• Image Credit: Steve Siler

If owning a Lamborghini comes with certain privileges - lustful stares from 12-year-olds, guaranteed VIP valet treatment, and copious offers for short-term sexual relationships - then what privileges does owning Lamborghini, as in the company, bring? You're looking at one of them: The spectacular 2014 Audi R8.

For those of you who didn't know, the same company that owns Audi also owns Lamborghini. Among the many benefits from owning an Italian supercar company is the ability to pilfer through its playpen and select toys from which you can build your own supercar. In the case of the R8, Audi takes much of the great stuff Lamborghini uses in its epic Gallardo model - a.k.a. the LP570-4 - fits a curvalicious body and a lovingly crafted, Audi-grade interior, and offers it with a trio of powerful engines, one of which is shared with the splendid Gallardo itself.

Car enthusiasts have understood all of that since the R8 first blew onto the scene in 2008, and became more widely known when it became the ride of choice for Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man. We tested it once ourselves back at its launch, and found but one major flaw, the lousy R-Tronic automatic transmission, which Audi has now corrected with its astounding S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission (incidentally, the traditional 6-speed manual was always great).

There's more to the 2014 R8 than its looks, and to find out exactly what we liked best (and least), read on.


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  • Image Credit: Steve Siler
Sticker price: $119,150 to $174,795
Invoice price: NA

Engine: 4.2-liter V-8 (R8 V-8); 5.2-liter V-10 (R8 V-10, R8 V-10 Plus)

Transmission: 6-speed manual; 7-speed dual-clutch manual/automatic combo

Performance: 420 horsepower, 317 pound-feet of torque, 0-60 in 4.2-4.6 seconds (R8 V8 models); 525-550 horsepower, 391-398 pound-feet of torque, 0-60 in 3.3-4.0 seconds (R8 V10 models)

Fuel economy: 14 mpg city, 23 mpg highway (V-8)

Seating: 2 people

Cargo: 3.5 cubic feet in trunk

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Exterior Design
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Exterior Design

Oh, where to begin when taking in the impossibly gorgeous R8? Let's start with the big stuff. The R8 takes a true supercar stance, thanks to its engine being behind the driver and the rear wheels being pushed way back to the end of the car. But there are few supercar styling clichés on the R8 such that we've seen over and over again on Ferraris and Lamborghinis like big wings, weird doors, and the like. The roof, for example, is a simple round dome, affording occupants great headroom inside. Spyder models offer infinite headroom, at least with the top down, which is exactly how we left it most of the time we spent in the examples Audi brought for us to drive on its 2014 model preview in Malibu, Calif.

Particularly distinctive are the R8 coupe's side "blades," which call attention to the mid-engine air intake and are almost always ordered in a contrasting color. For even spendier types, lustrous carbon fiber is available as an option. Spyders, unfortunately, do not get the side blades, though they make up for it with cool silver louvers that stretch back over the engine cover from the headrests.

Changes for 2014 include new, all-LED headlights that feature more geometric detailing than before, as well as new taillamps with LED light piping around the edges. All models get the same number of louvers in the front and rear air vents, and all feature the same big fat round tailpipes, versus different designs for V-8 and V-10-powered models in years prior. Also new are the outside mirrors, which are now flat on the top.


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Interior
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Interior

Being an Audi, the R8 is blessed with an interior that is both sensible and luxurious, with no conspicuous flaws. Ergonomic challenges? You can leave those for Ferrari and Aston Martin. Awkward entry and exits? You can keep it, Gullwing Benz. This is a true everyday supercar.

For 2014, the R8 gains some more aluminum trim bits and contrast-stitched leather padding - over the center console and center stack controls, for example - over which you and your passenger can rub your hands when you're not holding on for dear life. Also new this year is a stunning, diamond-pattern stitched interior that we can't imagine ordering an R8 without. All together, the R8's cabin has a warm, hand-crafted feel that can be attributed to the fact that is, other than in a handful of places, actually hand-crafted.

On the other hand, the R8's cabin is intense. The meaty steering wheel and driver-oriented dashboard make it clear who's the boss, and the aggressively bolstered seats hold you and your passenger in place no matter what crazy things you're doing with the steering wheel. Nary a squeak or rattle is ever apparent, even over the rough roads we traversed in the mountains in Malibu (more on that in a minute).

