A match made in heaven? Yes.
I settled into the driver’s seat, gripped the wheel and took a deep breath.
“You’re scared, aren’t you?” asked the Audi R8.
“Damn right, I’m scared,” I answered. “You’re beautiful. You’re powerful. I couldn’t afford you for myself if I sold all my internal organs on the black market. I checked.”
“Wow, you really can find anything on the internet, huh?”
“True dat, R8. True dat.”
For almost a week, we’ve had an Audi R8 here at our Detroit office. Not the first time our staff has been behind the wheel (see Dan Hall’s October 2007 review), but the first time for me and in a different setting. Unlike Dan’s time on the track and road trip from San Francisco to San Clemente, California, this week we spent driving southeastern Michigan, from Rochester Hills to Utica to Monroe. The R8 almost had me in the first mile, would have were it equipped with the conventional six-speed manual, but by the first five miles I was hooked. More than 300 miles later, my appreciation is growing. And I still want the real manual transmission!
One might assume from looking at the R8′s lovely shape, low and sleek, clearly with space for only two, would not be a daily driver. I disagree. This is an excellent three-season vehicle. Many sports cars, shod with a good set of Bridgestone Blizzaks, can be driven all winter, but R8′s low ground clearance and more extreme performance limits is best enjoyed without snow. R8 is a reward purchase and likely more often a weekend car. But there is no reason it cannot be your every day car. And if not yours, then MINE.
Of many vehicles that have graced AutoPacific’s drive, none has generated this much anticipation or the buzz. Arriving shortly after its supporting role in Iron Man
didn’t hurt, either. This Ibis White R8 was in our keeping for a full week, an unusually lucky stroke, rather than a typical four-day hot-car loan. And we’ve taken just about every opportunity we can to show it off. Err…I mean, to gauge public reaction. We even convinced Katrina’s photographer friend to take pictures for just a photo credit and the chance to get close to the car.
No surprise, this is the hit of the year. It attracts attention with every mile and anywhere it is parked. As huge fuel costs take a bite out of truck and SUV sales, an equally thirsty vehicle like the R8 is in danger of image backlash, of being seen as unnecessarily wasteful. It was heartening to see so much appreciation and enthusiasm everywhere we went. People may joke that the 13/18mpg-rated car requires a third mortgage to keep fed, but unlike trucks, no one seemed to hate the R8 for being a gas guzzler destroying the free world.
Much more gushing after the jump, and even more in Katrina’s blog, too…
Can Audi Make Diesel Sexy?
Enthusiasts the world over have been taken in by Audi‘s R8, which launched with a 420HP V8. At the 2008 North American International Auto Show, Audi fits an updated version of their racing V12 diesel into the mid-engined supercar. In racing form, the 650HP 6.0L V12 diesel has been winning since 2006 and, Audi hopes, changing the American impression of diesel engines as smelly, loud, and slow. After the 2007 600HP Q7 V12 TDI Concept, this year Audi checks reaction to a diesel supercar.
On the track, the Audi R10 has proven diesels can perform while R8 and Q7 V12 TDI concepts bring the racing aura to the practical world. Though the R10 purpose-built race car will never be available in an Audi showroom, these TDI Concepts allow you to imagine the power in a car you can buy.
In the very sexy R8′s case, the concept boasts a 500HP and an amazing 737 lb-ft 6.0L V12 TDI (available from 1750 to 3000 rpm. Less than seven inches longer than the standard V8, the compact diesel is small enough for the R8′s engine bay. This V12 is different from that in last year’s Q7 concept and the racing engine, with newly developed high-pressure pumps for the common-rail injection system and the AdBlue system for reducing emissions. The V12 is mated to a short-travel six-speed manual transmission and 40:60 split Quattro. This drivetrain gets the R8 V12 TDI Concept to 60mph in 4.2 seconds.
Audi AG is dedicated to diesels and sees potential for them in the States, and will make a 3.0L V6 diesel available in the Q7 and then the A4 next year. As diesels gain buzz and mainstream attention for their typically higher mpg, efforts like this V12 and Audi’s racing success erode old stereotypes and help to increase consideration. You won’t confuse the V6 for the V12, but racing and winning gives Audi’s diesel program an image boost.
“Grace Silver” Concept Gets Beefed Up Looks, Too
The R8 V12 TDI Concept looks wider and takes larger air intakes, with RS-inspired rhombus-pattern mesh. The concept gets a continuous aluminum spoiler lip between front and rear diffusers and side air baffles below the sills. The glass roof has transparent sections over the passengers, with a functional NACA duct in the middle, complementing the restyled glazed engine compartment cover. Like the production R8, and fitting for a concept starring an engine, white LEDs in the engine compartment ensure the car’s heart can be seen even at night. The duct, which Audi says is a race-car feature, accelerates air drawn to each of the V12′s two cylinder banks. The concept also features all-LED headlights and taillights. The LED headlights are closer to daylight than traditional headlight options, which Audi says results in less driver fatigue in night driving. Inside, there are larger aluminum elements and more carbon fiber accents.
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.
Audi’s pricing for the new R8 sports car is about in line with what we at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice have been expecting. The humorous side to their pricing announcement, however, are the option packages and free standing options. These guys must have taken a page from Porsche’s book of optioning their cars. First, their “Convenience Package” including a 6-disc CD changer, Homelink, Bluetooth, auto dimming mirrors should be standard. The other free standing options are OK as options with the exception of the navigation system. Should be standard. Oh, well.
