Vital Stats

Engine:
4.2L V8
Power:
430 HP / 317 LB-FT
Transmission:
7-Speed DCT
0-60 Time:
4.4 Seconds
Top Speed:
188 MPH
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,583 LBS
Seating:
Two Seater
MPG:
11 City / 20 HWY
Base Price:
$117,150
Where to even begin with the Audi R8 V8.

Let's start with the Ferrari 458 Italia, a car that doubles the base price of the Audi. It's much more fun to drive than it is to talk about; discussions among enthusiasts usually begin with someone saying, "It's amazing!" and end with everyone else agreeing. Opposite that is the vast, swirling nebula of cars that are often more fun to talk about than they are to drive.

In between, there are very few cars that are as fun to discuss as they are to drive, and this Audi is one. It's a car that challenges our notions about its actual competitive set and, even better, its philosophical competitive set, its driving experience, its price, its future, its present viewed from the future, and its verifiable and/or potential pedigree.

We recently attempted to sort out some of those notions during ten days in an R8 V8 driving from Munich to Le Mans. We arrived at quite a few answers, and although we walked away from it still confounded, there's no denying one thing: it is so, so good.
2014 Audi R8 V82014 Audi R8 V82014 Audi R8 V8

Audi's R8 is an impressive and deeply alluring car, as opposed to beautiful.

We took possession of a white R8 with black sideblades at the Munich airport, then headed straight to meet a local friend and to photograph it before introducing all that Ibis paint to German bugs at 180 miles per hour. Taking a long look at it while it sat posed in front of the Nymphenburgschloss and Antikensammlungen, your author thinks it's an impressive and deeply alluring car, as opposed to beautiful – not a Venus, rather one of the finer works of that ferocious hot smithy, Vulcan. With an overall aesthetic that, like its performance, is sublimely balanced. In fact, only one note strikes as odd, and only when you stop to notice it: there's ample front overhang.

But its compact shape is all business, low and wide, nary a superfluous curve, and once you turn it on, its LED daytime running lamps transform that already fierce face into an ice-cold threat. If The Wolf ever saw fit to get rid of his Acura NSX, this would make an excellent replacement. And let us go on the record as saying it's criminal that Washington won't let us have the facelifted R8's sequential turn signals.

2014 Audi R8 V82014 Audi R8 V82014 Audi R8 V82014 Audi R8 V8

If it weren't for the endless stares and your knuckles scraping the pavement when you adjust the seat, you could be excused for thinking you're in a slammed RS5.

As we would discover over a few days tooling around Bavaria's heart while loading up on Würst, Radler and idyll, the R8 is the perfect urban pet. For a car that looks so low you could scrape your knee on the roof – it's two inches lower than a Porsche 911, the same height as an Aston Martin V8 Vantage – it's easy to get in and out of. The diktat of exterior purpose continues inside, with exactly zero fuss inside the cabin, only a lot of leather, aluminum and quilting. The coupe is seven inches shorter than an Audi A5 and almost half an inch shorter than an A3 sedan, so you can always find a parking spot. The drama is entirely outside the car; sitting inside, it takes a foot full of throttle to even hear it. It's such an obsequious daily driver that if it weren't for the endless stares and your knuckles scraping the pavement when you adjust the seat, you could be excused for thinking you're in a slammed RS5.

Except for the way it looks, the R8 exhibits almost no urging – which is part of its conundrum and why we've always been conflicted about it. If it's not beautiful, it is definitely magnetic, but we wonder what we'll think of it in ten years. It looks like a supercar and it makes us want supercar thrills, but its performance fits firmly into the sports car segment. It starts at $115,900, about $10,000 more than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, about $15,000 less than Aston Martin's new entry-level V8 Vantage GT. It's not as classically beautiful as either of them, but it's four times as striking and un-ordinary as the other two – and yes, we are aware of how much gall it takes to even hint that any Aston Martin is ordinary. It has 430 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque, meaning a little more hp and a little less torque than those other two cars. Its 0-60 miles per hour is 4.3 seconds, equaling the Porsche, just a few tenths ahead of the Englishman.

2014 Audi R8 V8

When not being pushed it behaves like the Platonic form of A Daily Driver.

A supercar on the outside, sports car in genus and when not being pushed it behaves like... please don't take this the wrong way... the Platonic form of A Daily Driver. That should be a good thing, right? So why can't we help missing the thrill? What's more, it's not as convenient as those competitors, for lack of a back seat area to assist that tiny trunk. On top of that, unlike every other sports car in its segment, the R8 has a dearth of pedigree – which is astonishing considering how much racing and winning Audi has done. So maybe that's perceived pedigree?

