By now you've read every technical detail on the R8, so I'll just say it's even better than you think. It was better than I thought it would be, and even before I drove it, I was sure it would be pretty good.
It's tempting to make the inevitable Gallardo comparison, and while some at Audi would concede that there are parallels, they are also adamant that the R8 is a completely different car, down to the last bolt.
On paper, it's sheer brilliance. It takes the world's best V8, Audi's 4.2-liter FSI, and moves it to the rear third of a brand-new chassis which, when fully assembled, is 500 pounds lighter overall than the 4.2-liter RS4 sedan.
Applying this formula in steel, carbon fiber and aluminum has produced a predictably incredible car. Weight distribution sits at 44/56 percent front-to-rear, and signature Quattro all-wheel drive can vary power distribution to the front axle up to 35 percent. More than any Audi to date, it's really easy to put the rear wheels out, even with traction control engaged. With it turned off, power oversteer is a viable option. All-wheel drive means it's disgustingly easy to catch and pull back in line. You may never look at sports cars the same way again.
Driver inputs are weighty and significant, but not to the point that driving hard becomes a weight-lifting session. Thanks to FSI direct injection, throttle actuation is razor sharp; the tach needle responds to the slightest nudge, ripping around to redline in proportion to your prodding, and falling off just as immediately in the absence of juice.
You can choose a clutchless sequential manual transmission similar to that found in the new Lambos, what Audi calls R Tronic, operated by a central lever and wheel-mounted paddles. I say to hell with progress and go for the stick; you may not be physically able to change gears faster than a computer, but you'll have a lot more fun. The manual selector is just amazing, superbly positive, precise, well-weighted-and you get to throw the gear lever through a naked machined-aluminum gate a la Lamborghini or Ferrari. The clutch is spry, but never overwhelming. The first few times you match revs perfectly and find your gear on a high-rpm downshift, you'll be a superstar-if only in your own mind.
It's fast and well balanced; we expected as much. But it's really the details that make the car most remarkable. Some are cosmetic, unique styling cues like daytime-running LED strips below the headlamps and the off-color or raw-carbon 'sideblade' panels at the rear flanks. It's definitely one of the most distinctive designs on the road.
German quality control, it seems, has never been more stringent. Each assembled body is subject to a laser measuring system that checks no less than 220 points on the car to within one-tenth of a millimeter. True to the established Audi archetype, rock-solid build quality is particularly evident in the interior. Raw materials are of the highest order: pure aluminum; real carbon; smooth, stitched leather. Even the black plastic is A-grade. The cabin itself is surprisingly spacious from every direction: front to back, side to side, top to bottom. Two sets of golf clubs fit on the parcel shelf behind the rear seats, if you feel the driving range is more fun than driving the car.
Piloting the car is a relaxed experience. Some might be critical of this quality-even the exhaust note is surprisingly subdued. Feedback through the front wheels is as communicative as I'd want, more so than other Quattro-equipped vehicles I've driven. It's definitely more involving than one of the manufacturer's Q-ship sedans, though hardly as ragged as some other so-called hardcore sports cars (like a certain GT3 we drive elsewhere in this issue). I suppose it depends on your definition of an exciting drive and how much punishment you've come to expect from driving your sports car.
R8s will have gone on sale in Europe around the time you read this, but don't expect them to show up in American dealerships until after summer. Pricing hasn't been announced in any concrete terms, but it's speculated a well-equipped example to fetch dollar figures in the 100-110k range.
2007 AUDI R8
Longitudinal mid-engine, all-wheel drive
4.2-liter V8, dohc, four valves per cylinder
Six-speed manual; optional six-speed R Tronic
Front and rear double wishbones
Cross-drilled and ventilated rotors, ABS, ESP; optional Audi Ceramic assemblies
Length x Width x Height (in.): 174.4 x 75.0 x 49.3
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
Curb Weight: 3439 lb
Peak Power: 420 bhp @ 7800 rpm
Peak Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.6 sec.
Top Speed: 187 mph
Why we love it:
Everything you love about Audi in an exotic sports car
Why we don't:
As with the RS4, certain choice equipment likely won't be making the trans-Atlantic voyage
The Price Tag: