2009 Audi R8 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Fantastic V8 engine, world-class handling, comfortable cabin, easy to drive, slick gated manual shifter.
  • Relatively pricey given its performance numbers, clunky R tronic automated manual transmission, scant cargo space, a few chintzy interior plastics.
List Price Estimate
$38,832 - $61,869

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The attention-grabbing 2009 Audi R8 is an immensely capable supercar that's docile enough to be driven every day. However, it's far from the quickest car in this segment, and the price of entry is steep.

Vehicle overview

Passers-by in Los Angeles are as automotively jaded as they come, thanks to the endless stream of exotic sports cars roaring down the city's numerous boulevards. The 2009 Audi R8, however, is the perfect antidote to their indifference. Maybe it's the relative scarcity of these midengine all-wheel-drive supercars, or maybe the distinctive low-slung design is just that sexy. Whatever the case, the R8 attracts more stares from Angelenos than Al Gore at an OPEC meeting.

That kind of curb appeal is exactly what many buyers in this rarefied segment are looking for -- but they'd better be prepared to pay dearly. With a base price well over $100,000, the R8 is tens of thousands of dollars more expensive than such high-performance luminaries as the BMW M3, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911. What's more, while the Audi's sonorous V8 makes it thrillingly quick, the GT-R and Z06 are quicker still, as is the competitively priced 911 GT3. Only when one considers that the R8 is based on the exclusive Lamborghini Gallardo does its price tag seem somewhat reasonable.

Considered on its own merits, though, the R8 is an awesome car. It all starts with that 4.2-liter 420-horsepower V8, which is one of our favorite engines currently in production. Power is sent to all four wheels in typical Audi fashion, and it's supported by communicative steering and brilliant handling. Inside, the R8 is impressively roomy for such a squat car, and the nicely shaped seats afford ride-all-day comfort. Along with its tolerable ride quality, this makes the R8 an exotic sports car you can genuinely live with every day. In fact, we'd venture to say that the R8 is one of the most accommodating supercars ever produced.

The 2009 Audi R8's shortcomings are few. Most glaringly, the optional automated manual R tronic transmission sucks too much joy out of the driving experience, delivering delayed, clunky upshifts. Also, there's an engine under the hatch and not much space in the nose-mounted trunk, so good luck carrying any cargo. And finally, there's that price tag -- for the same price as an R8, you could buy a GT-R or a Z06 and an Audi S5 coupe, which is powered by a lesser version of the R8's V8. But this doesn't change the fact that the R8 is one of the world's most desirable cars. We turn our heads, too, whenever we hear one purring past.

2009 Audi R8 models

The 2009 Audi R8 is a two-door midengine AWD exotic sports car. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, a retractable rear spoiler, xenon headlights, LED brake lights and turn signals, leather and Alcantara upholstery, power-adjustable sport seats, aluminum trim, automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and a seven-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer.

Optional are carbon-fiber "sideblade" exterior styling panels, a Bang & Olufsen premium stereo, a navigation system and upgraded Napa leather upholstery. There's also the Convenience Package, which contains parking sensors, auto-dimming rearview mirrors and a "hill-holder" feature for models equipped with the conventional manual transmission.

2009 Highlights

A six-CD changer is standard on the 2009 Audi R8, as is Bluetooth connectivity.

Performance & mpg

The R8 sports a midmounted 4.2-liter V8 -- clearly visible through the R8's distinctive transparent engine cover -- that churns out 420 hp and 317 pound-feet of torque. Power flows to all four wheels (56 percent to the rears by default) through either a traditional six-speed manual transmission or Audi's six-speed R tronic automated manual. The latter features a computer-controlled clutch and can be shifted using either the console-mounted shift lever or steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The R tronic also offers a fully automatic mode.

