What's New for 2012
For the 2012 Audi R8, a lightweight and more powerful limited-edition GT model joins the lineup.
Supercars are a rare breed. They have the ability to turn the heads of the most jaded of automotive enthusiasts and seemingly defy the laws of physics. The 2012 Audi R8 certainly accomplishes both, but it distinguishes itself from some past and present supercars by providing excellent performance without the sacrifices that other ultrahigh-performance cars require.
First and foremost, the R8 is pretty easy to drive. Aided by precise steering, a decent ride quality, good outward visibility and comfortable seats, the R8 is a supercar you could drive every day if you wanted. It also comes with all-wheel drive, giving it an advantage in terms of traction. While its effortless nature can make it seem a bit less involving than rear-wheel-drive competitors, there's something to be said for the reassurance of having AWD when the roads are wet.
For that rare individual who is willing to give up some comfort in the name of performance that the anything-but-standard V8- and V10-powered R8s deliver, there's a new limited-edition GT model. The R8 GT is powered by the same 5.2-liter V10 used in the R8 5.2 models, but it has more power and a lighter curb weight. Less is definitely more in this case, as the GT will set you back an additional $50,000 on top of the R8 5.2, and that's assuming you can even acquire one, as there are only 90 examples destined for U.S. sales. You'll also be surrendering some refinement, as sound insulation has been reduced and the ride is quite a bit stiffer.
In our opinion, the V8-powered R8 4.2 is actually the pick of the litter. Its capabilities are still far beyond those of most mortals. And starting at about $115,000, it represents a relative bargain in the supercar realm. Of course, there are some drawbacks, and they apply to the entire R8 lineup. Cargo space is limited, making the R8 a poor road trip choice. Around town, the R tronic automated manual transmission is unforgivably clunky, and the outdated navigation system interface will have you wishing Audi's newer electronics suites made it over to the R8.
Even with these drawbacks, though, the 2012 Audi R8 still shines brightly among other exotics. And really, there isn't a loser in the bunch. Whether you're talking less expensive or similarly priced models like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Nissan GT-R or Porsche 911, or higher-end exotics like the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Gallardo, McLaren MP4-12C and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, it's pretty much impossible to go wrong.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Audi R8 is a two-seat exotic supercar available in 4.2 Coupe, 4.2 Spyder, 5.2 Coupe, 5.2 Spyder and GT 5.2 Coupe 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 wipers, automatic climate control, heated 10-way power seats (with four-way power-adjustable lumbar), leather and faux suede upholstery, an 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 are LED headlights, carbon-ceramic brakes, 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 rear window that doubles as a wind deflector. The R8 5.2 Coupe and Spyder add a V10 engine, different suspension tuning, different wheels, LED headlights and slight differences in exterior details. The GT 5.2 will initially be offered only as a coupe, and only 90 examples are destined for the U.S. market. A Spyder version is expected later in the year.
The 5.2 models also include the 4.2 options as standard, minus the all-leather upholstery and carbon-ceramic brakes. 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 2012 Audi R8 4.2 is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 mounted behind the passenger compartment that sends 430 horsepower 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 rings in at 11 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined with the manual and 13/21/16 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. The R8 GT 5.2 boosts power output to 560 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. The R tronic is the only transmission offered. Audi estimates a 0-60-mph time of 3.6 seconds.
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 2012 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. We strongly suggest that you get the manual.
While the V10-powered models do provide a performance advantage, we can't justify the additional outlay of cash in light of how truly good the V8 versions are. Furthermore, unless you're spending an unusual amount of time at a racetrack, where hundredths of a second actually means something, we'd pass on the R8 GT 5.2 as well. The GT's weight reduction regimen reduces some of its everyday appeal, with significantly less sound insulation and a slightly jarring ride.