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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Sep 7, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Oftentimes, the media wags are treated to special opportunities from the car companies that are rolling out new products for review. Not only is early access granted to those invited, but also the locations are often well-chosen to cast the car in the best light possible. Certainly, any car will drive well on roads that are smooth as a granite counter top. So, what happens when you bring real world conditions into play, will this dog still hunt? After a review last year in Sonoma, the Audi R8 easily became one of our favorite vehicles. It wasn't simply because we found it to be fast and track-worthy, with 420 mid-mounted horses, but because it addressed concerns like storage, ergonomics, and the audio system that was on par with the driving performance. At the conclusion we quoted "Just a few flaws in an otherwise exceptional car that retains the family traits for design and performance."

Leaving the perfectly groomed track and streets in Sonoma behind, we turn the R8 loose on the streets of Southern California. Hard to imagine, but again we find this earns its stripes as a supercar. In spite of the vocal eight cylinder's howl, it really didn't happen the way you might think. No, it wasn't at triple digit-speeds where we found the meaning of nirvana, or through some creative ultra-stealthy means of evading the law. Surprisingly, this revelation came at about 10 miles per hour. Typically, you do get a dose of heads-turns whenever you drive a hot set of wheels. However, the reception that the R8 receives is startling. As we slowly manage our way down one of the coastal streets of Newport, which sees many an exotic pass along, we are unprepared for what happens. Crowds are gathering for a weekend of holiday fun, but the Audi is the life of the party. Entire rooftop balconies with dozens of people pause from their activities up high and then erupt in cheers as the car passes by. If this happened once it wouldn't seem so odd, but when everyone treats the car in a similar manner, it does feel a little unsettling. I begin to wonder if this is how the Apollo astronauts felt upon returning back to Earth. People literally are stopping in the middle of streets to gawk, as if this was the first time they ever saw a car. Nothing reaffirmed the capabilities of the sports car than one of the local favorite hill climbs. This stretch features a small turn at the bottom and another at top. In between the two effectively tests the torque, and the turn on top will prove out the braking and handling. The massive rotors and eight-piston calipers in front have no trouble shedding unwanted speed.

Other highly acclaimed machines like the Corvette are more than able to gobble the hill up in short order. The Audi R8 goes one step further with all-wheel drive, which allows the top corner to be taken with far less drama than just a rear-wheel drive car. This short strip of pavement is a perfect example that going fast is more than acceleration. The balance provided by the mid-engine layout along with the adjustable magnetic suspension (similar to one found in some of the Corvettes) simply feels natural and allows even moderately skilled drivers to exceed their normal capabilities. Undoubtedly, this is super. However, as far as a being a car, does this hold up in real world conditions? This does have a few a hick-ups that we didn't find as problematic previously. The Audi does inspire confidence. In Sonoma, the 6-speed manual we drove performed magnificently with precision shifting that allowed for smooth gear changes and maximizing every last drop of power. The suspension also deserves kudos for the way it absorbs less than perfect pavement. The Audi isn't luxury car plush, but it isn't bone-jarring either. I am leery about taking this on really rough roads, as this isn't the R8's mission. All-wheel drive is not to be confused with off-road ability; this is strictly for the streets.

This time around, the car is equipped with the 6-speed R-Tronic automatic transmission. The automatic is really a clutchless manual. In full auto mode, the shifting is anything but smooth-feeling. The shifting is reminiscent of a manual when a driver doesn't lift up on the gas between shifts. One way around that jerkiness is to use the paddle shifters. In this way the driver can lift off the gas just before shifting to insure a smooth shift. But, if you have to do that then why not just get a manual and be done with it? Another real world issue is how difficult this is to back out of parking spaces due to the rearward visibility. In all fairness, it's the ability to see oncoming cross traffic looking rearward that's the problem. This is the same problem encountered in nearly every parking lot we take leave from. The fabric lined headliner feels just a little less than what some would feel is satisfactory in a car with this price tag. Maybe leather or Alcantara would be a more appropriate material. This wouldn't be an issue, but the car can feel a bit confining, and the close proximity to the roof does make it more than slightly noticeable.

The very low profile of the R8 also means cross traffic has trouble seeing the car when merging into traffic, as it can easily be hidden by virtually anything larger than a fire hydrant. It really takes an extra dose of patience, precaution, and nerves to pull out into cross-traffic. For those who use a plug-in radar detector, such as the all-seeing and all-knowing Escort 9500i that I'm using, you'll want to get the protector-of-all-evil hardwired. Although the cigarette plug-in is in a fairly logical spot for smokers, it is miles from the windshield. If you use any device that adheres to the front glass the cord becomes an obstacle if not an outright nightmare. Now it seems that this might appear to be one too many complaints, but these are minor in comparison to the virtues the R8 holds. What the Audi shows is no car is perfect, or without issues in the wrong circumstances. The transmission choice notwithstanding, this is still one of the most desirable exotics on the market. After enough time spent flogging the car, I have to wonder just why Audi actually sells so few cars for so little money when it could easily charge more? Well, let's just keep that between us.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT There are more expensive cars, and maybe faster, but few can provide as much fun. Find more about the R8 at

SPECIFICATIONS Price: Base $118,000, with R Tronic automatic gearbox $134,545 Engine type: 4.2-liter, cast iron block, aluminum cylinder heads, DOHC, eight-cylinder engine, 4 valves per cylinder EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 13/18 (automatic) Horsepower: 420 @ 7,800 rpm Torque: 317 lb.-ft @ 6,000 rpm Drive configuration: mid-engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed manual, with gated shifter, 6-speed R Tronic Automatic (optional) Suspension: Front: Audi Magnetic Ride, double wishbone, 15-inch diameter Rear: Audi Magnetic Ride, double wishbone, 14-inch diameter Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 8.5 x 19" alloy, 235/35/19Y Rear: 11 x 19" alloy, 295/30/19 Brakes: Front: Disc brakes, internally vented, 8-piston brake calipers Rear: Disc with 4-piston brake calipers Overall length: 174.5" Overall width: 75" w/o mirrors Overall height: 49.3" Curb weight (lbs.): 3,605 0-60 mph: 4.4 Top Speed, mph: 187

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