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Passenger And Cargo Space
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Passenger And Cargo Space

Let's get one thing straight: supercars are not known, nor ever purchased, for their spacious interiors. And that's okay; people this rich have other cars for that.

Likewise, these cars are seldom used for airport runs, so luggage space usually ranks right up there with quietness and subtlety as purchase motivations. Nevertheless, the R8 deserves praise for both aspects. This may not be a tall car, but the domed ceiling provides room for fedoras and big hair, and while you sit down low in those wonderful seats, elbowroom and shoulder room are excellent.

And the front trunk - or "frunk," as some folks may refer to it - is quite deep and can fit, say, a medium-sized suitcase or a couple of duffel bags. Behind the seats in the coupe model is a skinny shelf that can hold a slim briefcase, a purse, or a manbag. Audi makes fitted luggage for this car, and if you're an R8 shopper who has read this far down this particular page, clearly you should get it.

Even if we didn't have said luggage, we could envision a weekend trip happening if we pack light. We could envision a lot of interesting things happening, actually.

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Driving Dynamics
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Driving Dynamics

Without a doubt, the most interesting thing you can ever do in an R8 is drive the thing. Anywhere. Everywhere. This is one of those cars that is scintillating but not punishing, no matter where you drive it or how you drive it. Audi (and Lamborghini, to give credit where it's due) really did their homework when sorting out the mechanicals, yielding astounding thrust and all-wheel grip while affording occupants the benefit of a reasonably comfortable ride.

Braking performance - very important when you drive a car whose top speeds range from 186 to 198 mph - are outstanding with the new "wave" rotor brakes and downright eyeballs-popping-out-of-your-face when equipped the optional carbon ceramic rotors.

And of course, the R8 is ridiculously quick in all of its forms. With 420 horsepower, V-8 models can hit 60 mph in a scant 4.4 seconds with the delightful, aluminum-gated 6-speed manual, or 4.2 seconds with the awesome new 7-speed dual clutch "S-tronic" manual/automatic combo. The 525-horsepower V-10 models do the same trick in 3.8 and 3.4 seconds, respectively. Add 0.2 seconds to those times for the slightly heavier spyder ragtops. Finally, with its 550-horsepower V-10 engine also found in the Lambo Gallardo LP550-2, the R8 V-10 Plus is the quickest of all, hitting 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds for the S-Tronic, 3.7 for the manual. And don't worry about breaking the wheels loose when you get on the gas. The all-wheel drive system ensures that the power goes where it will have the greatest effect, and on the nicely cambered, though really lumpy, ribbons of asphalt north of Malibu, the system's talents were highly appreciated.


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Tech And Infotainment
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Tech And Infotainment

Technological highlights include the 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic, with large manual shift paddles on the steering wheel and "right-now" shift responses. As great as the gated 6-speed manual transmission feels to row through its metal gates, the anticipatory, "let's play!" character that the S-tronic transmission brings with it takes the R8's performance to another level altogether. In sport mode, which raises shift points high up into the rev-o-sphere, you guarantee yourself a predictive, throttle-blipping downshift - "BreeEEEEEeeerrrrr!" is the accompanying sound - as soon as you tap the brakes. Stay on the brakes a little longer and you're rewarded with another one - woo-hoo! S-tronic will always keep the engine in the sweet part of its powerband, expecting you to get right back on the gas soon after you're done slowing down for a curve.

If we had a nit to pick with the otherwise delicious R8, it involves the MMI (Multi-Media Interface) system that feels like it dates back to, well, 2008. And that's because it does. The climate controls also feel a little down-market, looking fine in the $45K Audi TT but a little less impressive in a six-figure automobile. That said, the trio of knobs take up little space in the dash, and as with many cars like this, dashboard real estate is at a premium. So it gets a pass.


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Bottom Line
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Bottom Line

Now here's where the story gets sad, at least for mere mortals like us. While its $115K starting price isn't much more than that of a well-optioned Porsche Carrera, options can easily add $30K-$40K to the price. At least the most expensive model, the $175K V-10 Plus, includes a lot of the priciest of those options, including the carbon ceramic brakes and the various carbon fiber trim packages, not to mention 25 extra horsepower.

That said, considering that you're essentially buying a quarter-million-dollar Lamborghini in an even more dapper wrapper, the R8's price suddenly doesn't seem so ridiculous. Besides, Iron Man couldn't be wrong, could he?

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