March 02, 2009
I rolled in the R8 this weekend for the first time in a while. I have, though, have been fortunate to spend some time in the GT-R. Let's compare a few items:
1. Although both are AWD, the R8 has a rear-drive feeling. The handling is light and neutral, while in the R35, you can feel the front wheels clawing away, following nearly every rain-groove in the pavement. On the R35, it's not a heavy steering feeling, but you can definitely feel the fronts contributing to forward progress.
2. On the R8, it's easy to light up the rear tires: they'll break free and spin a decent bit just by mashing the A-pedal. Yes, you can get some rear tire spin on the R35, but it will be less than on the R8, before the VDM kills it.
3. Transmissions: the R35 dual-clutch is amazingly good: a monkey can shift it positively and quickly. And I never longed for a manual. The only good thing about the R8's 6-speed R-tronic auto-shifted-manual mess is that it doesn't make crunching noises as on the R35. It's also hard for the R8 driver to control the severe back and forth pitching in the lower gears. Annoying.
I've never driven an R8 with a manual transmission, but it must be really nice, as the R-tronic (and some reliability issues) is the only major shortcoming on this beautiful and great-to-drive car. Well, that and the $120K price tag.
Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 29,151 miles
[Photo by Scott Jacobs: This was awarded the cover of the 2009 Motor Press Guild Media Guide.]
February 23, 2009
Logistical issues forced the wife into the Audi R8's driver seat over the weekend (she had to go somewhere alone, and I had to go somewhere with the kids). A quick rundown of the car's basic quirks ("Push the shifter toward 'A' to be in fully automatic mode. Watch the low front-end's ground clearance. Don't be freaked out by people taking cell phone photos." etc.) took about five minutes; then she was off.
Her trip was about three miles in pure stop-and-go driving, which were probably the worst conditions she could have faced. I fully expected to hear complaints about the R-Tronic transmission.
Her first words on return, "Is there something wrong with this car? I was convinced I was doing something wrong because of the uneven throttle response and acceleration. I hated all the attention it was getting because I'm sure it looked like I didn't know how to drive it."
I told her that's the way it's supposed to work. She asked the price. I told her $120,000. She didn't seem interested in driving it again and happily went back to her 2004 Chevy Malibu.
Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief at 28,636 miles
February 05, 2009
I took our Audi R8 out to my mountain-road drive route, one that I've been using for a couple years now and most recently drove in our long-term GT-R. Quite simply, the R8 rocked -- it was the most memorable drive I've had in a long time.
Considering that the R8 is the most expensive car in our fleet (about 3.5 times as much as our 135i), maybe this shouldn't be a surprise. But the difference between the GT-R -- a car that betters the R8 in many hard-number performance tests -- and the R8 was simply stunning.
Thanks to its direct and communicative steering, I instantly felt comfortable with the R8. There's a unexpected level of driver-car connection present, and the R8's ability to change direction while remaining stable and compliant with the road was remarkable. Based on its responses and petite dimensions, you'd never guess that it weighs around 3,600 pounds.
The throaty V8 is plenty strong and sounds great. Too bad the R tronic transmission is still bollocks. But on this drive, at least, my aggressive throttle inputs along with use of the sport mode and lifting off the throttle for upshifts reduced the jerkiness a lot. Plus, it still did trick rev-matched downshifts, and you can left-foot brake, too.
December 29, 2008
I provided little-needed fodder for all the GT-R haters out there when I mentioned that it was a little slow to get going on a "cold" morning awhile back. Well, in all fairness here's an update on the R8's "cold weather" performance.
We've mentioned before that the R8 has a slight stumble whenever it's fired up cold. Personally, I like it. For a split second, it makes the R8 sound like it has a big block Chevy wedged in back.
When Mike asked the dealer about the odd rumble, they said it might be some fouled plugs, which they replaced. Well, it didn't help much as the stumble remains. And as the video after the jumps clearly shows, the R8 isn't exactly running in PZEV mode when it first fires up. I still like it though.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 25,689 miles
December 15, 2008
It rained pretty steady last night. By the time I pulled out of my garage this morning, it had backed off a bit but the damage was done. And as we all know -- and this is especially true in Southern California -- just add water and you get instant idiot on the road. But my fellow commuters were taking it easy for a change.
And the superb Audi R8 didn't feel any less stable on the wet than it does under normal driving conditions. The tires were plenty sticky, no hydroplaning occurred, the heated seats kept me cozy and the intermittent rain-sensing wipers worked well. My only complaint, the rear defogger doesn't seem to do much of anything.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
December 02, 2008
Our GT-R is not the only car in the long-term fleet with the now infamous launch control feature. The Audi R8 has it too, and with a 420-horsepower V8 it's equally capable of causing some damage if used too often.
Audi seems well aware of this. In the owners manual it warns, "Accelerating with the launch control program places a heavy load on all parts of the vehicle. This can result in increased wear and tear". Not quite as explicit as Nissan's warnings, but the statement still leaves Audi some wiggle room should a customer come in with a fried clutch after a few thousand miles.
