December 20, 2008
"I used to like this car." She says as I'm opening the throttle, tearing down the only deserted stretch of roadway in Southern California last night. "But after the GT-R it's just so... I don't know...pointless and soft. And can you please stop doing that with the transmission?" The car had just changed from second to third, lagging for a second and then slamming the car forward. She was not impressed. But she does have a point.
Compared to the GT-R our Audi R8 is a beauty queen. Side blade and all. Functionally, though, the Audi doesn't stand up to the GT-R, at least not as far as I'm concerned.
Ever try to get out of an R8? First step is to readjust the seating position away from the correct driving position. Don't do that and you've got to tie your shoes together, dislocate your hips and swivel the whole knotted mass over to the left up to your chest and then around over 90-degrees out the massive doors and over the sill. Now imagine doing that in a dress. See, it's not that poor Hilton girl's fault.
And then there're the seats, quality is better in the Audi by a country kilometer, but the GT-R's are more supportive and grippier when the road gets turny. They also, as a reader pointed out, at certain angles look like the scream mask.
And then there're the human interfaces. Radio control: GT-R. HVAC: GT-R. Seat adjustment: GT-R. Steering wheel Adjustment: GT-R. Aforementioned ingress / egress: GT-R.
And then there's the attention. The GT-R certainly gets its fair share of looks (some of horror), but they're from people "in the know." Everyone looks at the R8. Still. Grandmothers, children, men, women, puppies. Everyone.
Oh, and cops.
The GT-R may be acoustically muted to a Toyotaistic degree, but a low vocal profile ain't always a bad thing, ya know? People who gawk at the GT-R know what it is. Everyone else just passes by. I like being passed by when I'm preparing to be bad. (As an aside, I'm a big fan of de-badging cars. I've never understood why anyone would add badges. Especially ones claiming displacement, AMG/SRT/M/SVT/SS affiliation, or horsepower --remember the C5 Z06s 405hp badge?)
Anyways, back to the point. For me, the draw of the Audi R8, despite many high-speed attempts, remains elusive.
We pulled into our garage at the end of the night and, maintaining forward momentum from the slope of the entry way, I popped the lever over to neutral and treated my neighbors to the sound of world-ending fury Audi's 4.2-liter V8 produces. She smiled that placating smile all men--especially car guys-- have seen 1,000-times and finally gives in, "Okay, that's nice. But seriously, can't we just get our own GT-R? A red one? We could make it louder." And as the GT-R, a red one, costs some $59,580 less than a similarly equipped R8, it's a bargain. It also leaves enough in the (fictional) bank for a new transaxle...should the need arise.
Cheaper + faster + more functional + girlfriend approved = better.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 25,200 miles
December 04, 2008
It may seem obvious to say the R8 is a terrific car - what's not to like, right? Well, thing is, I really don't like many aggressive performance cars - most are simply too uncomfortable to be worthwhile in my book. I suspect many other people feel the same way although they suffer in order to project some kind of image. If I won the lottery, I'd never consider vehicles like the Nissan GT-R, Evo GSR or Ferrari F430.
However, I can totally see spending good money on the R8. I love the interior - the design adds to the special feel of the car. I also like the new Lotus Evora for the same reason. I really like cars like the R8 that can deliver stunning performance without stark interiors or a constantly punishing driving experience.
Even if money was no object, what performance cars would you still NOT want?
Brian Moody, Senior Automotive Editor @ 24,611 miles.
November 14, 2008
One of the great things about having our own 2008 Audi R8 to drive around as much as we want is the chance to let our friends take a turn. So we forced it on a friend who happens to be a development engineer for a rival car company, figuring he'd give us an outsider's perspective on the way the R8 compares to other cars.
From the start, our guy was really impressed with the R8's quiet, composed ride quality. "Obviously this is the Buick of sports cars, if you like that sort of thing," he said. "No wonder Oldham likes it." He went on to make a few disparaging remarks about "girly men," and noted that the R8 probably gets some added ride compliance because it doesn't have run-flat tires.
