It takes a certain kind of person to purchase a brand-new 2014 Audi R8 V8 and start tearing into it a week after purchase. Shawn Setterstrom, the owner of Pacific German in Lake Forest, California, is exactly that person, finding himself slightly underwhelmed by his four-ringed beauty.
For the last 14 years, Shawn has established Pacific German as one of Southern California's premier VW/Audi tuners. In fact, it's one of only 16 independent repair facilities authorized to use the most up-to-date factory scan tools and software, verified by VW and Audi of America.
So it'll come as no surprise to learn that Shawn has owned a plethora of German projects, his latest being the 2014 Audi R8 you see here: "I found it for sale on a Sunday and bought it on the spot," Shawn recalled. "The only reason I opted for the V8 was the color..."
Samoa Orange Metallic is extremely rare for the Audi R8, and if you wanted to order it, there would be a six-month wait, but Shawn isn't the patient type. So Pacific German found itself with an orange Audi R8 V8 with a rare six-speed manual transmission. "To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the car. The handling was better than most, but I felt my previous RS5 had a little more punch and midrange power," Shawn said.
So one week after rolling off the dealer's lot, the supercar was under the knife at VF Engineering to give it some boost pressure with its VF-550 supercharger kit.
Since his R8 was a new 2014 model, VF had to program the ECU from scratch, meaning countless hours of dyno- and road-testing. Finally, it was back in Shawn's possession, and he was literally blown away. "I'm extremely happy with the power now; it's more than I expected and definitely faster than the V10!" he said with a smile.
Rather than take his word for it, we jumped behind the wheel and can attest to the suggested 550 hp the 4.2L V8 is now producing. There's torque everywhere, and the motor seemed wide awake.
Shawn wasn't the only one underwhelmed by the stock R8 V8. While it's an undeniably fantastic motor, we didn't think the V8 was able to match the appearance or handling balance the exotic R8 offers. But with the Eaton TVS1900 Roots-type supercharger developing 7.5-psi boost pressure, the car now feels as ferocious as it looks. Oh, and it sounds heavenly, too. Revving past 8,000 rpm and bouncing off the limiter is an intoxicating act.
It wasn't all plain sailing, however. Nik Saran from VF Engineering asserted, "One of the aspects of creating the supercharger systems is to seamlessly integrate the kit into the car, and for the driver to drive as if it was a normal car, but not necessarily experience any quirks or driveability issues," we did notice a problem with the $21,000 kit.
The joy of owning a manual car is being in control. This involves rev-matched downshifts, throttle blips, or simply being able to rev the engine at a stoplight. However, we noticed that the R8 had a tendency to hiccup and stumble during initial throttle input. This was apparent whenever you were pulling away, and, especially on downshifts where we had to press the accelerator pedal until the motor decided to respond. This made downshifts clumsy because of the unpredictable engine speed it would muster.
Granted, it's something that hasn't bothered Shawn excessively, and VF could probably correct it with more dyno time, but the poor throttle response didn't suit the character of the otherwise stellar Audi R8 V8.
Without this issue, or perhaps once it's been corrected, we'd rate the VF-550 kit very highly. But for now, we'll have to reserve judgment.
If the Audi R8 V8 was offered this way in standard form, with a boosted V8 or naturally aspirated V10 to choose from, we'd be hard pressed to make a final decision. After all, the latter offers considerable savings. An R8 V8 paired with the excellent S Tronic dual-clutch transmission starts at around $124,000, for example, while adding two extra cylinders for the V10 model makes the starting price $160,300. So the V8 saves you $36,300, and VF's supercharger kit is $21,000. That leaves you enough leeway to fit some new wheels, suspension upgrades, and maybe bigger brakes, and still pay less than the V10 price while owning a car that practically matches its performance.
In Shawn's case, he opted to stiffen the rear-end with a Stasis sway bar, helping to cure the quattro's notorious understeer. H&R Sport springs were also installed, stiffening the ride, along with 20-inch Klassen wheels to fill the fenders.
To ensure it could stop promptly, Shawn also installed EBC Yellow Stuff pads and Stasis lines, although he plans to upgrade to Audi's carbon-ceramic brakes in the future. "I'd like to fit a rollcage as well," he laughed. "I don't baby the car. I track it, driving it as it was meant to be driven!"
It's always refreshing to find an enthusiast who isn't afraid to spend money on a car and use it as intended. And despite the obvious benefits of a manual V8, Shawn has an itch for a 10-cylinder and the lightning-quick shifts of the S Tronic transmission. "I was actually building an R8 V10 online before you walked in!" he admitted. "Our R8 is listed on AutoTrader right now, so if the right buyer comes along, we'll be looking for a new project car..." And if this one is anything to go by, the Audi R8 V10 should be worth a return visit.
Tech Spec2014 Audi R8 V8
Lake Forest, CA
4.2-liter V8 32v with VF Engineering VF-550 supercharger kit
stock six-speed manual transmission, quattro AWD system
EBC Yellow Stuff pads, Stasis stainless steel lines
H&R Sport springs, Stasis rear sway bar
Wheels & Tires
20x9" f, 20x12" r Klassen M51R forged wheels, 245/30 ZR20 f, 325/25 ZR20 r Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires
stock, Samoa Orange Metallic paint