In performance testing, we hustled a manual-shift R8 from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, dispatching the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at nearly 111 mph. In the R tronic model, our times increased to 4.6 seconds and 12.8 seconds at 108.4 mph. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 13 mpg city/20 highway and 15 combined for cars equipped with the conventional manual transmission, while the R tronic lowers the highway estimate to 19 mpg.


Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, seat-mounted side airbags and knee-protecting airbags.


The 2009 Audi R8 won't let you forget that it's an exotic sports car -- you'll feel every bump, and road noise is pronounced relative to most other Audis. But the ride quality is certainly livable, and there's surprisingly good visibility in all directions. On back roads, the R8's prodigious power, razor-sharp reflexes and heroic grip make this AWD exotic feel almost as tossable as a lightweight roadster, albeit one with handling limits beyond the reach of all but the most skilled (or foolhardy) drivers.

We can't recommend the outdated single-clutch R tronic gearbox, though, because its automatic throttle blips on downshifts can't compensate for its cranky upshifts, which manage to be at once sluggish and neck-snapping. The conventional manual transmission, on the other hand, is a joy to operate, featuring an excellent mechanical feel augmented by an audible clink-clink as you row through the exposed metal gates.


The 2009 Audi R8 features an attractive interior with high-quality materials, although there are a few cheap-feeling bits, such as the hard plastic on the center console and the substandard emergency brake handle. The center stack swoops elegantly toward the windshield; however, this design requires the driver to lean forward in order to adjust certain controls. Also awkward is the race-inspired flat-bottomed steering wheel -- it may not telescope out far enough for those with long legs. The seats are superbly contoured for both hard driving and long-distance cruising.

Unlike in most newer Audis, the R8's Multi Media Interface (MMI) controls are mounted below the LCD screen on the center stack, which is less convenient than their typical location on the center console. Audi claims there's room behind the seats for two golf bags -- your results may vary. There are also 3.5 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk; in practice, however, this less-than-optimally shaped cargo hold can't swallow much more than a duffel bag and some odds and ends.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2009 Audi R8.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

2009 Audi R8 silver/black interiors with carbon sideblades. After a year of wait I received my fully loaded R8 almost for Christmas. I chose manual transmission as it is a real sports car. The car works flawlessly, it is beautiful and attracts a lot of attention, the driving experience is unparalleled. I use it as my daily driver, I plan to put 10,000 miles per year to it; you get used to the task of driving it in the city traffic and the constant looks and comments from almost everyone. The engine roars with menace after 4,000 rpm, the sound is breathtaking. Today, I would not choose any other car over this one, maybe in 3 years when the roadster is available.
Just a terrific car!
Brian S,11/25/2008
After all the waiting I finally have my 09 R8. It exceeds all my expectations. It sounds right, handles fabulous and turns heads everywhere it goes. My only initial misgiving was the R-Tronic which had be given mixed reviews. Having driven boththe 6 speed and now my R-Tronic I can say that it comes down to personal preference. I actually enjoy processing the R-Tronic and find it very capable of satisfying me. No regrets here from this owner. Love the roomy interior, fantastic seats, and look and finish of the carbon fibre trim inside and out ( Blades too! ) Have friends with Italian exotics and would not trade this for any of them. This car is really special and my favorite of all!
The Best Of The Best
Tom M.,01/12/2009
Audi has really outdone themselves.! My wife and I are Audi lovers having first experienced the Q7. I must say it has more dependability than my BMW 645i. This car for it's first stab at luxury and performance has done admirably well. It's a joy to drive at all speeds.I drove both transmissions and chose the R-Tronic. It is touchy at slow speeds but you have a shifter plus paddles plus a sport position. All make it versatile and worth a one year wait. I find it's virtually impossible to pull into a gas station for a quick fillup without engaging in a long discussion of it's merits. Gotta love it !!!
What a great car!
GRR8 R8,11/22/2009
The Audi R8 is the best car I have ever owned. Its styling turns heads at every intersection. Its performance puts it in the Supercar category. Audi treats its R8 customers like royalty. It is a car that has luxurious interior. The fit and finish is impeccable. It is a wonderful daily driver and it can go from the street to the track with no changes needed. The R-Tronic transmission in auto mode is terrible. The R-Tronic transmission in manual mode using the paddle shifters is the best transmission I have ever driven. As a daily driver it gets ~19 mpg. On the track...it does not matter. Nothing passed it on my one track day. This is a car to own.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2009 Audi R8 features & specs
More about the 2009 Audi R8
More About This Model

