2010 Audi R8 4.2 R tronic quattro Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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It isn't often that a car appears on the scene that literally stuns the senses – every single one of them – while creating a strong urge to own it, or at least to experience driving it.  The R8 from Audi creates such a stir, taking its place as the new "Lord of the Rings" in their lineup.  Some will likely argue that the A8L holds that title, and they are certainly entitled to their opinion, as admittedly it's an elegant sedan with its own impressive performance credentials. 

Audi's two-seat sports coupe is incredibly capable in terms of its performance as it is alluring in its visual appeal.  The mid-engine Audi R8 has taken its name as well as much of its developmental DNA from the German automaker's five-time Le Mans winning R8.  The production R8 came just three years after the unveiling of Audi's Le Mans quattro concept show car. 

The R8 is Audi's first mid-engine production sports car, combining the company's experience acquired from a host of motorsports victories with unique and innovative styling and technological know-how. 

Power for the "Ferrari-esque" 2010 R8 comes from a longitudinally mid-mounted 4.2-litre V8 that churns out 420 horsepower at 7,800 rpm, while delivering 317 pound feet of torque from 4,500-6,000 rpm.  The potent engine connects to either a six-speed manual gearbox or Audi's R tronic sequential-shift automatic transmission.  The driving energy is directed to all four wheels via Audi's quattro permanent all-wheel drive system.  The engine's mid-mount position is a major plus in the R8's driving dynamics, with a weight distribution of 44 percent forward and 56 percent out back.  The heart of the R8 is its engine, which is prominently showcased through the rear hatch glass.  Subdued LED lighting is optionally available as well for viewing the engine is all its glory at night.  

The full aluminum body of the R8 is constructed via Audi's Space Frame design – an ideal synthesis of minimal weight and maximum rigidity providing an optimum basis for superior driving dynamics, while delivering a power to weight ratio of just 3.70 kg/hp (8.16 lbs/hp).  When one first beholds the R8, its purpose and caliber is instantly evident – its stance is wide and low to the ground, with the accentuated rear end seeming to flex its ample muscle, much like a runner ready to bolt out of the starting block with the firing of the starter's gun.  The car is just 4,430 mm (174.4 inches) long, riding on a 2,649-mm (104.3-inch) wheelbase, and standing a mere 1,250 mm (49.2 inches) in height. 

The front end showcases the familiar trapezoidal styling of Audi's single-frame grille, flanked right and left by oversized air intakes.  The four-ring Audi logo badge is positioned on the hood above the grille.  The innovative LED headlights (with wicked LED Daytime Running Lights), with their clear-glass covers, join flush to the air intake tops.  The roof displays a low, gently sweeping arc, and just aft of the doors is a large-surface "sideblade" air deflector that sweeps between the wheel arch and the roof section, delivering air to feed and cool the mighty V8.  The paint finish of the sideblades may be coordinated with the body colour, or finished in Carbon Fibre or Oxygen Silver metallic.  The side view reveals a dynamic line above the wheel arches while the shoulder line blends the front end, side, rear, and the doors along with the transition to the sideblade with a strong presence, emphatically highlighting the typical Audi rounded wheel housings that purposefully accommodate the large wheels and tires.  A pair of circular exhaust pipes sits at both the right and left sides, above the diffuser openings. 

Additional downforce for the R8 comes from an automatically extending rear spoiler that deploys at speed, and automatically retracts at lower speeds.  It may also be operated manually. 

Despite the car's compact dimensions, the cabin, which is positioned far forward, a feature typical of mid-engine sports cars, is spacious and comfortable.  Behind the cabin, and situated just ahead of the rear axle, is the V8 engine, a jewel of engineering art. 
The interior accommodations are dominated by a driver-oriented cockpit arrangement.  The instrument panel above the centre console is angled slightly towards the driver, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel enables ease of ingress and egress.  There is generous space for the two occupants, where comfort levels are well beyond the average found in most high-performance sports cars, with space behind the seats to stow large bags, or even two golf bags.  The luggage compartment at the front has a capacity of approximately 99.1 litres (3.5 cubic feet). 
My test Audi R8 quattro with the R tronic 6-speed sequential manual gearbox was done in a Jet Blue metallic finish outside with a two-tone Luxor Beige and Black interior.  It rode on standard 19-inch wheels and tires.  The base price is set at $141,000 with the 6-speed manual or $152,500 with the R tronic transmission.  Metallic paint at $800; $6,900 Enhanced Leather Package; $4,500 Premium Package with Audi's parking system with rearview camera, Hill Hold Assist, auto-dimming and folding exterior mirrors, and Storage Package; $2,900 Navigation System Plus; $2,300 Bang & Olufsen sound system, $2,000 Black Alcantara headliner bumped the final sticker to $172,400.  The standard equipment and features inventory is extensive, while the options list continues on with some highlights being the $4,300 Carbon Sigma package a highlight adding carbon fibre interior trim, doorsills and side mirror housings; Carbon Sigma Sideblades at $2,900; Carbon Engine Compartment Trim at $4,500; and LED headlights for $3,500, just to name a few. 

The Audi R8 is a gorgeous vehicle that stops nearly all observers in their tracks – it's an attention magnet that people follow, take cell phone photos of, offer thumbs up for… and more.  The proportions of the R8 are about as close to perfect as a car can get.  It is a beautifully sculptured, street-legal racecar for all intents and purposes. 

The 420 horsepower generated is almost turbine-like, up to the peak rev ranges, delivering a sound that is evocative enough to rival a Ferrari.  In spite of its brute power, the car is just as suited to normal, everyday cruising.  Stabbing the throttle catapults the R8, nailing one to the seatback and setting all four wheels ripping at the pavement.  The R8 hurtles from 0-100 km/h in a mere 4.6 seconds, and is capable of attaining a top speed of 300 km/h (185 mph).  Redline is reached at 8,250 rpm. 

Ride quality is necessarily firm for optimum performance and control, but not uncomfortable.  The direct, hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering delivers a positive and on-centre feel to the driver.  Standard damping may be replaced by the "Audi Magnetic Ride" adaptive damper system. 

The machine-knurled metal control knobs are as attractive as they are functional.  The auxiliary power outlet is set a bit far back, stretching a radar detector power cord.  A crabbing effect was encountered at slow speed with the wheel turned lock-to-lock – so, don't engage in tight U-turns. 

The Audi R8 is a car that, given the wherewithal, I would add to my stable in a heartbeat.  It is near perfect with "drop dead gorgeous" looks and exhilarating performance.  The R8 is at home on the street, on an autocross course, or on the track, though I much preferred the manual gearbox over the R tronic, which is a single clutch unit with a lag similar to BMW's SMG unit.  The R tronic has been noticeably improved upon though, and is now smoother than before.  Audi's DSG dual clutch automatic system is superb, but apparently not up to handling the R8's torque load.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Audi, 2010, R8, $99,999+,

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