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2009 Audi R8 Road Test
Audi R8 ... simply put, it's GR8T!
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
Most of you know that the R8 from Audi has won just about every award that the automotive industry has to offer.
Naturally, just about every automobile journalist with a pulse has tried to book the R8 to review. In fact, if you float around the Web, you'll find several penned by bloggers who haven't managed to even sit in one yet! The vehicle is so popular that every automotive publication simply has to have a story on it, even to the point of doing a “Hans Christian Anderson” and entering into the land of make believe!
To be fair, that's what happens when a manufacturer produces a vehicle that turns the automotive world on its head, which is exactly what Audi has managed to do with its R8. (See What's new for the 2010 Audi R8?)
Think about that for a moment. If I had told you 10 years ago, that Audi would one day produce a 420 hp V8 all-wheel-drive supercar that would have the Ferrari designers quivering in their Gucci shoes, you would have laughed your heads off and thought that I belonged on Zogg. In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised if you'd called my editor demanding my resignation, or even phoned and arranged for the padded van!
You see, Audi went though a bad patch several years ago. Its reputation was tarnished by a couple of, shall we say 'less than worthy automobiles'. Since then, the company has fought hard to turn that image around, and has been so successful that today, the Audi nameplate is being held up as an industry standard.
But Audi -- a supercar manufacturer?
Well, let's look at that for a moment. The company certainly has a racing background. In fact, the Auto Union nameplate, which eventually evolved into Audi, had a strong heritage in racing several decades ago. Even today, Audi continues to be a dominant force in European saloon car racing.
Audi also has the benefit in part, of being part of a group that owns such names as Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti. Add to that the fact that a couple of decades ago they turned the rallying world upside-down with the launch of its famous Quattro AWD system, and you're starting to see that if anyone could go up against the mighty prancing horse (Ferrari), especially from a price point, it is, in fact, Audi.
So, what about the R8? Is it really as awesome as everyone makes out, or is that simply overblown media hype? Well, let me think, Err! Yes, it really is that good. In fact, it's all what people say it is and more! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Kevin's not blowing smoke, dear readers. I've driven the R8 three times and concur with all of his comments. It's the most easily drivable sports car you can find at the price.]
The R8 draws attention
Obviously, the exterior is what first grabs your attention to the R8, and I have to say Audi has managed to pull off a real supercar look with this vehicle. Who knows, maybe their designer sneaked a peek into the Lamborghini design centre whilst their colleagues were on coffee break. Obviously, that's just a guess on my part, but wherever they got their ideas from, they truly succeeded!
As we all know, supercars are meant to draw attention, and I'll happily vouch that the R8 does just that. In fact, it does it so well that I started to get a little concerned about possible law suits, due to whiplash caused from people turning their heads so quickly as I drove by!
The vehicle looks wonderful in motion, yet, it also looks beautiful simply standing still, and of course when it is parked, one can then admire the magnificent 4.2 L V8 engine through a rear glass cover. That was just one of the reasons why I piloted the R8 around to every Tim Horton's car park that I knew, to share that experience with those not as fortunate as me -- because, of course, I had the keys!
It was whilst doing this, that along with making more friends than I could ever send Christmas cards to, I discovered something quite surprising. You see, if I had been driving the latest Ferrari, or even Lamborghini, most would know who manufactured the vehicle, but very few would be able to name the actual model.
Not so with the Audi however. Everybody instantly recognized the car! People would come up to me virtually screaming “Wow, that's the new Audi R8”!
Now maybe that's because of all the media publicity that the vehicle has had. However, I tend to believe that it's due to something else entirely. I feel that the general public views the R8 as a 'possibly obtainable supercar'. After all, with a base price in Canada of $139,000, it may not be within everyone's budget, but being substantially cheaper than most other supercars, I think that makes it a realistic dream car for the man or woman in the street.
Yes, they might not be able to purchase one right at this moment, but the price certainly puts it in the realm of 'maybe one day'!