That probably won't happen though. You see, the R8's launch control setup isn't nearly as aggressive as the GT-R's. After just one launch, I got the warning signal shown above. I tried launching it again after letting it cool a little and the computer basically shut me down.
Maybe the GT-R's problem isn't that it has launch control. The problem is that it assumes owners are smart enough to not use it too often. With the R8, Audi assumed the opposite.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 24,440 miles
November 14, 2008
One of the great things about having our own 2008 Audi R8 to drive around as much as we want is the chance to let our friends take a turn. So we forced it on a friend who happens to be a development engineer for a rival car company, figuring he'd give us an outsider's perspective on the way the R8 compares to other cars.
From the start, our guy was really impressed with the R8's quiet, composed ride quality. "Obviously this is the Buick of sports cars, if you like that sort of thing," he said. "No wonder Oldham likes it." He went on to make a few disparaging remarks about "girly men," and noted that the R8 probably gets some added ride compliance because it doesn't have run-flat tires.
He was impressed with the big change in the R8's character that came from engaging the sport setting for the dampers. We were driving a section of CA Hwy 110 in Los Angeles that all manufacturers use to evaluate freeway hop, and the R8 was utterly calm on the regular suspension setting and then porpoised madly on the sport setting. He said this is a difference you really want since it suggests the suspension really has been calibrated for speed. "Of course you can also feel that the suspension bushings are pretty aggressive for autobahn speed, and you really pick up a lot of vibration on coarse pavement," he said.
One thing our guy couldn't get along with proved to be the single-clutch automated manual transmission. "When it shifts, it just drops the engine torque to zero then makes the gear-change, just like a computer would," he said. "It's really just a first-gen system and it can't take advantage of what a dual-clutch can do. And it also makes the car surge in low-speed traffic just like the Smart that I drove last week -- worse than a Smart, in fact. The GT-R dual-clutch is way better. Not even close." He did allow that the Audi's transmission is quiet, although maybe that's because it's all the way at the back of the car where you can't hear it.
He really disliked the lack of coordination from the pedals at low speed. The tip-in for the throttle is too aggressive, and since the clutch comes in all at once, the car kind of surges forward. And while the brakes have a lot of bite for top-speed work, you find yourself varying pedal pressure to compensate for the transmission as it downshifts through the gears.
All this relates to driving the Audi R8 through town, of course. But since comfort and utility are what sets the Audi R8 apart from its competition, this is worth talking about. We probably have some reason to be skeptical, however, because a lapse in judgment led him to turn the R8 into a driveway at the wrong angle and the car got hung up with two wheels as if it were off-roading in Moab. "This is what you get with a 104.3-inch wheelbase and no suspension travel," our man said.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Inside Line @ 24,200 miles
October 06, 2008
Forget its crummy R-Tronic transmission for a second and it's clear that the 2008 Audi R8 hardly puts a contact patch wrong. Props to Audi's engineering staff for sweating the details.
Oddly enough, though, not everything about the R8 adopts the endlessly fussed-over mechani-cool character that pervades every one of its crannies.
Here's what I mean. Fire the direct-incted, dry-sumped, variable-everything V8 when its stone cold and the R8 idles lumpily, spitting and cracking like a Nextel Cup car. Just a few seconds later, the composure that has been so carefully fettled by its creators flips on and the R8 immediately snaps into a glassy smooth idle.
It's a contrast that I dig.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 21,794 miles.
October 03, 2008
I had a biz trip to Phoenix and was given a couple of flying options. So I declined the hassle of airports and took Audi's land-locked jet instead. On the wide-open stretches of Interstate 10, where you see nothing but desert and the horizon, I let the car stretch its legs a bit. I say "a bit" because my cruising speeds varied from 85-100 mph (with the assistance of a Valentine One radar detector). Yes, not even breathing hard.
The R8 will supposedly top 185, but though I enjoyed a couple of high-speed bursts, I didn't deem it necessary to fully explore that claim. Maybe I'm getting old...
July 28, 2008
How many times can I get up to look out the window to see this beauty in my driveway?
But we couldn't let if just sit there. So we headed south toward San Diego but then remembered it was the last day of Comic-Con and didn't want anyone to mistake the Audi R8 for the Millennium Falcon. So we stopped off in San Clemente, former home of the former worst President of the U.S.
It's a quaint old town with a little shopping district, some nice restaurants and lots of Spanish mission type of architecture. All of the buildings look like Kim Novak should jump off of them. But I guess that was San Juan Capistrano.
The ride packed the usual excitement for other drivers. It really makes me nervous when you see cars looking at you in the mirror instead of the road. There's always somebody who takes your picture, somebody who wants to race, somebody in a Prius who yells at you as you drive by because you're destroying the environment. The usual crowd.
July 22, 2008
Like Al said, some of us headed to Monterey this weekend for the big MotoGP race. I lucked out and scored the R8 for the 300+ mile drive, yeah rough life I know. Since I had to bolt up there on Sunday morning, I took the fast, but boring, Interstate 5 for most of the way.