This philosophical goulash, and its Audi badge, might be why we hardly see them anywhere. Over three days in Munich we saw two R8s, one less than the number of C5 Corvette coupes - not all Corvettes, just C5 Corvettes – and equal to the number of Ford Mustang models. This isn't about money, either – the Münchner are a wealthy lot, jamming the roads with Porsches; it was easy to ring up three or four 911 Turbos an hour. In LA, we see more Ferrari 458s than R8s, even though Ferrari has sold just 171 cars in total in the US this year compared to 422 R8s.

That's another astonishing truth, because the R8 is so, so, so damn good. When we finished in Munich we had to get to Waibstadt for a wedding, and that meant a run over 300 kilometers of Autobahn.

2014 Audi R8 V82014 Audi R8 V82014 Audi R8 V82014 Audi R8 V8

The R8 fastens itself to a derestricted stretch of empty highway in a manner that goes beyond confidence, into certainty.

The mid-mounted V8 is a sweet piece of business, the OED definition of drivability and composure, and the package around it is spooky good at Autobahn speeds. Goad the needle on toward 190 mph and the R8 fastens itself to a derestricted stretch of empty highway in a manner that goes beyond confidence, into certainty. It welcomes fearlessness – not foolishness, mind you – on roads you've never seen before and at speeds you've only dreamed.

We stayed in Heidelberg, meaning we had to make the round trip to and from Waibstadt every day. The bride and groom had their true love, we had our 42-kilometer commute morning and evening, and we still wouldn't trade one for the other. Once off the highway, rural Germania is cut up by plentiful and sinuous tarmac ribbons begging for summertime blasts between burgs. The R8 isn't as light on its feet as some other highly focused machinery and it's no stranger to understeer if you go looking for it, the counterweight to Quattro being the solid sensations it imparts and its superlative balance on the Autobahn and just such B-roads.

One (more) thing we like about exotic sports cars is the lack of driver assistance systems; they don't want to do much beyond try to keep you from killing yourself, so the R8 is, in the main, nanny-free.

2014 Audi R8 V8

It's so easy to access what the R8 can do (and it can do so much), but it's still missing a few specific bullet points of "Wow."

When finally called to make the 722-km trip to Le Mans, we left Waibstadt on a supernaturally beautiful weekday morning, and whatever German word is the opposite of Autobahn in a nasty traffic jam around Saarbrucken. Legendary for unlimited speeds, the vehicular constipation on German highways can be just as extraordinary. At this point it was back to R8 as... please don't take this the wrong way... a regular Audi. Like the aforementioned Porsche and Aston Martin, you could live in it all day, but the aging Audi cabin arguably isn't as special the other two, certainly not the Aston Martin.

Not long after being set free from the mess around Saarbrucken we hit the French border, where maximum speed limits encouraged the use of cruise control and a return to the R8's Clark Kent mode. We tried to figure out what this car is during this last leg into Le Mans – it's clinical in many ways, yet it's impossible not to notice. Even so, once you close your eyes, there's almost nothing visceral about it. It performs beyond its price, and it's got the interesting dichotomy of being short on space yet otherwise easily livable on a daily basis. We occasionally wished the new S-Tronic transmission had reflexes that were quicker still, but thankfully its steering is gorgeous. It's so easy to access what the R8 can do (and it can do so much), but it's still missing a few specific bullet points of "Wow." Perhaps that's what the V10 model is for.

Taken in total, it is a conundrum that from now on we will always enjoy revisiting and pondering anew from behind its flat-bottomed steering wheel. No matter what else we might want from it, what we definitely get is a coupe that is so, so good.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 57 Comments
      h-man
      • 4 Months Ago

      Why not tell us the as tested price?

        h-man
        • 4 Months Ago
        @h-man

        Based on the pictures I built a similar model as above for $141,300, which was only adding the options I could see.

      ferps
      • 4 Months Ago
      For two cars from the same parent company that don't share any parts, the R8 V8 and Carrera 4S are remarkably similar in price and performance. I think choosing one over the other would come down to personal style: do you want the classic looks of the Porsche or the modern style of the Audi?
      James Dailey
      • 4 Months Ago

      "we saw two R8s, one less than the number of C5 Corvette coupes"

      One *fewer*.  Less water, fewer liters of water.  Less is for things that aren't countable.  Fewer is for things that are countable.  Pretty basic, Autoblog.

