2008 Audi R8 Performance

$50,120 - $50,263

2008 Audi R8 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Audi R8 was new.


Performance: 8.7

Several reviews point out that the R8 successfully combines sports-car power with a comfortable driving demeanor, even when it's not on the track -- thus giving it an advantage over competitors. "When you're at the wheel of the Audi R8, its easy, controllable poise imparts the sense that the most modern, refined technology has been harnessed to make this a genuine road-going sports car," says Edmunds. "As fast and thrilling as it can be, this is also an exceedingly comfortable and friendly automobile for daily commuting and long-distance touring." Road and Track agrees: "But where supercars are notoriously stressful to drive, the R8 is not -- it's comfortable, quiet and smooth. Yet with a click of the Audi Magnetic Ride button, it transforms into a corner-devouring mid-engine exotic that senses every nuance of the road."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Audi R8 comes with a 4.2-liter V8 engine that makes 420 horsepower at 7,800 rpm and 317 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 to 6,000 rpm. According to Audi, the R8 can reach 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 187 mph. The engine is unique because of its placement between the front and rear wheels -- "positioned directly behind the driver and front seat passenger and separated from the passenger compartment by a firewall," explains the Washington Post. This makes the R8 a "mid-engine" sports car and gives it a weight distribution advantage over conventional cars.

Satisfaction with the engine is unanimous, with several reviews noting its pleasing sound: "When you do downshift, the engine's rumble is complete and gratifying," says AutoWeek. "Even from inside a building, it growls like a Trans-Am racer at full tilt. Someone suggested the R8 might just be worth buying for the exhaust note alone, and there were few who disagreed." The Los Angeles Times describes the sound as "a molten-sugar contralto that dances on wending treble clef, a sound to make angels grab a hanky."

Even though the R8 can't quite match the straight-line speed of the Porsche 911 Turbo, "no one could call it slow," says Car and Driver. Test drivers at Edmunds appreciate the fact that the engine delivers 90 percent of its peak torque from 3,500 to 7,500 rpm, "so there's a power band wide enough to back up the statement of authority made high in the rpm range." Motor Trend agrees, noting that "you don't need to be constantly muscling the somewhat deliberate shifter to keep the R8 on the boil." At about 5,000 rpm, says USA Today, "the V-8's bark turns to a shriek, and the acceleration curve feels as if you're a rock launched from a slingshot."

Another plus is that the R8's power doesn't interfere with drivability. The Portland Oregonian calls acceleration "swift, without being overwhelming." The Car Connection notes that the gas pedal "has a rather long range of travel and is also precisely calibrated and linear in feel -- no ripping away by accident. The V-8 doesn't have gobs of power just off idle, but it builds power steadily, nearly all the way up to its 8250-rpm redline." Finally, the Los Angeles Times notes that the R8 "is so completely balanced and integrated, so in touch with its own nerve endings, it doesn't feel drunk with power."

Unfortunately, the engine's impressive performance leads to unimpressive gas mileage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the R8 with the manual transmission should achieve 13 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. With the R tronic automatic, it should get 13/19 city/highway. Consumer Guide says, "Fuel economy exists in name only" and reports a tested average of just 10.6 mpg in mixed city/highway driving.

The engine is paired with a six-speed gated manual transmission, while an R tronic automatic is optional. Both transmissions bring out mixed opinions, with Car and Driver concluding that "neither of the two transmission choices are ideal." The majority of reviewers, however, favor the manual. "We recommend choosing the traditional manual transmission, as Audi's R tronic can occasionally be a bit fussy in day-to-day driving situations due to its delayed shifting reactions," says Edmunds. Road and Track calls the manual "one of the smoothest, slickest units in the marketplace. The clutch pedal is surprisingly light, and the shifter snaps into each gear with a slight push or pull of the right hand." Even so, the manual is far from perfect. "It shifts solidly, but not as smoothly as, say, a 911's stick shift," says Forbes. Consumer Guide adds that the transmission "can inhibit fast shifts" and notes that "[c]lutch action could be better too."

The optional R tronic transmission, which is identical to the Lamborghini Gallardo's e-gear transmission, allows shifting using a lever or steering wheel-mounted paddles, but also offers a fully automatic mode. Though some test drivers find it adequate, others complain about the R tronic's fatal flaw -- its poor performance in city driving. Forbes says it "tended to lurch and hiccup a bit, mostly in relaxed, around-town driving." The Orlando Sentinel elaborates: "Rather than the smooth gear changes we're used to with automatics, these sequentials -- and it's the same with a Ferrari or Lamborghini -- reduce engine rpm, pause and shift, making the car lurch a bit with every gear change. It's like driving with someone just learning how to operate a manual transmission." Edmunds adds that "in daily traffic, the R tronic is less perfect, either taking a few beats too long to give you what you ask, or even just doing the wrong thing."

