Your eyes do not deceive you: We are spending one full year with our 2008 Automobile of the Year, the Audi R8. Our Four Seasons R8 has been in the Automobile Magazine fleet for seven months, and we all still pinch ourselves when we walk out to the parking structure, see it sitting there in all its sleek beauty, and realize, it's ours! Ours, ours, ours! At least for five more months, that is. There was a slight glitch in getting our R8. When we request a loaner car from a manufacturer for a one-year test, we usually prefer that the car be brand-spanking new, with as few miles on the odometer as possible, so that we can more closely replicate the experience of a real-world new-car buyer.
Audi of America was not able to spare a car from its press fleet for us until after it had already spent some 15,000 miles, presumably some of them hard miles, at the hands of other journalists. So, when our Blue Pearl Effect 2008 R8 Coupe Quattro arrived at our editorial offices on July 7, 2008, it was already very well broken-in. But we didn't care, so thrilled were we with the prospect of having this car for our exclusive use for 365 days. Feeling privileged? Yes, indeed.
Our R8 is pretty well loaded up. Its base price of $109,000 (since raised to $114,200) was augmented by some $20K in options, including a $5500 leather package; $5300 for the striking carbon fiber exterior side blades; a cool $2200 for the pieces of carbon fiber decorating the cabin; $2000 for navigation; and $3500 for a premium package with parking alert, Hill Holder, CD changer, and the like. And, oh, let's not forget $2100 in gas guzzler tax (13/20 EPA city/highway) and $995 destination charge. It all added up to $131,245. Not cheap, but by the standards of mid-engine supercars with major street cred, not bad. Not bad at all.
We asked for and received an R8 with the six-speed manual transmission, which operates through a traditional metal gated shifter and which we thought would evoke the romance of driving old Ferraris and Lamborghinis, before the days of twin-clutch automatics and single-clutch automated manuals and F1 paddle-shifters. It does elicit a few misty water-colored memories of the way things were, but its corrugated head also rubs fingers raw if you don't grab it just so. Worse, we've had problems shifting into third gear for the entire duration of the test, and the dealer hasn't managed to figure out why.
We wasted no time crisscrossing the upper Midwest in our R8 after it arrived last summer in the heart of vacation season. It's amazing how quickly two people can pare down their luggage for the privilege of taking this car, which has limited cargo space, for a weekend jaunt. The parcel shelf behind the seats, which is about six inches deep, fits more than you might think, though, as does the front trunk, a deep cavity that must be packed carefully.
Here are a few comments from our first six months with our 2008 Audi R8:
July 16, 2008
"It is very cool to have a car of this caliber in our Four Seasons fleet. The Audi R8 feels special, looks special, and grabs attention like an Italian exotic. It may be that you just need to be very deliberate with third gear, but I found the engine revving after I thought I grabbed third gear. Also, when the box is cold you need to be delicate but deliberate when downshifting into third."
-Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
July 22, 2008
"Wow! It's going to be a great year! We already knew it, but this car is definitely incredible. Performance. Power. Handling. Style. Presence. It's got it all."
-Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
July 28, 2008
"The best thing about the R8 (other than its amazing levels of performance) is that it's such an easy car to drive. There's really no learning curve here. The controls are all placed in their typically well-thought-out Audi positions, and the whole ambience is simply perfect. I did notice on occasion that the gearshifter popped backward when I thought I'd aleady engaged third gear, but you can take care of that if you are a little more precise with your shifting."
-Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
July 29, 2008
"I don't really like the navy blue paint and dark side blades. The car still stands out in a crowd, but I think the dark blades look better with lighter paint."
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
August 1, 2008
"I took the R8 to pre-run the Automobile Magazine All-Stars route. Overall, the car performed fabulously. It was fast, comfortable, and even returned a touch over 20 mpg while cruising on the highway. The R8 soaks up the bumps on the back roads impressively and has tons and tons of grip. I also love that it is an Audi that can rotate, even oversteer. It is very quick and sounds great."
-Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
October 10, 2008
"If you paid attention only to the V-8's willingness to rev and the transmission's gearing, you'd think the R8 had a four-cylinder engine. It's not difficult to accidentally hit 4000 rpm pulling out of a parking spot."
"And on the highway, the big eight is spinning 3300 rpm at 80 mph in sixth gear the same as a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo's four-cylinder. Come on, that's totally unnecessary. When the Porsche 911 gets 27 mpg (thanks to a long seventh gear) there's no reason the R8 should be sucking down gas at the rate of 20 mpg. Not to mention the noise factor
"The R8 rides fantastically, soaking up pavement irregularities and potholes with nary a complaint. Until you hit the Sport button, that is. Unlike most such buttons, which seem to do nothing, one press of the R8's Sport button ejected the radar detector from the windshield immediately. It not only stiffens the ride, it causes a sudden and impressive increase in the amount of impact noise transmitted to the cabin. It's an interesting reminder of how much of the driving experience
"Like everyone else, I experienced the third-gear weirdness. All of the R8's faults are easily forgiven when either looking at it or driving it. It's one of the most throttle-adjustable all-wheel-drive cars I've ever driven."
-Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
November 25, 2008
The R8 now has its winter footwear, Pirelli SottoZeros, which we've also fitted to our Four Seasons BMW 135i. Check back next month for a report on how they've served us in this, the harshest Michigan winter in years.
-Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
2008 Audi R8 Coupe Quattro MT6
Base Price: $109,995
As Tested: $131,245
Body Style: 2-door coupe
Accommodations: 2 passengers
Construction: Aluminum "Audi space frame"
Engine: DOHC 32-valve V-8
Displacement: 4.2 liters
Power: 420 hp @ 7800 rpm
Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 4500-6000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 13/20/15 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Steering: Electromechanical with speed-dependent power assistance
Turning Circle: 38.7 ft
Suspension: Double wishbone-type (front and rear)
Brakes: Vented discs, ABS
Wheels F/R: 19 x 8.5/19 x 11 in alloy
Tires: Pirelli PZero Rosso
Tire Size: 235/35YR-19 front and 295/30YR-19 rear
Wheelbase: 104.3 in
Track F/R: 64.3/62.8 in
L x W x R: 174.5 x 75.0 x 49.3 in
Weight: 3597 lb
Weight Dist. F/R: 44.2/55.8%
Fuel Capacity: 23.8 gallons
Est. Range: 357 miles
Fuel Grade: 91 octane
ABS and ESP
Chest and knee airbags
Automatic climate control
Power adjustable driver and passenger sports seats
Mugello Blue Pearl Effect paint, $650
Enhanced Leather Package, $5500
Carbon Exterior Package, $5300
Premium Package, $3500
Audi Parking System Advanced
Audi Hill Hold Assist
Bluetooth Phone Preparation
Auto-Dimming Exterior Mirror
Carbon Interior Trim, $2200
Audi Navigation System Plus, $2000
0-60 MPH: 4.2 sec
0-100 MPH: 10.4 sec
1/4-Mile: 12.9 @ 113 mph
30-70 Passing: 5.6 sec
Speed in Gears: 1) 40; 2) 64; 3) 92; 4) 123; 5) 155; 6) 180 mph
Cornering L/R: 1.06/0.98g
70-0 Braking: 148 ft
Peak Braking: 1.15 g