2011 Audi R8 4.2L R-tronic

AudiR8.JPGBy Chris Doane

Lawn boys let go of their Toro self-propelled, mulching mowers. Salesmen at Mercedes-Benz dealerships halt their SL65 pitches mid-sentence. Middle-aged women are giving me THAT look.

When the R8 rolls past, the world stops.

Sound good so far?

cdoane_R8_08.JPGA star is born
The R8 is Audi’s first foray into supercardom. With some borrowed parts from Lamborghini and the 420hp, 4.2L, V8 from the Audi RS4 sedan, the R8 is born.
While it’s not a word to be used lightly, “epic” is how you properly describe the R8.

Country Livin’
During the weeklong test, I find myself in the village of Stockbridge, Michigan. Stockbridge is a small farming community of around 1200 people. I’ve come for the twisty roads that bisect this village, not the farm fresh sweet corn. My co-pilot, Cory, and I have been attacking the bends all day, and it’s time to gas up. Parked at the pump, I hop out to see a rusty farm truck to the right of us, and a late model Buick to the left.

We’re blending in well.

The large man gassing up his farm truck never looks low enough to see the R8 sitting next to him. The roof is about level with his belly button. An older women sitting in the passenger seat of the Buick can’t stop staring and smiling.

While finishing up the pit stop inside the gas station, a group of local guys explode through the door. In short order, everyone in the store is interrogated about the sports car parked outside. They’ve gotta know whose car that is. Cory points towards me. Uh oh.

“That’s yours? Dude…are you famous?!”

For half a second, I think about saying yes. They are so excited they’ll probably believe anything that comes out of my mouth. Who’s to say I’m not the 2nd string quarterback for the New England Patriots?

“Nah, just lucky,” I answer.

We all head back outside for a full on, up-close-and-personal drool session over the car. Yesterday, the only vehicle these guys would’ve spent $150,000 on was painted green and yellow and had tires 8 feet tall. Today, I may have altered their aspirations.

cdoane_R8_04.JPGSentence Stopper
Cutting right to it, 0 – 60 happens in 4.4 seconds and the top speed is 187mph. In real life, the best way to describe the pulling power of the R8 is to say that it has the ability to stop conversations mid-sentence.

[Passenger] “So the transmission is a lot like the one in the Lamborg…” and then I floor it in third gear.

A few seconds pass and my passenger looks over at me and smiles.

[Passenger] “Wow. Uh…what was I saying?”

With immense speed, you damn well better have the handling and road grip to go along with it. Normally, aluminum and magnets would be a lackluster combination. In the R8, they get you through the corner at alarming speed.

The silver metal comes in buckets on the R8: An aluminum body is anchored to an all-aluminum Audi Space Frame chassis. All you really need to know about that is that it’s light and rigid. Both of which lend themselves to excellent handling.

Audi’s magnetic ride adaptive suspension is the other half of the equation. The oil in the dampers contains small, magnetic particles. When you hit the “sport” button next to the gearshift, electricity is applied to those magnetic bits, and the viscosity of oil inside the suspension changes, giving you a firmer, sportier ride. The magnetic system is also constantly adapting to the road conditions to give you the best handling and ride possible.

Combine these two things with Audi’s signature Quattro all-wheel-drive system and you have a techno trio that will let the driver attack the apex and launch you out of the corner exit like a cheetah who missed lunch.

One of the best examples I get of these three things working in harmony is during yet another “show off” ride to a friend. I decide at the very last millisecond to take a 90-degree, right-hand turn off the main road onto a side street. I’m already a third of way past the corner when I decide to turn right. In most cars, I would plow straight ahead, hurdle the curb, and slam into a row of pre-owned X5s sitting at the BMW dealership. But I’m not in most cars: the R8 went around the corner at 45mph without a second thought. A quick reflection after my abrupt cornering told me that it was really stupid to even try such a thing. The Audi, on the other hand, seemed to shrug it off and ask if that was the best I could do.

cdoane_R8_17.JPGFor all the great handling, you might think you’ll pay for it with a rough ride. Think again. Even with the suspension on its firmest setting, the R8’s ride won’t shake you to the core.

