By on July 5, 2008

ironman-audi-r8.jpg

I've been pining for the Audi R8 since I first laid eyes on the "Le Mans" show car five years ago. Last February, I test drove Audi's 911 redo in Vegas (baby). Although I found the R8 lacked some of the the Porsche Turbo's user-friendly OMG WTFitiude, Audi gave their everyday supercar a far more appealing wrapper than the ass-engined Nazi slot car (thank you P.J. O'Rourke). Yes, I knew the movie Ironman would define R8 ownership for non-owners. But I was willing to take the risk of being associated with an actor who's spent more time in rehab than any five celebutantes you can name. So I placed an order and arranged for delivery of my R8 at the Neckarsulm factory.

While the foreign delivery experience as a whole was unforgettable, the actual production process is a bit dull. The car is essentially hand-assembled; most of the time you watch the vehicle's skeleton move very slowly, if at all, awaiting craftsmen in red overalls to return from their various beer breaks to hang parts and pieces on the frame. The test garage was the only interesting section. Boffins place finished products (that's R8s to you and me) on a treadmill which are then "driven" up to Autobahn speed. My guide warned me that I shouldn't push my R8's box fresh engine above 6,000 rpm during the break-in period. That would be 140mph in top gear.

I achieved terminal recommended velocity later that day without drama. I've already expounded on the R8's virtues on this esteemed site. But now that I've spent a few months living with the R8, I thought I'd give you the TTAC equivalent of the buff books' long term test– the difference being I actually spent my own hard-earned money for this car. Anyway, here are my top five likes and dislikes. We start with the sunny side of life…

1. The Audi R8 is one of those rare machines that makes anyone driving it instantly desirable. (My wife is not happy about this– unless she's driving the car.) Yes, the R8's contrasting "side blades" are a bit goofy. But then so are Marissa Miller's freckles.

2. The R8's tweaked 4.2-liter V8 engine note is perfectly judged. It's not excessively NASCAR, but still aggressive enough to make revving it at a standstill an thrill for pedalists and pedestrians alike. The R8 has a clear case of aural bi-polar disorder; eargasms are only a determined foot press away.

3. The ride quality is superb. At speed, the R8 glides where Corvettes fear to tread. Even the Porsche Turbo can't match the R8's combination of cornering confidence and magic carpet cosseting. 

4. While I'm no fan of manual transmissions (gasp!), the R8's gated six-speed is as much fun to clack around as a Ferrari's. The Audi's clutch effort is light and take-up is easily modulated. Pedal placement allows for throttle blips between downshifts.

5. The handling and steering are sublime. The faster you go, the faster you go. In other words, I haven't been able to provoke understeer or oversteer during extreme cornering. Only a braver man than I or a max track attack could reveals the R8's on-the-limit dynamics. Suffice it to say, if you're looking for trouble, you've come to the wrong place. 

Of course, not everything is sweetness and light in Audi R8 land. There are a few issues which my friends in Neckarsulm should address ASAP:

1. There is no other way to put this: the [avoidable] R-tronic automatic transmission sucks. Audi, please engineer the dual clutch S-tronic for the R8 STAT. There's no excuse for putting the world's best gearbox in a TT, and then putting this turkey in your top-of-the-line performance model. 

2. It's my fetish, and I'll cry if I want to. The R8's minuscule sun visor is an insult to all sun visors. It's a fashion accessory like those tiny purses my wife sometimes carries because they look cool. I end-up with all her things in my pockets and the sun in my eyes.

3. The R8 has power seats but no way to store your favorite position. What's up with that?

4. The fuel filler cap dangles dangerously on $2k worth of carbon fiber side blade because Audi forgot to provide a place to hang it when refueling. What's German for D'oh?

5. It's damn difficult to get one. While I'm sure some of you view my car buying habits with contemptuous envy, I would be delighted if more pistonheads could experience the R8's magnificence. Given the German brand's cliff face depreciation, an adequate supply at the sharp end is all they need to spread the love further down the food chain. 

There are faster cars than the R8. There are certainly cars with real sun visors out there. But none can match the R8's combination of driver satisfaction, sex appeal and everyday livability. Why Audi was allowed to build a better 911 is anybody's guess. And my pride and joy. She's my sweet little thing and I'm her little lover boy.

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25 Comments on “2008 Audi R8 Long Term Test...”