The Audi R8 provides some of the finest raw material ever for a German tuner company to show off what its technicians really want to do for a living, so it's no surprise that the 2009 Audi R8 Abt Sportsline is destined to go down as one of the shining moments in premium tweaks from this German aftermarket operation. Sadly, we can't look forward to driving the supercharged Audi R8 Abt Sportsline in the U.S., as even the cosmetic and suspension tricks are hard to come by here.

Although the 2009 Audi R8 MTM Supercharged beat everyone to the punch with its high-strung, 553-horsepower interpretation of the midengine Audi, the supercharged 523-hp 2009 Audi R8 Sportsline is a sports car that you can drive every day.

Great Car Begging for More Power
As luck would have it, this journey to Kempten, Germany, to drive the Abt-modified R8 was immediately preceded by a trip to Wettstetten to see our friends at MTM. The supercharged MTM R8 produces 553 hp and 427 pound-feet of torque, while the supercharged Abt R8 delivers 523 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque.

On the test track, this means that both the MTM- and Abt-modified R8s accelerate to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, hit 124 mph in just over 12 seconds and reach their maximum speed at 197 mph. This compares with the standard R8 with its 414-hp 4.2-liter V8, which reaches 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and then attains a top speed of 187 mph.

When asked about the R8, MTM development boss Michael Weber tells us, "It's a great car, but it just needs more power and torque. I mean, 414 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque just isn't enough. The capabilities of the chassis go way beyond that."

Meanwhile over at Abt Sportsline, technical leader Andreas Zeilbeck echoes Weber, telling us, "Audi has done such a good job on the chassis that we are somewhat free to explore the limits. We chose a supercharger because of the more immediate throttle response and sustained torque delivery. We could readily go beyond the 523 hp."

Think of the fun coming our way when the forthcoming R8 V10 hits the market next year. Abt, which fields an Audi in Germany's DTM racing series, is known to be already hammering away at Audi's future GT3-class racecar, which features the very same V10.

Supercharged Throttle Thrills
At the heart of the 2009 Audi R8 Abt Sportsline is the twin-screw supercharger strapped on top of the V8 intakes like the creepy, tentacled zygote on John Hurt's face in Alien. Abt acquires its superchargers from Opcon-Lysholm in Sweden, just as MTM does for its Audi V8 engine and Koenigsegg and Ford have done for the Ford V8. Abt specifies maximum boost at a seemingly modest 7.3 psi.

For this Phase I version of the R8, Abt did not yet want to get into the complexities of changing engine parts, not even with new pistons to lower the 12.5:1 compression ratio. That's why the boost is so low. "In Germany," engineer Zeilbeck says, "When you start reconfiguring engine architecture, it becomes quite expensive to re-homologate the changes with TÜV certification." The objectives have been to pump up power and torque within the safe limits of the 4.2-liter V8 and within the stress limits of the standard six-speed manual transmission.

On the autobahn, we explored the car's cruising habits from a 50-mph speed limit through construction zones all the way up to 185 mph in those sections of the highway where there was no limit.

While initial throttle kick from lower revs is very good, the real excitement happens between 3,000 and 6,000 revs as power climbs faster to meet the already high torque output. When our back is pressed hard into the soft seat leather for more than 5 seconds and the exhaust is echoing over the countryside, we know we're getting into awesomeness territory.

