Angeles, why not drive?” Oh well, if you insist. From the looks of the facility we were at, we assumed that Audi was not trying to reduce vehicle transportation costs. Regardless of the circumstances, we felt compelled to help out. After all, we do draw our livelihood from these endeavors.
Did we say that the vehicle is amazingly easy to drive? Adjust the suspension again, and the R8 transforms from track day sweetheart to grand tourer. The adjustable suspension smooths out the road without taking away the vehicle’s purpose. We stopped only to fill the tank once, and after several hours at the wheel (we won’t reveal how many) we arrived in Los Angeles relaxed and satisfied.
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Cars and Coffee
Upon arrival at VehicleVoice’s offices, we received our next assignment. Cars and Coffee, Orange County’s weekly auto fest hosted by John Clinard, Ford’s Public Affairs Western Regional manager. After washing up the R8 we headed to the PAG/Mazda lot in Irvine, California on Saturday morning to gauge reaction to the R8.
Obviously, this is not a vehicle for those who shun attention. Pulling into the show in this car is Orange County’s automotive equivalent to the red carpet at LA’s Kodak Theater. The response from the weekly crowd was amazing. And this show has hosted 3 Porsche Carrera GTs on a single Saturday. There were easily a thousand photos taken of the car. The R8 drew the largest crowd of the day. Enough said.
The Point
Audi needs a break. After producing many of the most advanced vehicles on the planet for the past few years, the brand has yet to get it’s due in the showroom. People still associate the brand with “near-luxury” status, or for those who must drive in the snow. On the positive side, car mags are constantly singing the praises of Audis, with many reports that the A8 easily eclipses the S Class and 7 Series as the perfect flagship.
But let’s be realistic. Americans typically embrace subtlety like humility. It’s fine in a poet, but not desirable in a car. While some say that the times are changing, luxury and performance cars are still (and likely always will be) purchased with the heart more than the head. Audi built this car to move the brand more towards the heart. This car does that in an Audi kind of way. Is it enough? From VehicleVoice’s experience behind the wheel, we expect it will go a long way to moving the needle in the right direction.

2 Comments

  • Oscar| December 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm Reply

    I have always been a fan of audi’s, but have never owned one so I can’t speak with excerienpe.What I can tell you is that Toyota is, in my opinion, the most dependable car brand. My family has only purchased Toyota for this reason. I got my first car, a corolla, and drove it across country numerous times (literally CA to ME and back). I’ve never had trouble with it. My father drives a Lexus, which I’m pretty sure is a branch of Toyota (correct me if I’m wrong), and he loves it! Even if your final decision isn’t a Toyota, you should at least give them a look. If you do go with that company you will be saving yourself trips back to the dealership/maintenance station.

  • karxprt| October 30, 2007 at 10:31 am Reply

    I have driven this car and agree that it is one of the best sports cars I have driven. But at this price point, the road noise on certain road surfaces is objectionable. Needs more work on NVH… don’t dampen the engine sound, just work on road noise. Also, on the manual transmission version, the shifter is much too mechanical sounding. Maybe Audi was trying to emulate Ferrari, but I’d rather have a shifter that goes “snick, snick” than one that goes “clank, clank”. But, wow, does this car turn heads!

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