What's New for 2011
So you like the Audi R8 but always thought it had too much roof? You're in luck, as now there's a convertible version of the midengine sports car from Ingolstadt, the 2011 Audi R8 Spyder. For good measure, Audi has increased the output of the 4.2-liter V8 by 10 horsepower.
It doesn't take a lot to imagine yourself owning a 2011 Audi R8. Perhaps you've spotted one prowling around somewhere, looking magnificent with its wide body, low height and smooth clamshell hood leading to those hypnotic LED running lights. You might have seen one in "Iron Man" or "Date Night," or even heard that Audi has now introduced a convertible version for 2011, the Audi R8 Spyder. If you're lucky, you might have even been treated to a virtuoso performance of the 5.2-liter V10 wailing to its crescendo of 525 horsepower.
What you might not have experienced, though, is the truly effortless way the 2011 Audi R8 can take corners quickly. Aided by an all-wheel-drive system and blessed with a lightweight chassis, the R8 is a supercar that doesn't require a superman to be driven heroically. While its effortless nature can make it seem a bit less involving than rear-wheel-drive competitors like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage or Porsche 911, there's something to be said for the reassurance of immense AWD traction.
The R8 is actually a pretty good value, too. Whether you opt for the 4.2-liter V8 or the 5.2-liter V10, the R8 matches the straight-line rapidity of more expensive exotics -- including the Lamborghini Gallardo, which has a similar V10. And it has the exotic styling and the cut-no-corners craftsmanship you expect from an upper-crust sports car, only for a lower price.
Of course, if you want an exotic supercar to take you and a significant other on a cross-country road trip, the 2011 Audi R8 isn't the best choice. Its front trunk space is laughable and the little shelf behind the seats isn't very helpful, either. Also, the navigation system is awkward to use and the optional R tronic automated manual transmission shifts clumsily at low speed. But if you can live with all that, you'll find that the Audi R8 won't be as good as you imagined -- it'll be even better.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Audi R8 is a two-seat exotic supercar available in 4.2 Coupe, 4.2 Spyder, 5.2 Coupe and 5.2 Spyder trim levels.
Standard equipment on the 4.2 Coupe includes 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, cruise control, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, automatic climate control, heated eight-way power seats (with four-way power-adjustable lumbar), leather and faux suede upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and a seven-speaker sound system with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The Convenience package adds hill-start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors and interior storage nets. Also optional is a fully leather-upholstered interior, a navigation system, iPod interface and a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The 4.2 Spyder adds an electrically powered soft top and a retractable window that doubles as a wind deflector. The R8 5.2 Coupe and Spyder come with the 4.2's options mentioned above, plus a V10 engine, different suspension tuning, different wheels, LED headlights and slight differences in exterior details. A variety of carbon-fiber exterior and interior trim packages are available on all models, while the coupes can be equipped with alternate "side blade" finishes.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Audi R8 4.2 is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 mounted behind the passenger compartment that sends 430 hp and 317 pound-feet of torque through an all-wheel-drive system. A six-speed manual transmission with a gated metal shifter is standard, while a six-speed single-clutch automated manual known as R tronic is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, the R8 4.2 with either transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy for 2011 was not available at this writing, but last year's model achieved 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined with the manual and 13/18/15 with R tronic.
The Audi R8 5.2 gets a 5.2-liter V10 that produces 525 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. It has the same transmission choices. In Edmunds performance testing, the 5.2 Coupe with the manual went from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, while the 5.2 Spyder with the manual did it in 3.9 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 12/19/14 with the manual and 13/19/15 with R tronic.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, side airbags and knee airbags. Front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are available. In Edmunds brake testing, multiple R8s have come to a stop from 60 mph in a range between 104 and 108 feet, which is very good.
Interior Design and Special Features
As with every Audi, the R8 has a cabin finely crafted from top-notch materials. The seats are comfortable for long-distance travel and the driving position suits a wide range of people. We like the center stack's elegant swoop away from the driver, but this means that major controls require an awkward reach. In particular, the navigation and audio controls are operated by an unintuitive, dash-mounted knob located next to the display screen.
Audi claims there's enough room behind the R8 coupe's seats for a pair of golf bags, but you'd have to be pretty hard-pressed for country club transport to try that. The 3.5-cubic-foot front trunk is awkwardly shaped and barely provides enough space for an overnight bag (a Porsche 911 is a minivan by comparison). As such, the R8 is not the right choice for a long-distance road trip.
The 2011 Audi R8 rides firmly despite its adaptive 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, as its slow-witted, cranky upshifts make the car sluggish and clumsy when driven around town. The conventional manual transmission, on the other hand, is a joy to operate, featuring an excellent mechanical feel augmented by a loud, metallic "clack-clack" as you row through the exposed gates. Be cool; get the manual.