2008 Audi R8

Gaywheels Drives the 2008 Audi R8

With Lamborghini in its corner, Audi takes on the Porsche 911–and rocks.
by Marty Padgett

The mission is simple: get behind the wheel of the Audi R8 on the only snowy day in Atlanta so far this year. Drive it enough to get a feel for its raucous power, grippy handling and smoothly styled cockpit for the Gaywheels crowd.

Oh, and don’t f*&k it up.

Thankfully, I can report, I didn’t crack up the only chance to drive an Audi R8 on my home turf that I’ll ever get, unless I hit the next Powerball. (Audi, by the way, is on our gay-friendly list.) And boy, did it change my social standing: if the words of gym buddies, and the crowd that gathered in a mass-transit parking deck to gawk, are any evidence, Audi’s catapulted into the ranks of Porsche’s 911 and almost, Lamborghini’s Gallardo in one big step. And I’m suddenly hotter, younger, better looking and obviously more wealthy. Right?

R8: An Engineering Jewel
Audi’s first true sportscar is an engineering jewel–and it owes some inspiration, if not mechanical pieces, to the Gallardo. Audi is in charge of Lamborghini these days in the VW empire, and the R8 shares a lot of the Gallardo’s attitude, from its mid-engine layout to its snug cockpit.

But they’re only remotely related. While the Gallardo gets a massive 530-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-10 and a $240,000 pricetag, the R8 makes do with only eight cylinders and “only” 420 horsepower, and a sticker of $109,000. Quelle bargain! (If you’re comparing to the 911, it makes about 355 horsepower in non-turbo versions.)

Pity, no? Don’t worry about the R8. With the 4.2-liter V-8, a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automated transmissions, and a 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds, the Audi R8 will blast alongside the Porsche 911 without a problem–at a price of less than half its Italian brother.

The other killer applications in the Audi R8 portfolio will make you veer away from the Porsche 911, too. There’s standard all-wheel drive, which gives it secure and stable handling. Audi also fits an optional magnetic ride control on the suspension, which softens up the R8 just a bit for city driving. Don’t think limousine, think unbruised kidneys–the R8’s a stiff ride no matter how much you prepare for it. The variable-rate steering responds with neural precision, as if your brain ran the steering pump. And huge wheels, tires and brakes gives it the grip of a champion wrestler (and now that we think about it, some of the bulges, too).

The R8 also comes with fancy-schmancy things aplenty like those you’d find on a Porsche 911, like LED running lights, automatic climate control, heated power seats, and a navigation system coupled with a media-center controller and Sirius satellite radio–all standard features.

If you ever decide to turn down the engine note, and turn up the music, do us a favor. Turn over the keys and back away from the vehicle, ma’am. We’re already a little heartsick for more seat time.

We don’t need a big Powerball win either–the Audi R8 is no Lamborghini Gallardo in terms of price, but it’s damn close to being one on the road.

2008 Audi R8: The Competition
Porsche 911: Comes in normally aspirated and Turbo versions. The Audi R8 fits between the Porsche models, and is substantially more expensive than the base 911.
Lamborghini Gallardo: Far more expensive than the R8, the Lambo Gallardo isn’t much faster than the R8 and costs more than twice as much.
See the R8: Audi Web site

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