2009 Audi R8 | road test

Posted on Jan 20, 2009 by

Action!

Such a stunning supercar deserves a stunning location, and we have just that. This end-of-2008, full-range Audi test-drive-day is set to the winding and weaving, ducking and diving, mountain roads of Oman… and what roads they are. Steep climbs and deep descents, hard hairpins and fast sweeping bends, all connected by quick and clear straights of perfect tarmac.

AutoMiddleEast.com is in this driving heaven to get behind the wheel of as many models in Audi’s Middle Eastern range as time will allow. If you’re considering buying a new Audi, or you’re simply just a fan of the famous German brand, come with us as we go hard and fast in some the quickest and most luxurious Audis for the ultimate back-to-back comparison

Well, you’ve probably guessed by now that the R8 is, quite correctly, awarded the accolade of the fastest car in the Audi line-up… it’s a rocket, all right! If your view of V8 engines is based on the ‘there’s no substitute for cubes’, lazy American ‘big block’ philosophy, then, when it comes to the R8 power-plant, you’d better think again. This V8 engine utilizes the very latest in Audi’s FSI technology; basically a highly accurate engine management and injection system that really maximises engine performance, to churn out an impressive 420bhp from ‘just’ 4.2, high-revving litres – enough ‘techno grunt’ to punch this curvaceous coupe from zero to 100kph in a mere 4.6-seconds, and onto 301kph.

Nestling right in the heart of the light and stiff aluminium and magnesium chassis, the all aluminium V8 brings the power without adding too much weight. Couple this low and central weight distribution with the advanced 4WD system and Audi’s millisecond-adjusting ‘magnetic ride’ suspension, and we should be looking forward to the ride of our lives. And as the race ready V8 barks into life, I most certainly am.

As I ease the R8 out of its pride-of-place parking spot in front of our 5-star hotel it immediately reminds me of its potentially potent performance. The marble surface of the courtyard is very slippery and as soon as I add a little gas to my steering lock, the R8 spits its rear wheels sideways. An alarming start to any test drive! But, it’s not quite as scary as it sounds; the electronic aids are all active and the car quickly controls itself, as at the same time I take off the power and steer into the drift a little. Still, it puts me firmly on my toes for the drive to come – this is a beautiful and expensive car and I suspect that these massive mountains would not make the most forgiving crash barriers.

We’re driving the ‘R tronic’ fully automatic R8 today and some of the other journalists complain that the gear-swapping duties must be manually controlled to get the most out of the car. But, with nearly all R8s coming to the UAE with robotic assistance installed, it seems pointless the drive the manual. So, I let the onboard computer control my forward destiny as I plant my foot firmly to the floor.

On these dry, but sometimes dusty roads, the grip is simply glued, with no hints of the ‘loose tyres’ I experienced on the marble, at least on the straight. With my foot floored the gear shifting comes fast and hard, very hard. The computer keeps the power flowing at full force for maximum acceleration, so each cog hits home with a slam sent through the transmission and a shudder sent down your spine. There is the option to use the steering wheel shift levers, but it’s so much fun to simply ‘point and shoot’ the R8 that I think I’d keep my finger tipping reserved for the racetrack.

 

 

That demonic V8 engine thrashes, barks and howls behind me as the speedo needle relentlessly rises. With less powerful sports cars the acceleration tends to tail-off as the engine has the work harder against the taller ratios, but thanks to 430Nm of torque and a well-matched, close ratio 6-speed gearbox, the R8 will not stop the maximum attack until you run out of road, or more likely, run out of bravado.

It was very difficult to resist enjoying this wild ride again and again… so, I didn’t! Every time my stretch of mountain road was clear I would pull the R8 to a stop, check all directions, and then stamp on the gas. Full power ‘racing starts’ and top-speed-chasing in the R8 can only be described as amazing – a real life simulation of the maddest, fastest computer game you’ve ever played.

After my impromptu drift session outside the hotel I take my time to build up the faster corner speeds; there is no run-off, only mountainside or steep drops, and I know what a bad combination sand and tarmac can be. As I push the R8 it’s reassuring to find out that the handling characteristics remain constant; good grip and fine balance that gently turns into a little rear end over steer, again until reined-in by the electronic aids and the driver. I suspect that the R8 could be quite a bit of tail-happy fun with all the gizmos gone, but again, I’m reserving the tyre smoking stuff for the track.

The ride is firm, and that’s just how I like it. This is a supercar so don’t expect your backside to be wrapped-up in cotton wool, but this is also an Audi, so expect everyday usability and enough suspension adjustment and engineering finesse to cover all but the most potted of roads with decent levels of comfort and quiet. I’m a glutton for the hard stuff, so I kept the suspension set to ‘firm’, relishing every moment of my time in this stiff, sharp and responsive sports car.

Our bright white test drive R8 gets a warm welcome from the locals in the rare moments that my speed dips low enough for them to see me. Sure, its been around for a while now, but the R8 still looks great – not as in your face as a Ferrari and not as Batman as a Lamborghini, but instead showing-off an understated, cutting-edge look of ultra modernity. You can tell it’s an ‘uber-engineered’ German supercar, but that’s OK because the Germans ‘do engineering’ very well. Cars, especially at this price, will always be a matter of personal taste, but for me, the R8 is just one of those designs that works; it’s a beautiful blend of technology, engineering and hard-edged aggression.

Similar themes are followed inside too, with an interior that gently entertains and impresses you, rather than slapping you in the face with lurid colours and over-detailed materials and finishes. Audi are really on the ball with their interiors right now and the R8 is no exception. I had a little difficulty tearing my eyes away from the quickly blurring scenery whilst driving, but even without pawing over every inch of the interior I was left with an overall impression of quality and comfort, especially from the gorgeous seating. Apparently the Bose stereo system is awesome, but I didn’t even turn it on. Instead I just turned that V8 soundtrack up to the max!

 

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