      AlfieR
      • 4 Months Ago

      It still looks like nothing on the road, i love it, this war makes me wanna be rich

      Lachmund
      • 4 Months Ago

      I still adore this car but to me the V8 before the facelift is still the best looking of them all.

      Bandit5317
      • 4 Months Ago

      Why doesn't  the Corvette or GTR ever get thrown into these comparisons? Because they aren't European? They're both as fast or faster, can still be comfortable on the highway, and are much less expensive.

      Jay
      • 4 Months Ago

      Audi's 4.2l V8 is such a great engine. I really miss it in the RS4 I sold. I just wish the used R8's would come down in price. 

        libertedelacroix
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Jay

        I used to work at a motorsports shop that specialized in Audi tuning... those V8s were headaches in terms of carbon buildup (some in little as 20,000 miles were caked)

        Matt
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Jay

        I'm glad Audi said they plan keeping this naturally aspirated engine around, but the looking at where this engine has been since 2006 to where Ferrari's V8 is now...it'd be nice to see further development.  Although once the 458 goes biturbo, this will be the last high revving NA V8.

      johnnyhedwardsjr
      • 4 Months Ago

      Now that a well specced 991 911 C4S costs around $120,000 this car is a much better deal than it was back in 2008 when the 997.1 C4S was selling for $95,000 and an R8 was selling for $128,000.  Now they are basically neck and neck in price AND performance.  



        Lab Rat
        • 4 Months Ago
        @johnnyhedwardsjr

        How do you figure? The 911 is a stones throw away from the R8 in power, and has about 10 more ft-lb of torque. I'd say the interiors are a wash, and the Carrera weighs 530lbs less (3050 vs. 3583), so its going to be easier and more fun to toss around. With a 250 lb driver in each, you're pushing 4000lbs in the Audi!

        The 911 still wins out. I'd wager on the 911 for a time attack challenge on just about any track with more than 2 turns. I can't *wait* to see the head to heads for these two.

          johnnyhedwardsjr
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Lab Rat

          Lab Rat, if you reread my comment, I'm not saying that the R8 is "better" than the 911, I'm saying that it's a better deal today (2014) than in was way back in 2008 when it was first introduced.  Back in 2008 the base price was $114,900 and today it's $117,150.  Now that Porsche has raised their prices by around $20,000 since 2008 across the board things have changed.  When I purchased my 911 back in 2008 the R8 was in another category.  At $125,000 out the door it was not in the running with a $95,000 car.  But now, they are basically neck and neck price and performance wise.  Yes, the 911 still wins out, however, unless you're going to track these cars, the R8 wins on exotic looks.  

      v6sonoma
      • 4 Months Ago

      I'm surprised it's performance isn't greater. It's about as fast as a V8 Camaro or Mustang. I guess the rest of the money goes towards the posh and exclusivity. I'd say pay the difference for the V10. If you can afford this you can probably afford that.

        Lachmund
        • 4 Months Ago
        @v6sonoma

        You measure "fast" only in a straight line it seems.

      SloopJohnB
      • 4 Months Ago

      Hennesey supercharged makes a wicked difference.

      mikeybyte1
      • 4 Months Ago

      Agreed on the looks - it is attention getting if not beautiful like an Aston Martin. I think it will age well. I had never noticed the huge overhang ahead of the front wheels, however. IMO, the R8 is the supercar for those that don't want to drive a supercar - thus the "makes a great daily driver" comment that you made.

      Zeta
      • 4 Months Ago

      The r8 was good a couple of years back. Not so sure where it would stand anymore. It's is all looks alone, the i8 seems like such a better deal.

        superchan7
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Zeta

        The i8 would be a great performer until the quarter mile mark passes.  Its top end should be greatly limited by both being turbocharged and by being electric.

        Matt Mossberg
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Zeta

        A few months back I was in an audi showroom woth a few r8s in there and IMO they still look fantastic. Even after all these years they look special 

        Hek!
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Zeta

        The i8 is so fussy though, and still it doesn't have the same kind of menacing presence. 

          Koenigsegg
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Hek!
          How are you interested in some lame inefficient overrated sports car? Nothing better than electric, these gas cars are not even of any interest to me anymore
          i8 over any gas guzzling sports car, except a Tesla
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