  • avatar
    beeb375

    Damn that Stevie Ray Vaughan! Nice report, Jay, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t murderously a teensy bit envious.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    This may sound a bit strange, but I would be envious if you had purchased the Audi TTS. Using supercars in most of the US is like being dressed in a tux where all the events are casual. I mean, where in the US (outside of a track) would being “limited” to 140 mph really matter??? The TTS is more than fast enough 99% of the time, gets very decent gas mileage for such a car, has more versatility with the hatch, and costs FAR less than the R8, though I still think the TTS costs too much.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    I had a chance to see one of these crusing down 684 on the morning commute. For those of you not familiar with 684, it is the main artery into NYC from the suburbs and you get a chance to see a ton of very expensive cars. The silver R8 had a presence that the hordes of 911′s, Merc AMGs, M5, and M6 couldn’t hope to match.

    Grats Jay on a great choice!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Yep, I have to agree with Jay on this one. The R8 is a brilliant work of machinery and…. yes… the German’s still have a propensity to miss the small user-friendly features.

    The first Audi I ever fell in love with was a silver 1997 Audi A8. A subdued but well proportioned aluminum body, AWD, 300 horsepower, and an amazing ability to inhale large amounts of pavement in a very short period of time. All for only $7k back in 2006. I could routinely go 90 to 100 mph and with a well chosen radar detector, I was more or less home free.

    One other unique item on it was that, to my recollection, it only needed 15″ tires. I still believe that 95+% of buyers would be far happier over the long run without the $$$$ of what really are oversized tires that serve little to no real world purpose. I hope manufacturers take the hint that is the current economic situation. But then again, maybe not.

  • avatar
    lizthevw

    “While I’m no fan of manual transmissions…”

    What hope do I have that I will always be able to buy a manual when even dedicated car webzines make statements like this? Between the ubiquitous automatic and the soulless flappy paddle gearboxes, I’m just glad that some sports cars still have a manual, but for how long? I would have a deposit down for a GTR, if only I could get it with a clutch pedal…

  • avatar

    Thanks for the review. My only experience with an Audi was my parents “Fox” back in the 1970s. For those who have forgotten, or are too young to have seen them, a Fox was an Audi 80 for the US market. 1.5L I-4. Sort of a precursor to the VW Jetta, as they were very similar to the Mk1 Jetta which arrived a few years later. Ours was a red 4-door. I thought is was so cool… All my friends’ parents drove dull Fords and whatnot. My folks had an Audi!

    If I recall correctly it only lasted about 3 years. Oh well.

    One of these days I’ll probably buy an Audi. I really like the TT, and if it were available with a TDI I’d have already bought one by now.

    By the way Jay, my 1965 E-type Jaguar does not even have sun visors! Just get some good sunglasses. ;)

    –chuck
    http://chuck.goolsbee.org

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Oh, I’m envious. But I’m happy for you. I don’t know the expression in english, as this is not my first language. But there’s a difference between being envious on someone or something, while at the same time allowing them the happiness of enyoing whatever ther is they are enjoying. I mean, I don’t want to take your pleasure away. It’s fun that some people just happen to make it in life, and make it big. And it is good, for some. But tell me, because I’m curious. How rich can you be, to buy an R8 on a whim? I mean, even with a million bucks on the bank, it is an expense. So, what is your fortune? It has to be in the tens of millions of dollars to make an R8 not make a difference. And how did you do it? I’m sorry if this is personal, but you asked for it, so to speak…

  • avatar

    @Ingvar

    Jay’s the chief executive for a guy that makes a fine Pinot Noir.

    TTAC bio and Wine Business Monthly Profile

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    “… for a guy that makes a fine Pinot Noir.”

    Well, that was a nice understatemant. And I didn’t know that TTAC had a bio-section. You learn something every day… But it must be a nice job.

  • avatar
    alanp

    While I must admit that Audi makes some cars that seems to be very desirable, I’ll NEVER be able to buy one due to an unfortunate saleslime at a local dealer. I went in looking to see about an A4 about 15 years ago, and the moron who greeted me challenged me that if I was “man enough to own an Audi” I wouldn’t be just looking. Needless to say, I left and have not gone back – which IS a bit childish – but he soured me for the Audi experience.

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    I am driving an R8 on July 19th with World Class Driving (review to follow). As a former Porsche owner, I am interested so see Audi’s take on an everyday exotic.

