2009 Audi R8 | road test

Posted on Apr 22, 2010 by
The R8 boasts looks that turns heads

The R8 boasts looks that turns heads

AT A GLANCE

FOR

  • looks
  • Luxury interior
  • Can be used every day

AGAINST

  • Disappointing gearbox
  • Not exciting enough
  • No standard iPod connectivity

SUMMARY

The R8 is ’s flagship supercar. It boasts dramatic looks but its marque is clearly identifiable thanks to headlights and grille. It has scorching performance and fantastic handling, as well as a beautiful handcrafted interior and a level of practicality that’s rare in cars of this type. Our only reservation is that it’s so well made and refined that the driving experience isn’t quite a visceral as the car’s looks suggest.

Performance out on the open road is hard to fault, but the R8 is pretty good around town too

Performance out on the open road is hard to fault, but the R8 is pretty good around town too

PERFORMANCE

The standard R8 comes with a 4.2-litre V8 engine that puts out 420bhp. It’s very smooth and very refined when at low revs, but it’s capable of savagery, delivering a sharp kick in the back when accelerating hard. It makes the R8 a very quick car. We’ve yet to drive the V10-powered R8 5.2 at the time of writing this, but based on the performance of the V8 version, we expect it to be an absolute monster.

The six-speed automatic gearbox is a bit of a disappointment though. We found it quick to drop down if you drop the right pedal towards the floor, but in automatic mode it seemed to get easily confused. Say you want a quick blast of acceleration to overtake a lorry or to get up to speed when entering a motorway; it drops down but once you lift your foot off again to cruise it takes quite some time to realise that you’re not embarking on a hoon and will linger in a high gear for longer than is comfortable, engine howling. There are paddle shifts behind the wheel for manual shifts however, and those work quickly and smoothly.

There's no doubting the R8's capability, but it's not as dramatic to drive as it is to look at

There's no doubting the R8's capability, but it's not as dramatic to drive as it is to look at

HANDLING AND RIDE

The R8 is fairly easy to drive around town although it requires a sensitive right foot because of the response on the accelerator. The turning circle isn’t small but it’s not too large and the car is easy to manoeuvre. Our test car had a reversing camera fitted (a 6,400AED option), which made parking easy.

Take it out into more dynamic roads however, and the R8 comes into its own. It’s a very quick, very polished sports car and requires a deft touch, although the various electronic reins such as traction control and electronic stability control do a good job of keeping the power under control without overly blunting the driving experience. A low stance and the quattro four-wheel drive system make the car very stable even at high speeds and it holds on beautifully around corners.

The suspension has a sports mode that really stiffens up the dampers. Don’t use it on uneven ground, as it quickly becomes bone jarring. On smooth tarmac however, it shows the R8’s sporting potential off beautifully.

The R8's interior is sumptuous, with lashings of leather and lots of carbon fibre

The R8's interior is sumptuous, with lashings of leather and lots of carbon fibre

COMFORT

The handcrafted interior of the R8 is impressively luxurious. Leather abounds; the doors, dash, seats, centre console are swathed in the stuff, while big swoops of carbon fibre arc around the instrument panel and the cockpit.

The seats are very comfortable and supportive and the driving position is just right. The wheel sits in your hand very comfortably and the pedals are perfectly aligned – something that’s not always the case in supercars. Everything is refined and immaculately screwed together; it’s every inch the prestige and premium product.

You can hear the engine whirring away behind your head but this is no Lamborghini, which will deafen you at full chat. You get a growl when you open the throttle up, but it’s not intrusive – this is an Audi after all, and one expects a certain level of understatement from the German brand. It’s perfectly possible to bat along at highly illegal speeds and still remain fairly insulated from the outside world.

Unlike a lot of its exotic rivals, the R8 is not exhausting or difficult to drive. We’d be more than happy using this as our every day transport.

However, there is a flipside to this. If we had any niggles with the R8’s performance, it would be that Audi’s inherent restraint and refinement makes the driving experience slightly less dramatic than the looks promise – it’s almost like the insulation removes you slightly from the action. Many will view this as a plus and don’t get us wrong, it’s an excellent car to drive, but we were hoping for just a fraction more excitement.

No space for luggage in the back - it's all filled up with engine

No space for luggage in the back - it's all filled up with engine

PRACTICALITY

It seems churlish to talk about practicality in a performance-orientated supercar like the R8, but here goes. It’s a strict two seater – there are no micro back seats here although there is a bit of space for shopping bags instead. Leave the suitcases at home though – with the mid-mounted engine, extra luggage space is restricted to a 100-litre compartment under the bonnet into which you’ll fit a couple of holdalls.

For a regular car, the practicality score would be low, but for a supercar, the features on the R8 are actually pretty impressive.

FEATURES

Although the R8 is a performance car, a decent amount of luxury is included. Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloys, cruise control and Audi’s MMI system, which includes satellite navigation and a music system connected to a 12-speaker set up. Bluetooth phone connectivity and a CD changer are also standard, but iPod connectivity is a 1,100AED option – a shame when you’re already paying several hundred thousand dirhams for the car.

The standard leather-covered seats can be replaces with Audi Exclusive bucket seats for 14,200AED. Magnetic suspension is a 7,800AED option, while for 6,000AED you can upgrade the sound system to a Bang & Olufsen affair. A carbon effect on the car’s signature side blade is 7,900AED.

One of the coolest features on the R8 is the simplest – a glass window above the tailgate that displays the engine beneath. Opt for the 12,400AED optional carbon engine cover, and LEDs will light it up at night to show off the power.

It would be quite easy to spend a lot speccing up your R8 – we had a play with Audi Middle East’s online configurator and added 98,000AED of options.

No space for luggage in the back - it's all filled up with engine

No space for luggage in the back - it's all filled up with engine

SAFETY

Standard safety equipment includes front and side airbags, ABS and electronic stability control, as well as traction control and electronic brakeforce distribution.

No crash test data on the R8 was available at the time of writing.

COSTS

If you’re in the market for a car of this type then it’s likely that costs aren’t high on your list of concerns. At 458,000AED, the R8 compares well against its main rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo, which starts at 488,000AED. However, since the R8 was released, Porsche has upped the power of that car to 500bhp. Audi’s response has been the new R8 V10, which has 530bhp and costs from 490,000AED.

The R8 offers a combined fuel economy of 13.9litre/100km, which gives it a range of around 540km from its 75-litre fuel tank. However, we’re well aware that R8 owners will not drive with economy in mind, so expect to get less than this.

Audi offers a three-year unlimited mileage warranty on the R8. Major services are due every 30,000km and will cost around 4,000AED at the time of writing.

2009

Engine: 4.2-litre V8
Max power (bhp/rpm): 414/7,800
Max torque (Nm/rpm): 130/4,500-6,000
Transmission: Six-speed automatic (six speed manual also available)
Driven wheels: Four-wheel drive
Kerb weight: 1,565kg
Price (AED): 458,000 (425,000 with manual gearbox)

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