Audi’s Slightly Edited Press Release
Audi of America has announced pricing for the all-new 2008 R8 sports car. The R8 with a six-speed manual transmission will have a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $109,000 when it launches this fall in the United States. Models equipped with the six-speed R tronic automatic gearbox will start at $118,000. (That’s $9,000 for an automatic transmission – possibly a new record!)
The R8 is the first mid-engine sports car Audi has ever produced. With a 420 hp V8 4.2L FSI engine and rear-biased quattro® all-wheel drive system, the R8 has the performance capabilities unlike any Audi before it. With a zero to 60 mph time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 187 mph, the R8 is the fastest Audi ever produced. The lightweight aluminum frame and body and 44:56 front-to-rear weight distribution give the R8 tremendous handling capabilities, with the balance expected of a mid-engine sports car.
Audi’s Johan de Nysschen clearly stated the objectives for Audi of America in an Automotive News World Congress speech given in Detroit last week. de Nysschen is the Executive Vice President of Audi of America Inc. and has plans to make the brand much more aggressive in the United States.
Traditionally, Audi has positioned itself as a traditional, understated European luxury brand in the U.S. Now, de Nysschen says, these days are over.
Audi’s Solid Sales Year Leaves it Still in the Shadow of Lexus, Mercedes and BMW in the USA
Audi sold 90,116 vehicles in the USA in 2006 last year, but has languished in the shadow of its Bavarian competitor BMW from Munich and the unfocused Mercedes lineup from Stuttgart. In Europe, Audi competes much strongly with BMW and Mercedes than it does in the USA, and in China Audi is kicking butt.
This mis-match is not lost on Audi of America and Audi AG management, they want to increase Audi’s position in the USA and de Nysschen is implementing plans to make that happen. Early in his regime at Audi of America, Johan de Nysschen participated in a VehicleVoice video podcast
. It would be instructive to watch that podcast again. Very informative.
Audi’s “Separation Plans”
de Nysschen is very high on having all aspects of Audi of America separate and unique from Volkswagen USA. During a dinner at the 2005 Frankfurt Auto Show there was a wide ranging discussion concerning whether Audi should relocate their headquarters in teh USA and where it should go. I volunteered that Bermuda would be a fine choice, but the New York suburbs in New Jersey seemed to be a front-runner as did the suburbs of Atlanta. Shortly after that show, Audi of America it was going to relocate down the street from Volkswagen of America but in completely separate facilities. Apparently, that plan has been put on hold for budget reasons.
But even without physical separation, Audi has gone a long way inside the Volkswagen of America building to make itself different and more upscale.
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While the World Debut of the Audi TT Roadster caused quite a stir in the Audi booth during the press days at the L.A. Auto Show, it was another unveiling just a few feet away that had AutoPacific Senior Analyst and Audi afficionado Jim Hall really excited.
The Audi R8 made its North American debut here, and sports car fans as well as those that appreciate really beautiful automotive design were drooling over this one. When it hits the road in 2007, it will be easy to spot this new coupe by the crowd of admirers following behind. Jim Hall will be one of them, until his own (now on order!) shows up in Detroit.
Show Runtime – 3:46
Audi had two introductions at the November 2006 version of the Los Angeles Auto Show, to excite the senses of sports car drivers preferring both closed and open top driving, as well as expanding budgets from under $50,000 to well over $100,000.
Audi introduced the 2008 TT in Berlin just ahead of the New York auto show, where it was displayed for U.S. buyers. There’s quite a delay between that launch and sales, however, as Audi of America decided to launch coupe and convertible together. And here in Los Angeles, we got our first look at the convertible. (Both go on sale in late spring or early summer in the States.)
The TT convertible eschews the current craze for power retractable hardtops and launches with a softtop. As with the coupe, two engines are expected to be available for U.S. buyers, including a 200HP 2.0L turbo-charged direct-injection four-cylinder and a 250HP 3.2L direct-injection V6. The 2.0L is a standard front-driver, while opting for the V6 gets quattro all-wheel drive. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, with Audi’s terrific six-speed automated manual, now called S-tronic instead of DSG, available as an option.
brought you the Paris reveal of this supercar (click here
), but this is the first U.S. auto show introduction for Audi’s new superstar, the R8. The R8 is the production evolution of a concept that was first shown in Frankfurt in 2003 as the LeMans Quattro. With this car, Audi is taking on the Porsche 911 with a thoroughly sleek, modern shape and automobile. The R8 uses an aluminum space frame like the concept did and is related to the Lamborghini Gallardo, though the two diverged substantially between development and production. While the model launches with Audi’s direct-injection 420HP 4.2L V8, more powertrains will join the range down the road.
Sports Car Concepts Reach Production
Three years ago, in September 2003, there were two head-turning concept stars at the Frankfurt auto show. This year, the Paris auto show (Mondial de l’Automobile) hosted introductions of both in production form. Both are low volume propositions, both borrow chassis from related low-volume models, both offer 420HP V8 engines, but each takes a different personality. One is the German all-wheel-drive, mid-engine Audi R8 and the other the front-engine, rear-drive Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.
The good news is that North America will see the R8. Unfortunately, the Alfa is a tease. Though the brand intends to return to the North American market, the limited-edition 8C is not among the expected products.