2008 Audi R8: It's Got Meats
June 30, 2008
R tronic. Even the name is awkward. After four days and several hundred miles, I've got mixed feelings about Audi's automated manual gearbox.
After experiencing it in every driving environment one can enjoy in L.A., I'm aware of how much latitude a manual transmission allows those willing to tolerate a third pedal. The road is an ever-changing environment which necessitates instant adaptation. R tronic can accommodate each of these environments, but not without constant switching between "sport" and normal modes as well as between automatic and manual shifting. In and effort to adapt, I find myself constantly punching buttons and moving levers. And because none of this is second nature yet, I might as well be driving a manual transmission. It all seems so self defeating.
Sure, with more time in the car, the controls will become more familiar and I will become more effective in using them, but changing R tronic shift programs will never happen with the same efficiency as the mental transition my brain executes in milliseconds to swap from cruising to hauling ass and vice versa -- not to mention the muscle memory and speed that has developed from years of driving three-pedal cars.
As I see it, the ability of the human machine to seamlessly adapt to any changing road condition (like adjusting engine braking to suit the situation) or opportunity (nailing that small gap in traffic without hesitation) is unmatched when driving a manual transmission.
Still, there's plenty to like about the R8. Like this spectacular little roller on the steering wheel which controls audio system volume:
And, in the timeless words of editor Oldham: "It's got meats."
Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 10, 204 miles