The Audi R8 reminds me of a car I dug up in a friend’s garden as a small boy. It was a bright orange Corvette, with that typical sports car rear that smoothly angles down at about 40 degrees. It’s a shape that I still find so aesthetically pleasing on the eye. It was in an age when all the cars that I saw on the street were square and box-like, so the huge expanse of rear glass was completely alien to this small child busy digging a road system into the garden with his friend for our toy cars to whiz around.
The Audi R8 is a 2-seater, mid-engined sports car designed & built by quattro GmbH, the subsidiary company of Audi, and manufactured in Germany at Neckarsulm. Let’s take a look back at the impact the R8 has made so far.
The Audi R8 name came predominantly from the race car that emerged in 2000, but it was 5 years later in 2005 that Audi made the announcement that they would be using the R8 name as the moniker for a new road legal sports car. The R8 was in fact based on the Le Mans quattro (the all-lower case ‘quattro’ is supposedly a kind of homage to the original Audi Quattro) – a concept vehicle from 2003. Like the Le Mans, the Audi R8 has a predominantly aluminium body and is based on the Lamborghini Gallardo’s platform using the Audi Space Frame.
On 30 September 2006, the Audi R8 was officially launched at the Paris Motor Show to very approving eyes. The crucial thing that the R8 had going for it, and has still got going for it, is the general consensus of opinion that Audi have struck gold with the R8’s handling.
Ah, handling, the black art of making a car ride and corner perfectly while still maintaining a level of comfort that doesn’t have you swerving around every small pot hole on the road. And for anyone that has tampered with the ride height of their own car, you will know what a scientific minefield handling actually is, so when a manufacturer gets it right, a slap on the back is fully deserved.
When the R8 was launched at the Paris show, Jacques Bernard (Jacky) Ickzx described the car as the best handling road car available. Not bad coming from a man that has achieved 25 Formula One podium finishes in his accomplished career. Auto Trader also named the R8 as their Best Handling Car in 2007.
The R8 GT is a version more geared towards the track that R8 devotees had been pleading for since the car originally burst onto the scene. Sometimes pushing the boundaries of what is expected from a car can deliver great results that will trickle down the line in the future, and the GT is no exception.
The Audi R8 GT has a whopping 552bhp under its bonnet emanating from a 5.5 litre V10 engine. This R8 has been on a subtle diet and lowering programme which gives it an extra 60-odd bhp per tone over its more regular R8 counterpart. Audi say that the GT has a stiffer chassis, which gives you peace of mind as you race from zero to 62mph in just 3.6 seconds.
Priced at a pretty staggering £141,000 for the 199mph beast might seem overkill, but only 33 were stamped up for the UK. For purists only maybe, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t admire the level of detail that his gone into this automobile, and marvel at the excitement that it can generate.
With the introduction of the Audi R8 Spyder, the overwhelming thought might have been that this car didn’t actually need much of an overhaul, with that classic shape still bearing up to comparisons with my found toy from the 1970s.
But Audi have been clever, having launched the vehicle as a driver’s car with minimal comforts and extras, it has left Audi with a fair bit of room for manoeuvre. Clever hey?
But wait, that might well be doing Audi a bit of a disservice in all honesty, for a main talking point of the Spyder is the availability of an S Tronic gear box. The twin clutch transmission has been fine-tuned to cope with the R8’s power, and judging from the reviews, it seems that Audi have got it pretty much spot on again.
The power plant still remains the same though with 424bhp and a 4.2 litre V8 engine. Wisely, it seems that the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it adage has been adhered to with the soft-top Audi R8 Spyder.
More changes are strongly rumoured for the R8 line in 2014, and I would hope that Audi will remain clever with their flagship sports car and just apply some minor changes that will keep the pot bubbling away nicely.