November 02, 2009
This time last year we called Audi USA to request a 2008 Audi R8 for a long-term test. You know, as in 12 months of driving. Laughter was the initial response, followed by giggles and eventually the cordial rejection we expected. Audi explained, "We are not allowing long-term loans of the R8 at this time. There just aren't enough vehicles available."
A couple of months later our phone rang. Audi was on the line: "We've had a change of plans. We still cannot accommodate your request for a 12-month R8 test. But we can offer you the vehicle for three months. Are you interested?" Surely this was a rhetorical question. Audi continued, "The R8 is in Atlanta now, so allow us a few weeks to ship it out to Santa Monica." When we offered to pick it up and drive the car out west, Audi was quick to reply: "Sounds great."
Our three-month test of the 2008 Audi R8 was highly anticipated. To our delight, the loan was later extended to nine months. This is such a great job.
Why We Got It
We really didn't expect Audi to agree to the deal. But did we really need a reason to test the R8? Behind us sat a 4.2-liter V8 that generated 420 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. When activated, its electronically monitored launch control puts this power to the ground in an instant with all-wheel drive. This is the Audi R8, a car so striking and interesting that Ferrari and Prius owners alike slow down to check it out. And that's as much reason as we need to want an extended experience of real-world driving with it.
Life with an exotic wasn't new to the Inside Line long-term blog pages. We even purchased a 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi as a commuter car. Now we had an opportunity to test the cost-to-cool ratio of the R8 as a daily driver. Several parallels were drawn between the two tests. Would the cost of ownership break our bank? Was the R8 a car that we could drive day in and day out? Could we assume a newer exotic meant a more reliable exotic? Most important, how many miles could we rack up during our three-month loan? We challenged ourselves to reach 5,000 miles. Then Audi called and said we could keep the R8 for nine months.
We were unanimous in our initial impression. We loved the R8. Its easily accessed launch control system was popular as long as the clutch didn't overheat. Push the R8 and response time from the shift paddles was instantaneous, delivering hard and fast shifts at redline. Not to mention the engine. The guttural note of its V8 behind our ears was nothing short of glorious. When it came to stop-and-go driving situations, the car suffered due to its single-disc automated manual R tronic transmission, which proved clunkier in operation than the recent generation of dual-clutch designs. We longed for the optional manual.
Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot expressed our concerns: "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 an 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."
Our R8 evaluation evolved from a test of how it drove to a test of how others drove while around it. We chronicled numerous acts of idiocy while piloting the Audi across the United States. On the drive from Atlanta to L.A., we fell victim to the tenacious lead-footed Mullet-head. We encountered the Parisian tailgater twins, Le Douche and Le Bag in central Oregon. There was that clown in the Prius who slowed traffic for miles to revel in our fuel economy. We almost forgot about those girls in New Orleans and the beads. And not to be outdone was the ever-present cell phone photographer. Life with the R8 confirmed one thing: People are dumb.
We accumulated more mileage on the R8 over a nine-month span than any owner is likely to. So our cost-to-own was expectedly higher than most. As Lead Senior Editor Ed Hellwig pointed out, "No one ever said dating a supermodel was cheap." He would know. Hellwig's weekend run up Angeles Crest Highway cost $1,200 for a replacement tire and towing. He recounts, "I came around a medium right-hander only to find a random collection of granite sprayed across the pavement. A sizable boulder took a chunk of the sidewall and air came pouring out in one big blast of 'you're screwed, dude.'" We spent so much on front and rear tires that the $600 we shelled out for scheduled maintenance at 15,000 and 25,000 miles felt inexpensive.
We spent a total of $4,600 in nine months to keep the R8 on the road, mostly for tires. Oddly enough, we also spent $4,600 to keep our 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi running for 12 months, but those charges were mostly mechanical.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 9 months): $895.33
Additional Maintenance Costs: $3,766.33 mostly toward tires, and one $744 tow bill
Warranty Repairs: Key fob battery, spark plug replacement, hood latch alignment, center armrest pad replacement
Non-Warranty Repairs: Parking brake pad replacement, numerous tire replacements
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1 to reset service interval on computer
Days Out of Service: 7
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Slalom speed for this 3,600-pound midengine sports car improved from 70 mph to 71 mph. And the amount of lateral grip generated around the skid pad improved from 0.95g to 0.98g. We give credit to new Pirelli P Zeros for these results. Josh Jacquot commented afterward, "The R8 feels less confident than I remember. Slalom speed is better than before, but its 'edge' seems harder as well. This is a side to this car's usually lovable, friendly character that makes me nervous. Perhaps this comes with age, wear or neglect."
Preliminary acceleration tests benefited from launch control. But a temporary malfunction with the program hampered our ability to match our initial test results of 4.3 seconds to 60 mph from a standstill and the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds at 108.4 mph. We also encountered a decrease in braking performance, as the R8's stopping distance grew from 108 feet to 118 feet by its 29,000-mile test. Following these tests, Jacquot added, "Pedal feel is consistent but stopping distances are erratic. There is noticeable left-to-right squirm under full-ABS operation. Compared to the 108 feet recorded during its first test, 118 feet is poor."
Best Fuel Economy: 20.3 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 11.7 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 15.3 mpg
Our R8 arrived with an MSRP of $132,745. We received it with 7,000 ticks on the odometer and added 22,000 miles in a nine-month period. When it came time to say good-bye, the Audi had seen 29,000 miles of pavement.
Edmunds TMV® calculated depreciation on the R8 at 27 percent by the end of our test.
True Market Value at service end: $96,554
Depreciation: $36,191 or 27% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 29,151
Audi's R8 is an exotic that drives like a real car. It doesn't display the bucking and twitching we've come to expect from a car with low-profile tires and a tight wheelbase. This made it a suitable road trip choice. And once you activate the sport suspension, the R8 takes on an agile persona that ranks among the more athletic in its class. This truly is an exotic car that can be driven every day. That is, if you don't mind celebrity life.
Attention is unavoidable in the Audi R8. The model's limited presence on the road steals attention from Ferraris and Lamborghinis alike. But life as the center of attention can be annoying, too. On the road it just attracts too many morons.
Our advice after nine months with the Audi R8 is simple. Check your blind spot for the knucklehead hiding in it while wielding a camera phone. And save money for tires. You are bound to need them and they are expensive.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.