There is no doubt that when the Audio R8 first appeared on our television screens in the advertisement, there was almost an audible gasp as this beautiful machine revealed itself. It is a thing of beauty, and many a viewer would have been secretly hoping that the lottery numbers would come up, so they could get their name down on the list to own one.
The R8 is Audi’s attempt to place itself amongst the elite super car manufacturers, Porsche, Maserati, Aston Martin, BMW and Mercedes. There is no doubt that the Audi R8 is a head turner, and no doubt will draw crowds of eager aspiring owners, but it has the power to deliver performance as well. Audi has combined a lightweight aluminium chassis and body with a 420bhp V8 4.2 litre engine which can propel the car to a top speed of 187 mph, and from a standing start to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds. Audi insist that the R8 will be a good seller on it’s own, but there is no doubt that the idea is to use the magic of the R8 to influence sales across the rest of the brand, and there will be fewer finer cars available that have the kind of influence that Audi were looking to achieve.
The designer of the R8 had in mind the Audi principles of elegant strong lines, but they also had to manage to allow huge amounts of cooling air to force its way through to the engine and brakes, hence the car has two large air intakes either side of the Audi grille. Twelve LEDs just below the headlamp cluster enhance the sleek appearance of this super car. The pronounced wheel arches added to the strong lines have a more practical use rather than simple good looks. These are designed to capture air and direct it along the contours to the engine bay.
Viewed from the rear, the V8 engine is visible through the glass case and the finned rear air intakes above the fuel pipes have been designed for maximum visual impact. The manufacturers have included an automatic spoiler which pops up when the car reaches speeds of 62mph or more. This drops down below 22mph, but has been designed so as not to ruin the sleek lines of the car.
Internally, the driver’s seat evokes the feeling of being in a single seater fighter plane. The dashboard has two cam shaped instrumental panels divided by a screen, rather than a usual symmetrical shape the centre console has been designed to allow greater flow of air from the vents. The console is completed with an open gated gear knob surrounded by a metal plate giving the appearance and feel of a precision tool. The gear stick handles superbly and adds to the sporty feel of the car.
The driving experience of the Audi R8 is something which has attracted huge attention. Audi seem to have got the balance of power and weight exactly right. Although the consensus is that the automatic version is best avoided, the manual gearbox has been described as one of the best manufactured anywhere. Audi have always had the ability to produce cars which are fine going in a straight line, but the R8 has meant a radical departure for Audi in that they have now managed to produce a car with this type of performance which has great handling capabilities. The outstanding road holding of the chassis combined with all wheel drive, produces smooth cornering and safe handling at speed. There is an optional ‘magnetic’ ride which alters the dampers to take into account driving conditions.
So all the driving that you will do in your free time on open roads with the wind blowing through you hair are well catered for, but it is in the area of everyday driving which the Audi R8 owner may feel slightly let down. The boot of the car is tiny and the back seats are replaced with a small ledge, leaving very little room for all your shopping items. Thick pillars at the front of the car and noticeable blind spots around the car mean that there are likely to be the odd accident and scrape whilst changing lanes or parking your pride and joy. The optional ceramic brakes are not particularly smooth, and appear to be very keen. Audi have been made aware of this fact and say they will correct this.
There is no doubt that the Audi R8 is an aspirational car, and with its first attempt, Audi has propelled itself into the big league. With only a planned 3000 being made each year, the demand is likely to be very high. Audi has laid down a marker and it will be interesting to see how the competition responds.