Of course, a dream car needs more than just good looks. It also requires outstanding performance. (How about 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds -- will that do?); amazing handling abilities (I did mention the all-wheel-drive system, didn't I?); and of course, you don't want it breaking down every five minutes (come on now, it's made by a huge automotive group, not some little design workshop that produces a handful of cars each year.).
On that last point, it's interesting to note that when Audi launched the R8, it staged a cross-Canada road trip for journalists. Audi also made its R8 press fleet available to them throughout the winter months! Now, to be honest, I didn't try calling one of the other supercar manufacturers to ask for a comparison vehicle, but it's my guess that the response would have been an answering machine saying that they were on holiday in Florida.
That is the true beauty of the R8. It is an amazing supercar in every way, yet at the same time, it provides reliable transportation, both summer and winter, should you so require.
The test drive
It is also an extremely easy vehicle to live with. In fact, in downtown traffic, the R8 behaves much like any other car. The clutch is light, the six-speed gated gear selector is easy to operate, and apart from the limited rearward vision, the R8 becomes as simple to drive as, say, a Toyota Corolla.
However, that doesn't mean that the R8 is a wuss, far from it. In fact, prior to having this vehicle for a week, I drove the exact same car on the track during the annual AJAC TestFest. Trust me, this car could make your grandmother look like Mario Andretti. You can literally hurl the R8 at a corner with the firm confidence that the ultra lightweight design of the vehicle, coupled with the huge braking system, will shed the speed as fast as you can think of hitting the brake pedal.
Of course, get the line right and the 420 horses, when working in sync with the awesome AWD system, will pull you out of that corner as if someone above had a hand in it.
That's probably the most amazing thing about the R8, or as I call it ... the R Gr8t. Other supercars may have a slight power advantage over the Audi. They may even boast of quicker 0-60 times, but in the real world, power is only as good as the traction that goes along with it. When you get into the twists and turns, grip plays a far more important role, and that's where the Audi truly comes into its own.
Now during my story, you may have noticed that I failed to mention all the specifications of the R8. You may also be aware that I didn't even list all the available options. There are, however, good reasons behind this. You see, all those wonderful facts and figures are available to you by simply clicking on the appropriate Audi website (in Canada, it's audi.ca).
However, my main reason for leaving out the detailed specs is this ... if you drove the R8 for yourself, you would want one. Honestly, I don't think that anyone would care if the seats were made from secondhand wickerwork, or if the headliner resembled that 70s flock wallpaper that your grandmother might have had in her living room. Basically, the R8 is all about the drive, and how it makes you feel while doing that.
I simply sum it up like this ... I've always wanted to win the lottery; now I desperately want to win the lottery!
Green Light: Supercar looks, handling, and performance, for less money than you'd think.
Yellow Light: A two-year waiting list may have you paying over the top to get one.
Red Light: Having to handle the people begging you for rides!
Posted July 8, 2009.
Manufacturer's website: www.audi.ca
2010 R8 5.2 FSI Introduction (August 2009 estimate)
New 'Carbon Sigma' Package (4.2 FSI & 5.2 FSI):
Carbon Fibre Interior Trim
Carbon Fibre Door Sills
Carbon Fibre Exterior Side Mirrors
Optional LED Headlights
Optional 19" 5 Double Spoke "Titanium" Colour Wheels
Standard Equipment Highlights:
Contents of 4.2 FSI Premium Package
Fine Nappa Leather Seats (PL1 Package)
Bang & Olufsen Sound System
2010 Audi R8 exterior paint & interior upholstery changes
New Colours: Sepang Blue Pearl Effect / Mugello Blue Side Blade (5.2 FSI Model Only); Suzuka Grey Metallic / Ice Silver Side Blade; Lava Grey Pearl Effect / Quartz Grey Side Blade.
New Interior Colour: Amulet Red Leather; Tuscan Brown has been renamed Mustang Brown but is the same colour.