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the R tronic is its cost -- it adds about $9,000 to the R8's base price. The Car Connection sums up, "The bottom line is that R tronic is our preference for the racetrack, while the regular six-speed is our overall preference for everyday driving."

Handling and Braking

The R8's mid-engine placement earns it enthusiastic praise for excellent handling and a very comfortable ride. AutoWeek says, "This layout is beautiful and useful; weight is distributed with a 44-/56-percent balance for better handling, and the engine is visible through a window in the cockpit." Edmunds adds, "All-wheel drive and monstrous tires give the R8 a stuck-to-the-ground feel, yet the car is also lively and willing when driven on twisty roads." The Arizona Republic says the R8 "handles like a racer but without the harshness. R8's firm ride seems tuned for comfort as well as performance." In essence, the R8 combines the best of both worlds: Sports-car fun with everyday drivability.

The Audi R8 features a four-link independent suspension and unequal-length control arms in the front and rear. The Chicago Tribune finds the suspension "very civil. No pain but lots of gain in pleasure." MSN finds the ride "on the firm side, but supple." The R8 also has magnetic ride suspension that varies damping depending on the environment and has both Sport and Standard chassis settings. "On cars with the optional magnetic ride shocks there seemed little difference in the ride quality between the standard and the sport settings, although the car turned in harder and rolled less in sport mode," says Motor Trend. Most don't see a need for the system, with the Chicago Tribune finding that "ride and handling are exceptional without it." But, as Forbes points out, "Owners who like to take their sports cars on racetracks or simply want the ultimate in handling will appreciate the optional adaptive suspension."

The R8's electromechanical steering is one of its few components that take even a little criticism. Car and Driver says its feel "doesn't quite measure up to the tactile feedback you get from cars like the Ferrari F430 or Porsche 911 GT3." AutoWeek adds, "On a tight handling course carved through the infield of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one thing that might be considered a bit off-key was the R8's overboosted power steering. The hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion system is too quick, with almost no wheel feedback."

Complaints, however, are few and far between, and many reviewers agree with the Orlando Sentinel, which reports, "Some drivers have found the R8's steering to be numb and insensitive, but it felt fine to me." Consumer Guide finds steering "responsive and precise, firm but not heavy, informative without nasty kickback or shake." Some reviews report the R8 has a tendency for understeer, but still say it's easier to correct than in other cars: "On the race track the R8 will understeer through the turns until you lift off the gas, when the tail will come around," says Motor Trend. "It's not a white-knuckle snap, but a smooth, clearly telegraphed transition that's easy to predict." Forbes adds, "The welcome surprise was how easily the R8 could be coaxed into balanced, controllable slides -- not what you expect from all-wheel-drive cars, known for their tendency to understeer with the front tires losing traction before the rear tires do."

Reviews are positive on the R8's vented anti-lock disc brakes, which Car and Driver says are the "diameter of small planets." Automobile Magazine reports excellent results, commenting, "After a burst of acceleration to 165 mph, I mashed the brake pedal to experience fade-free stopping power that felt like running into a megasize marshmallow. The R8 dug its heels into the pavement and the seatbelts cinched my torso like a boa constrictor." USA Today describes stopping power as "a right-now halt that some people would identify as touchy brakes but that, once experienced, leaves all others feeling sloppy, squishy."

In comparison tests, Edmunds reports a 60-to-0 mph stopping time of 115 feet for the R8. The slightly heavier Porsche 911 Turbo, on the other hand, stops "fractionally shorter from 60 mph, coming to a halt in 103 feet." Audi also offers optional ceramic brakes, but most reviewers say they're not needed unless you're a true enthusiast. "The ceramics are overkill for the street, though, and difficult to modulate smoothly, especially around town. And at about $10,000, they're not cheap," says Motor Trend.

All-Wheel Drive

The R8 comes standard with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system, which can distribute as much as 35 percent of torque to the front wheels depending on conditions. The New York Times note that the system is unique because "the torque split is far more rear-biased than on any other Audi. As with its cousin, the Lamborghini Gallardo, the R8 strives to mimic the feel of a rear-drive car, so only 10 to 35 percent of the V-8's torque is ever sent forward."

This configuration helps to prevent understeer -- a common affliction in all-wheel drive cars. "The upshot is safe, balanced handling: Initial understeer can be countered with the throttle, and it's possible to break the tail loose if the driver is brave on corner exit," explains Car and Driver. Automobile Magazine describes a positive experience with the system, commenting, "Our back-road test session proved that the R8's full-time four-wheel drive is a fine way to slingshot 3450 pounds of curb weight into motion with only a hint of wheel spin -- and that this bullet shoots straight even when the suspension is stroking furiously to maintain contact with undulating surfaces."

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