True story: I'm rolling with the flow of traffic at around 90mph when our Escort radar detector blows up. I see a CHP on the other side about to cross the median, so I slow down to around 75mph (limit is 70) and wait to see what happens. He sits back for awhile, then fires up the left lane and pulls up alongside me. When I look over, he points to the car, gives a big thumbs up and then pulls away. Score one for the R8.
After surviving the less-than-smooth rural parking lot without a scratch, I took the R8 down some of central California's best roads on the way back. As much as I hate the transmission, it does work well when you're running hard.
Once I got back on the Interstate, I did find a new flaw in the Audi - you can't drive fast with the windows down. The buffeting from the wind creates a horrible resonance that makes it unbearable. Disappointing, but hardly a deal breaker.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 15,287 miles
July 11, 2008
In its short time with us, we've driven our long-term 2008 Audi R8 along both the X and Y axes of this great land. At this pace, it'll probably pass the Aura's mileage in about three days. And really, if you suddenly had an R8 you didn't pay for, you too would be thinking about driving it to the Yukon for no particular reason. Hey, that's actually sounds appealing.
Anywho, our R8 with R-Tronic transmission hit the track last week to see what she could do. Judging my Jacquot's comments, I think he likes it. I've included the numbers we achieved with the short-term R8 we tested a few months back that had the six-speed manual.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,000 miles
0-30 - 1.7 seconds (1.5)
0-45 - 3.3 seconds (2.8)
0-60 - 4.6 seconds
0-60 Roll-Out - 4.3 seconds (4.2)
0-75 - 6.7 seconds (6.3)
1/4 Mile - 12.8 seconds @ 108.4 mph (12.7 @ 110.7)
Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot says: "Easy-to-access launch control is nice. Hard, fast shifts at redline. Brilliant sound. Instant response from paddles."
60-0 - 108 feet (103)
30-0 - 29 feet (26)
Jacquot: "Erratic stopping distances, but consistent pedal feel. Noticeable left-to-right squirm at full ABS activation."
0.95g (0.98g at different site/surface)
Jacquot: "Very easy to achieve oversteer. Delicate oversteer/understeer balance at limit. Wants to do glorious powerslides. Awesome."
70.0 mph (73.8 mph)
Jacquot: "Can bite with every nanny shut down. Still, very communicative and adjustable. Fun."
July 09, 2008
It wouldn't be worth taking our long-term 2008 Audi R8 on a 2,300-mile road trip if we didn't find some crazy-good roads to experience along the way.
Route 34 lies just outside of Philomath, OR. It winds gently through the countryside and then forms a clump of cambered switchbacks just before the right turn to Mary's Peak Road. Mary is our kind of woman, judging by the way her 9.3-mile ribbon of joy jags through the Oregon woods, gaining 2600 feet of elevation on its way to a clearing near the summit.
The R8 is scintillating on this road. There is zero indication the front wheels are driven other than the fact that you're accelerating away from apexes in a way that few two-wheel-drive cars can (the 911 excepted).
Altitude saps some of the Audi's power up here, but the fact that you can fearlessly thrash a wide, $130,000 mid-engined supercar on bumpy pavement like this is a testament to the R8's versatility. It's forgiving, fast and totally engaging.
This is a special car. The more I drive it, the more the thought of returning its keys pains me.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 12,246 miles
July 07, 2008
Stopped our long-term 2008 Audi R8 for burgers and greazy garlic fries at Basshole Bar and Grill in Lakehead, CA. They were about as good as you'd expect from a place named "Basshole." There's a black AMG CLS55 with black wheels and blacked out taillights parked near the door.
An older guy inside the restaurant approaches just after we sit down. I already know he's the AMG owner. "Driving the Audi?" he asks.
Older Guy: "That's the first one I've seen. How much power?"
Me: "About 420."
The guy's face lights up and a broad smile spreads across it. "Oh yeah? I have the Mercedes outside. It has 480 hp. When I race cars on the freeway, it pulls hard. I take it up to 90."
Older Guy: "What fuel economy are you getting?"
Me: "About 18."
The guy's face lights up again. "Oh yeah? I get 23 in my Mercedes. It pulls hard. Well, have fun with it."
With that he pats me sharply on the back before returning to his barstool as if to say, "Aww, better luck next time, young fella."
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 11,722 miles
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:
June 19, 2008
That green in this blurred image of the R8's speedometer reads cruise. You gotta love a car that lets you set the cruise control at a buck twenty. Most don't. The Audi's awesome high speed stability doesn't even make it a moment...
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 8,697 miles
June 18, 2008
Between The Big Sleazy and the Texas border we've made a few friends. First was this long haired older guy in his new black on black Aston Martin DB9 droptop. We ran together for a while at about 85 mph and nailed from a roll just once. I'd like say we blew his doors off, but the cars were pretty even...
We also got nice wave and the friendly eyeball from this Louisiana State Trooper. Despite our speed, however, Buford T. Justice just wanted to check out our wheels. The best part? Thirty minutes up the road he nabbed some kid in a Saleen Mustang.
Probably gave him a ticket for poor purchase judgment.
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 7,703 miles