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    Caude Dickson:
    “I would be envious if you had purchased the Audi TTS”

    I actually agree. Of course I have the envy of the wealthy by the non-wealthy, but for the car itself the envy factor is low. Now days I find myself pining for the cars that combine value, economy, and great performance in some manner or vintage cars that offer none of the above. Often those come in at a fraction of the R8s cost. My first impression of the R8 in pictures didn’t do anything for me viscerally. There are cars that sing to me on first sight and those that leave me “meh”. I’m in LA right now and I finally saw an R8 in person. Still no heart palpitations. It’s not a bad looking car, but it is also a sterile design like many German designs. However, I’m sure driving it is a joy.

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    This car’s exclusivity is more appealing than its looks. Using the carbon fiber on the side to conceal its size is a notable design failure, at least on aesthetic terms. Overall, I think it’s a worthy effort for Audi. I’m just not cranked up about it up close and personal. Lambos and Ferraris have tons more sex appeal if we’re talking supercars.

    And who needs memory for the seats? People with Alzheimers are too old for this car.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Great article as usual, Jay, but I have to take exception with this one statement:

    The ride quality is superb. At speed, the R8 glides where Corvettes fear to tread.

    Actually, the R8 borrowed heavily from the lowly Corvette parts bin to achieve such a ride. Delphi’s magnetorheological shocks, while new to Audi and Ferrari, have been a little known option on the Corvette for the past 6 years….and revised on the upcoming ZR1 model.

    Any Corvette so equipped is anything but rough riding. While I have yet to try out the R8, it’s unlikely that it rides significantly better than a Corvette with the F55 Magnetic ride option.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Jay
    awaiting craftsmen in red overalls to return from their various beer breaks

    Don’t they have actual beear breaks in Neckarsulm? Because in Ingolstadt Audi has actual beer vending machines for the staff inside the factory.
    Neckarsulm is Baden-Württemberg, not Bavaria, so the rules could be different there.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Neckarsulm is also the place they used to make Porsche 944s and NSU Ro80s (with rotary engines).

    I don’t know about the R8…It definitely has some appeal but to me it doesn’t quite cut it. In the long run I’m pretty sure I would still prefer a 911 or an Aston Martin V8, that are both about the same price (practically) as the R8 or when used as a weekend sportscar shell out some extra dosh and go for the real thing (ie, Lamborghini Gallardo or Ferrari F430).

    To me the big question with the R8 is will it age well? How will we look at this car in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 40 years. With the 911 or V8 Vantage you can buy the car today and just keep it forever (which I think is great), because you know (apart from the energy debate), it will still be cool decades later. The R8 might lack the pedigree and sense of history to do the same (think BMW Z8).

    On another note, I don’t like the TT that much but you can buy it with a diesel…In Europe it’s available with the box standard 2.0 TDI in the TT TDI. I think they sell that engine in the US too in the Jetta TDI. So, for the commenter above that really wanted one, just maybe you can take Euro-delivery on one and then have it shipped to the US (providing you’re not in NY or California or whatever states ban diesels nowadays), if the bureaucracy allows for it, seeing as though both engine and car are already sold there (with side-markers), albeit not in combination with one-another.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    JJ,
    Does the original NSX still look good? I’d place this in the same sort of category as to what it will look like in 5, 10, etc years. :)

  • avatar
    drifter

    Those LEDs eyelashes under the headlight look as classy as a lead painted chineese replicas.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    I’d like to know the true cost of ownership of such a vehicle. Does it cost $1,000+ for an oil change? Does it burn through tires every 4K miles? Will it fall apart at 40,000 miles like certain other supercars?

  • avatar
    JJ

    @DrBiggly:

    I’m sure it’s still nice to drive, designed by Ayrton Senna and all and I’m sure technically it’s still up-to-date with that Honda tech.

    Still…particularly as for looks, I say no.

  • avatar
    pfingst

    I saw one of these driving down the road where I work, and later parked in the lot of the building next door. It was glossy black and about the coolest thing you’re ever likely to see. “Presence” is right – the only thing that comes close in my personal experience is a black Lamborghini Diablo (in a Best Buy parking lot, of all places).

    The license plate said “HEART DR”. To afford one, I guess you’d have to be.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Beautiful car Jay, I’m sure many here including myself envy your means to experience such wonderful cars.

    Question for RF> Does this mean reviewing a car you own or have owned is now OK on TTAC?

  • avatar

    Exception that proves the rule.

  • avatar
    hondagirl

    Nice review. It’s a shame about those sun visors. That’d definitely keep me from buying one.

    http://www.buyingadvice.com/

  • avatar

    These are still selling for 20% over retail price in the UK, amazing!


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