He was impressed with the big change in the R8's character that came from engaging the sport setting for the dampers. We were driving a section of CA Hwy 110 in Los Angeles that all manufacturers use to evaluate freeway hop, and the R8 was utterly calm on the regular suspension setting and then porpoised madly on the sport setting. He said this is a difference you really want since it suggests the suspension really has been calibrated for speed. "Of course you can also feel that the suspension bushings are pretty aggressive for autobahn speed, and you really pick up a lot of vibration on coarse pavement," he said.
One thing our guy couldn't get along with proved to be the single-clutch automated manual transmission. "When it shifts, it just drops the engine torque to zero then makes the gear-change, just like a computer would," he said. "It's really just a first-gen system and it can't take advantage of what a dual-clutch can do. And it also makes the car surge in low-speed traffic just like the Smart that I drove last week -- worse than a Smart, in fact. The GT-R dual-clutch is way better. Not even close." He did allow that the Audi's transmission is quiet, although maybe that's because it's all the way at the back of the car where you can't hear it.
He really disliked the lack of coordination from the pedals at low speed. The tip-in for the throttle is too aggressive, and since the clutch comes in all at once, the car kind of surges forward. And while the brakes have a lot of bite for top-speed work, you find yourself varying pedal pressure to compensate for the transmission as it downshifts through the gears.
All this relates to driving the Audi R8 through town, of course. But since comfort and utility are what sets the Audi R8 apart from its competition, this is worth talking about. We probably have some reason to be skeptical, however, because a lapse in judgment led him to turn the R8 into a driveway at the wrong angle and the car got hung up with two wheels as if it were off-roading in Moab. "This is what you get with a 104.3-inch wheelbase and no suspension travel," our man said.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Inside Line @ 24,200 miles
August 05, 2008
At this point, I've used the R8 for basic transportation around town and one long road trip. Yeah, it sounds great and handles nearly perfectly, but what keeps jumping out at me is how comfortable it is along the way.
It's a $120,000 mid-engined exotic, yet you don't have to fall into the driver's seat to get in. And once you're situated, it's not the least bit claustrophobic. The sight lines are good through the windshield and when you look over your shoulder you can actually see out the back window.
It rides smoothly too, with none of the bucking and twitching you might expect from a car with low-profile tires and a tight wheelbase. In other words, the R8 is a real car and when it comes to exotics that's saying something.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 15,830 miles
June 18, 2008
You want proof it's hot in Nawlins? Well, here it is. But at least it's really freakin' humid.
But there's good news too... The Audi R8's air conditioning is up to it. In fact, it hasn't broken a sweat keeping us from breaking a sweat. With the system on Auto and set at 68 degrees, we are perfectly comfortable inside our $132,000 supercar.
By the way, we found out what the beads are for. Nawlins rocks.
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 7,542 miles
June 17, 2008
Delta flight 936 dumps us in Atlanta on time and in one piece. Now all we need is a car. A car with air conditioning. They don't call it Hotlanta for nothing... Temperatures are near the 100 mark, with the humidity approaching 5,000,000 percent.
Audi told us the machine of our dreams would be waiting for us at a place called Park 'N Fly Plus. The instructions were clear. "After claiming your baggage," the email said, "follow the sign to Ground Transportation at the west end of the baggage claim concourse. The bus that will take you to your car will be parked toward the far left end of the second row of courtesy buses."
And it is. And our Daytona Gray Pearl Audi R8 is waiting for us as promised as well, tank full of 94 octane (gotta love the East Coast), tires shined like patent leather, its odometer showing 7,041 miles.
We packed light in anticipation of the Audi's slight 3.5 cubic feet of cargo room. Good thing. Our bare minimum for four days of living on the road fill the car's nose trunk and the small shelf behind the seats.
"Is that the car from iRobot?" asks the Park 'N Fly Plus guy.
It's a conversation we'll have many times over the next 3,000 miles. Should be a fun trip. Crank the A/C, let's go. Looks like we got a clear shot all the way to the 'Bama state line.