We noticed a slight hesitation on the throttle while wanting to blip it fast for downshifts as we thundered toward various traffic circles. Zeilbeck answers our criticism by saying, "The standard car delivers around 80 percent of throttle with just 30 percent of pedal travel, but I wanted a less abrupt kick-in of our added power and torque for this first Abt R8, so there's a little more pedal travel."

An R8 with Audi's R tronic automated manual transmission will be available soon from Abt, and this should help make even those sporting downshifts absolutely stellar.

A Solid Ride but Not Rude
Audi tuners are so enamored with both the R8's architecture and its use of Delphi's magnetic ride control suspension that they typically massage the first by avoiding the second. Since it would cost a fortune to reprogram the R8's stock magnetorheological dampers, the answer has been to stick with an old-school switch-out of pieces for standard dampers and springs.

Abt doesn't even touch the R8 suspension's wheel camber and doesn't add any toe-in to the steering alignment — two fairly standard alterations for quicker response from the steering wheel. With a combo of slightly firmer springs and adjustable dampers from H&R, the gap between a standard setup and the marvels of AMR (automatic magnetic ride control) has been nicely bridged. With this new suspension, the front end of the R8 rides lower by 0.6 inch, while the rear is 1 inch lower.

The ride over any road at any speed feels very sophisticated, and there's no bottoming out at the worst moments, while we found even less body roll through fast curves than with the stock AMR setup in Sport mode.

The Abt R8 wore Dunlop Sport Maxx XL tires for our drive, 245/30ZR20 front and 305/25ZR20 rear. Abt's BR20 diamond-machined cast-alloy wheels caught the eye, measuring 20-by-9 inches front and 20-by-11 inches rear. The offset is 1.6 inches at each front wheel and 1.8 inches at each rear wheel, so the front and rear tracks are wider than the standard R8 with its 18-inch wheels. This gives the car more responsiveness, plus that low, down-and-dirty feeling of a serious chassis.

Carbon-Fiber Airflow
The total Abt package here is priced at $48,000, and a large part of it is gobbled up by the crash-certified carbon-fiber aero bits all around. The front spoiler, rocker-sill side skirts, fender-mounted air intakes, fixed rear wing and rear aero diffuser are fabricated of pure carbon fiber.

Given the added stress of supercharging on the V8 engine, these aero add-ons are not only good-looking but also they increase airflow, keeping things quite a bit cooler. These ducts lead to the big front radiator, the brake assemblies, and straight to the engine intakes. Surprisingly, the brakes used here are the R8's standard units, so the additional cooling makes a big difference in resisting fade every time we late-brake into a turn.

Poking through the rear carbon-fiber skirt are Abt's thoroughly unique double-double stainless-steel sport exhaust tips. On throttle, the sound opens up and it's as showboaty as that on any Lamborghini Gallardo V10.

Abt Goes a Little Pimpy
Normally we can expect a little pimpin' action from other German tuners like Hamann or Gemballa or even MTM, but Abt Sportsline generally sticks to a strictly businesslike approach that has made it the sober authority for this niche of tuners.

Well, take one look at the engine compartment of the 2009 Audi R8 Abt Sportsline. Yes, that is the same fine napa leather from the interior now lining the entire glass-covered engine bay. Our immediate thought is that the sheer heat from the supercharged engine at its redline of 7,200 rpm could easily turn the napa leather into Nebraska beef jerky.

An Abt communicator reassures us: "It would take 284 degrees F to cause trouble there, and the highest we've detected is 230 degrees F."

Then there are those six-pack abs of the supercharger in a gleaming presentation of polished chrome designed by Abt. Engineer Zeilbeck tells us, "I just felt that it was time for us to show off a little bit, as people generally don't expect that from us."

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Used 2009 Audi R8 Overview

The Used 2009 Audi R8 is offered in the following submodels: R8 Coupe. Available styles include quattro 2dr Coupe AWD (4.2L 8cyl 6AM), and quattro 2dr Coupe AWD (4.2L 8cyl 6M).

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Should I lease or buy a 2009 Audi R8?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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