2008 Audi R8: Stylin'
August 11, 2008
I was lucky enough to style in the R8 this past weekend, my first time to drive it. Although it was penned by Walter de'Silva, its modern sexy looks could easily have been shaped by architects Frank Gehry (Disney Hall shown) or Santiago Calatrava.
The R8 attracts so much positive attention not only because of its exotic looks, but because it -- or its driver -- doesn't have a negative image. Remember the old BMW and porcupines joke? Well the same thing could apply to Porsches, Ferraris, and Lambos too. But the Audi doesn't have such baggage. And although Lambos aren't uncommon on the fashionable West side of LA, I've only seen one other R8.
I didn't experience the psycho pursuit or cell-phone stalkarazzi that the other staff members have gone through. But my friends, co-workers, and a few strangers went absolutely bananas over it. As I was fueling, one guy asked to take some pics. "Go ahead and sit in it," I said. When he was finished, he looked like a kid who just opened his Christmas presents. And when I was rolling on Melrose, one guy saw the window was down, and shouted while smiling, "Hey, are you Ironman?" I just smiled and pointed to him. A female friend, begged for -- and got -- a ride.
I drove the R8 all over the place this weekend: K1 in Irvine for the Edmunds kart Death Race, Orange County, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Walt Disney Hall. I got about 15 mpg overall in mixed driving environments - certainly not bad enough to get convicted of crimes against humanity by the Sierra Club.
The R8 is so comfortable in both ride and cabin comfort that you could use it as a daily driver. The seats, in particular, are beautiful in appearance and both supportive and comfortable (although some driver seat bolster wear can be seen in the pic). The car has terrific ride/handling balance, with a firm, but not at all uncomfortable ride. The handling is superb, with almost no understeer. And the size and shape of the steering wheel are perfect for me - I felt like I was driving an ALMS car or something.
But enough gushing. Let me deride. The R8 has no RF-keyless ignition on/off, nor RF-keyless entry. It has -- a push button remote and metal key! I have the same disdain for metal keys in luxury cars as other here have for cassette players. The auto-shifted manual transmission is terrible -- a deal-breaker if a 6-speed manual weren't also available. The bucking in the lower gears is annoying -- using the paddle shifters doesn't get around that either (it's better after the first few gears). Also, if you're at stop light and leave it in Auto first gear, the transmission will timeout to neutral. When you try to leave the light, you just spin the engine up while going nowhere ("Oh, that putz can't drive stick.")
The radio is crap, with the CD changer located between the seats facing forward! And although the interior is quite comfortable, the inside -- except for the seats -- is not as luxurious as a $130K car should be.
Overall though, I would consider the R8 if I was shopping in this market. I might consider it over an equivalent Porsche: although it's less luxurious, it feels more modern.
Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 17,054 mi