By Micah Muzio - Updated Date: 2/25/2011
By all accounts, the 2011 Audi R8 is a supercar, but that doesn't mean it's uncompromising and hard-edged. It's an incredibly capable performance machine, yet every bit as luxurious as it is sporting. The posh interior is loaded with electronics and bathed in leather and Alcantara. With Audi's venerable 4.2-liter V8 providing the power, the R8 isn't at all temperamental – as the notion of a supercar might suggest. And, with a Lamborghini-sourced V10 also available, the R8 can better compete with its most obvious rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo, along with a number of exotic Italians as well.
Audi's R8 is styled unlike anything else on the road, with sweeping arcs and muscular lines that are more suited to a concept car than one from a production line. Timeless architecture has taken the place of big wings and scoops, while luxury has replaced compromise inside the supercar cockpit.
If you opt for the R tronic transmission, know that this is not the same unit as Volkswagen/Audi's dual-clutch DSG gearbox. Shifts do take some time, and there is some computerized indecisiveness that can be annoying in traffic.
The all-wheel-drive system is almost completely imperceptible when driving the R8 and the chassis responds very quickly to steering input. The 420 horsepower V8 is a model of response and power and downshifting is rarely necessary, as torque is abundant and available throughout the rev range. Despite the V8's charms, we are absolutely enamored with the prodigious power, brutal acceleration and inspired sound of the V10 engine in the R8 5.2. In terms of transmission choices, anyone capable of actuating a clutch will find the manual transmission, with its stylish metal gate, a far more satisfying drive than the surprisingly unrefined optional R tronic transmission. Regardless of transmission choice, according to Audi the R8 4.2 will accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds and complete the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds. The V10 sprints from zero to 60 in a scant 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 196 mph. As would be expected, the brakes are up to the task, with 15-inch discs with eight-piston calipers in the front and 14-inch discs with four-piston calipers in the rear.
4.2-liter, 420-horsepower V8
This strong and big-hearted V8 has found a fitting home in the R8 – with the added bonus that it sits behind a glass panel for all to see, like fine jewelry.
Metal-gated Six-speed Manual Transmission
The transmission itself has well-chosen ratios, but it's the metal gate surrounding the shifter that makes shifting so much fun, providing a satisfying "clink" as each shift is completed.
Despite the R8's clear performance intentions, not a stitch was spared in making its interior every bit as luxurious and accommodating as those of Audi's high-dollar sedans. There are supportive 10-way adjustable Alcantara/leather seats with baggage space behind them, and the curvature of the roof allows ample headroom for tall occupants. Standard with the 5.2 and available with the 4.2 is the Bang and Olufsen 12-speaker audio system which is simply mind (and ear) blowing. Audi calls the driver-centered cockpit "Monoposto," which used to mean, roughly, "single-seater," and the controls couldn't be easier to reach and operate, particularly the metal-gated shifter of the manual transmission.
Unquestionably sporting in intention, the Audi R8 sits wide and low, with its cabin far forward and its engine behind. The soft curvature of the hood and roof are drawn in one sweeping arc, while a vertical "sideblade" between the wheel arch and the roof section breaks the smooth door line with contrasting color. LED daytime running lights add an especially sinister look and sit flush with giant air intakes below. Audi says the styling was dictated by aerodynamics. From what we can tell, the R8 might not look out of place in the year 2111. The big question might be: How do you design a successor to such a car?
Like most Audi offerings, the R8 comes standard with quattro all-wheel drive (AWD), electronic stability control and traction control. The AWD has an unusual 10/90 front-to-rear torque distribution (enhancing the sporting feel) and the stability control has three settings: "On," "Sport" and "Off." The R8 benefits from an electronic differential lock (EDL), and uses speed-dependent electromechanical power steering. LED lighting is used throughout, from the sinister front parking lights to the engine compartment, which is visible through glass from outside the car. A vertical "sideblade" breaks up exterior lines and can be had in contrasting colors. Inside, heated 10-way power seats round out the package.
With a fairly long list of standard equipment, the number of available options is somewhat modest, and they tend to be grouped in packages. The Convenience Package includes the Audi parking system with rearview camera, Audi hill hold assist, auto-dimming exterior mirror and a storage package. A Leather Package adds Nappa leather to the seats and door panels, and the Enhanced Leather Package further adds the Nappa leather to the dashboard and the cowl above the instruments. There is also an available Bang and Olufsen Sound system with 465 watts and 12 speakers and Audi navigation plus (standard on the 5.2).
The eager-to-rev 4.2-liter, 420-horsepower V8 that sits mid-chassis is essentially the same as that found in the RS 4, Audi's premiere midsize sedan. Maximum power is provided by a new 5.2-liter V10 good for 525 horsepower. Either engine can be mated to a traditional manual transmission or Audi's R tronic sequential-shift gearbox, which adds about $9,000 to the bill. Either way, six ratios are available and the redline is a lofty 8250 rpm for the V8 and an even higher 8700 for the V10. Audi's quattro all-wheel drive is standard on the R8, and offers a performance-oriented torque distribution of just 10 percent to the front wheels and 90 percent to the rears, as compared to the 40/60 torque bias in most new Audi models.
420 horsepower @ 7800 rpm
317 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500-6000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/20 (manual), 13/21 (automatic)
525 horsepower @ 8000 rpm
391 lb.-ft. of torque @ 6500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/19 (manual), 13/19 (automatic)
The 2011 Audi R8 starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail price of over $118,000 with the manual transmission or slightly above $126,000 with the R tronic. Move up to the 5.2 V10 trim and the prices rise to over $153,000 for a car equipped with the manual transmission and in the neighborhood of $170,000 for a fully loaded R8 5.2 automatic. Because the R8 is a limited-production vehicle, we recommend checking the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price for the most up-to-date pricing in your area. A Porsche 911 Turbo is priced higher than an R8 4.2 with manual transmission, and we expect the R8 to have a slightly lower resale value over time.