What's New for 2010
The 2010 Audi R8 receives an available 5.2-liter V10, a standard iPod interface and carbon-fiber trim for the door sills and body kit.
When automakers pay film studios to have their cars featured in blockbuster films, it doesn't always work out so well. Remember Lethal Weapon stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover chasing baddies in a Pontiac Grand Am? Somehow we doubt that Pontiac's brand image got a boost from that charade. But the 2010 Audi R8's star turn in Iron Man was picture-perfect. A superhero in its own right, the sharply styled and enormously capable R8 complemented Robert Downey Jr.'s debonair, high-tech crusader to a T. And for the fortunate few with R8 keys of their own, every day will seem like a red-carpet affair.
The R8 is the sort of car that makes a mockery of any pretense to journalistic detachment. Simply put, this thing is awesome. Even with the least desirable powertrain -- the base 4.2-liter, 420-horsepower V8 coupled with the "R tronic" single-clutch automated manual transmission -- the R8 is one of the most scintillating sports cars on the planet. The V8 sounds glorious and pulls effortlessly to its 8,250-rpm redline, the steering is ultra-precise, the standard all-wheel-drive system provides superior traction, and the R tronic transmission…well, thanks to delayed and clunky upshifts that evoke the Smart Fortwo, it stinks. But that's nothing that the sublime six-speed gated manual shifter can't fix. We were initially suspicious that the R8 had more style than substance, but all it took was one spirited drive for the R8 to earn a permanent spot in our dream garage.
For 2010, the R8 manages to improve upon this already delectable formula. That's because an even more powerful 5.2-liter V10 engine with an 8,700-rpm redline joins the engine lineup. The V10 gets the same transmission options as the V8 -- a conventional six-speed manual and R tronic -- but it ups the ante to a honking 525 hp and 391 pound-feet of torque (versus 317 lb-ft for the V8). A slightly detuned version of the V10 that powers the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, this new engine is bound to create an in-house rivalry with Audi-owned Lamborghini. After all, the R8 5.2 Quattro, as the V10 model is known, offers most of the Gallardo's performance and arguably just as much exotic style for about $50,000 less.
Inside, the R8 is impressively roomy for such a squat car, and the nicely shaped seats afford drive-all-day comfort. Along with its tolerable ride quality, this makes the R8 one of the most accommodating supercars ever produced -- an unexpected bonus given its otherworldly performance. There are many desirable sports cars available in this rarefied league, of course, from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 to the Porsche 911 GT3, but none matches the R8's combination of speed, athleticism, style and comfort. If we were starring in a Hollywood production, the 2010 Audi R8 could be our co-star anytime.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Audi R8 is a two-door midengine exotic sports car offered in two trim levels that correspond to engine size: 4.2 Quattro and 5.2 Quattro. Standard equipment on the 4.2 Quattro includes the V8 engine, 19-inch wheels, an active suspension with magnetorheological dampers, a retractable rear spoiler, xenon headlights, LED brake lights and turn signals, carbon-fiber exterior and interior trim, leather and Alcantara upholstery, power-adjustable sport seats, automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and a seven-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer and an iPod interface. The 5.2 Quattro adds the V10 engine, a "hill-holder" feature for the conventional manual transmission, wider intakes and body sills, glossy (rather than flat) black exterior accents, napa leather upholstery with additional leather interior trim, a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, a navigation system and a rearview camera with front and rear parking sensors.
Most of the 5.2 Quattro's accoutrements are available as options on the 4.2 Quattro. Both models are eligible for an Enhanced Leather package that adds leather trim to the dashboard and upper door panels. Body-colored "side blade" exterior styling panels are also available in place of the standard contrasting side blades.
Powertrains and Performance
The R8 4.2 Quattro sports a midmounted 4.2-liter V8 -- clearly visible through the R8's distinctive transparent engine cover -- that churns out 420 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque. The 5.2 Quattro boasts a 5.2-liter V10 good for 525 hp and 391 lb-ft. The power flows to all four wheels (56 percent to the rears by default) through either a traditional six-speed manual transmission or Audi's six-speed R tronic automated manual. The latter features a computer-controlled clutch and can be shifted using either the console-mounted shift lever or steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. R tronic also offers a fully automatic mode.
In performance testing, we hustled a manual-shift R8 from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, dispatching the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at nearly 111 mph. In the R tronic model, our times increased to 4.6 seconds and 12.8 seconds at 108.4 mph. The 5.2 Quattro trims the 0-60-mph time to a blistering 3.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy ratings for the 4.2 stand at 12 mpg city/19 highway and 15 combined on cars equipped with the conventional manual transmission, while the R tronic is rated at 13/18/15. Somehow the beefier 5.2 manages to be more fuel-efficient at 12/20/15 (manual) and 13/20/16 (R tronic).
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, seat-mounted side airbags and knee-protecting airbags. Any R8 owner would do their best to keep from ever deploying those airbags, and the stout brakes should help. In recent testing, a V10-powered R8 managed to stop from 60 mph in an eye-bulging 104 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 Audi R8 has a sleek-looking interior with mostly high-quality materials, although there are a few cheap-feeling bits, such as the hard plastic on the center console and the substandard emergency brake handle. We like the center stack's elegant swoop away from the driver, but this means certain controls require an awkward reach. Also awkward is the race-inspired flat-bottomed steering wheel, which may not telescope out far enough for those with long legs. The seats are superbly contoured for long-distance cruising, but in aggressive driving they could use a touch more lateral support.
Audi claims there's room behind the R8's seats for two golf bags, although your results may vary. There's also a puny 3.5 cubic feet of cargo space in the front trunk, though in practice this less-than-optimally shaped cargo hold can't even swallow that much. Don't plan on stowing more than a duffel bag and some odds and ends.
The 2010 Audi R8 rides firmly despite its semi-active magnetic suspension, and road noise is pronounced relative to most other Audis. By exotic-car standards, though, the R8 is remarkably comfortable as a daily driver, and visibility is surprisingly good in all directions. On twisting roads, the R8's preposterous power, quick reflexes and heroic grip conspire to make this 3,600-pound supercar feel almost as nimble as a lightweight roadster. Speaking of power, the V10 adds an appreciable amount as well as a uniquely racy soundtrack, but even the base V8 is one of the best-sounding and most tractable engines we've experienced. We can't recommend the outdated single-clutch R tronic gearbox, though, as its automatic throttle blips on downshifts can't compensate for its cranky upshifts, which manage to be at once sluggish and neck-snapping. The conventional manual transmission, on the other hand, is a joy to operate, featuring an excellent mechanical feel augmented by an audible "click-click" as you row through the exposed metal gates.