The R-tronic transmission the R8 utilizes is surprising. Surprising in the same way that Tiger Woods is…faithful. This transmission is nearly the same sequential “e-gear” transmission in the Lamborghini Gallardo, but with an Audi tune for duty in the R8. Unfortunately, shifts aren’t very smooth and certainly not as fast as a dual-clutch transmission. Things get a little better when you put the car in “Sport” mode, but not enough. Rumors are floating around that the next-generation “S-tronic” dual clutch transmission will be able to handle the torque of the R8. Please, Ingolstadt, let that be true.

For now, this makes the 6-speed manual transmission a requirement for anyone who might, you know, enjoy driving. Not to mention, the manual saves you several grand. Money that will buy you all the 93-octane your right foot desires.

All day, every day
More often than not, supercars aren’t exactly comfortable to drive. A few hours of rough rides, firm seats, and cramped quarters can leave your spine feeling like a half-played game of Jenga. Not so in the R8. Not only are the sport seats comfortable, but you won’t feel cramped in any way — plenty of legroom, plenty of headroom. The R8 really is a supercar you can drive every day. There’s even space left over for a cargo shelf behind the seats. A shelf that Audi hilariously says can manage two sets of golf clubs. Two clubs, sure. Two sets? Good luck!

cdoane_R8_11.JPGDesign-wise, the interior isn’t nearly as extravagant as the exterior. Clean, simple, sweeping lines are the order of the day, with all the controls oriented slightly towards the driver. Soft, dark gray plastic paneling meshes perfectly with aluminum accents and the optional carbon fiber trim. Fit and finish is flawless, minus the carbon fiber door handle that didn’t quite line up with the corresponding trim on the dash. Could that be related to the unimaginably harsh 9000 journalist miles this R8 has on the clock? Maybe.

Prom Queen?
Towards the end of my weeklong stint in the R8, I have my most bizarre encounter. For those not familiar with the roads in Metro Detroit, you often have to turn right to turn left. Which is to say, you turn right, go down to a U-turn, turn around, and then head back left where you wanted to go in the first place. They say this helps control the flow of traffic. Whatever.

After a long day of flogging the R8 through the countryside, we’re just about home and going through the last “Detroit left turn” of the day. I come up to the U-turn and Cory says something to me about the cars sitting at the intersection. That’s about the time I notice the passenger standing up in the open sunroof of an Audi S4 taking photos of the R8. His level of excitement is somewhere around “nuclear.”

Once I’m through the U-turn and the light goes green for the S4, I’m being chased not by one, but two customized Audis — one with a short man still standing up in the sunroof. If at this point you are picturing something along the lines of the prom queen drunkenly swaying while standing up in her limo, then you’re absolutely correct. I accelerate to leave them in the dust since that’s what you do when you drive an R8. The pursuing pair catches up to me just as I’m pulling into my subdivision. I pull over to talk with what I assume are some fairly crazy guys.

“I guess you want a closer look, huh?”

Indeed they do. Turns out these guys are not insane, just huge enthusiasts of all things four-ringed. The night ends with an impromptu car show outside my front door with five Audis lined up on my street, posing for a group photo. I’m pretty sure the neighbors thought the Russian mafia had just moved in.

In a way, it’s ridiculous for me to try and write about how good this car is. You won’t fully understand it until your butt is in the seat, your hands are on the wheel, and your foot is on the floor. The R8 is like a holiday weekend that never ends.

Mr. Bueller said it best:

“It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

2009 Audi R8 R-tronic – $123,300

-Phantom Black Pear Effect Paint – $650
-Enhanced Leather Package – $5500
-Carbon Fiber Engine Compartment Trim – $3600
-Carbon Fiber Interior Trim – $2500
-Premium Package – $2100
-Audi Navigation – $2000
-Bang & Olufsen Sound System – $1,800
-Black Alcantara Headliner – $1300
-Body Color Sideblade – $1000
-19-inch polished alloy wheels – $500
-Gas Guzzler Tax – $2100
-Destination – $1200

TOTAL MSRP – $147,550