Like most, I fantasize about what I would buy if I ever won the lottery. Unlike most, I wouldn’t settle for four or five supercars and a massive luxury SUV. No, I’d own a few dozen oldies and classics, but not the likes of a ’53 Corvette or a ’64 ½ Mustang. I would, however, purchase an Audi R8 and it would look a hell of a lot like the one in the gallery.
Being a thousandaire a few times over myself (I know, I shouldn’t brag), I’m already on my way to building my collection of relics, but the R8 is likely to elude me for the remainder of my life given its base price of $134,800. The good part of this mediocre intro is that I’ve driven the Audi R8 no fewer than six times over the years (including a few track experiences) so I know it deserves that coveted spot in my garage.
Why the R8? Although “old” in terms of automotive years, the R8’s design transcends the styling debate. Look at it for Chr*st’s sake! The Audi R8 is sincerely a better drive than its looks would lead you to believe. No word of a lie.
The 2015 Audi R8 is an exotic car in every respect and the more basic the drivetrain, the better it is.
V8, V8, V8
Ah yes, the V8, that glorious normally aspirated, high-revving 4.2L V8. On paper, its 430 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque are unimpressive. That M3 I keep harping on puts out 425 and 406 respectively -- but the numbers are barely half the story.
The sheer maniacal metal militia-ness of the 32 valves, four camshafts, eight pistons, and con-rods is furiously intoxicating. A cold start in the morning will crack a smile on anyone’s face as the promise of good times at the wheel of the R8 are only moments away.
6-speed, 6-speed, 6-speed
Sliding the 6-speed manual ‘box’s gear lever into 1st is special, and different. You’ll have a hard time resisting the urge to do it over and over again. Although the throws may be long, this manual transmission is one of the most entertaining to use in the car world.
Once off the heavy but user-friendly clutch, the consequence of precise and perfect German engineering is at your command. Speed is a given at part throttle, massive amounts are the result of a little more go-pedal prodding. The velocity at which revs climb is surprising and requires a keen spirit and shifty hands, always at the ready to pull the lever through the next gate chicane and into the next gear.
The sound and the car feel so right. The melody emanates from behind the cabin and envelops the occupants. It’s quite an experience. Properly holding its passengers, the supportive seats are a blessing and make long trips a breeze. The dashboard is dated but functionality and quality remain high.
911 ride, Lamborghini style
The 2015 Audi R8 is a stunner, a head turner, and this is especially true when draped in Nardo Grey adorned by Carbon Sigma Sideblades. With the 19" five twin-spoke titanium wheels, the R8 is more exotic than the 911, and as exclusive as the recently replaced Gallardo.
Audi engineers managed to make the R8 drive nearly as comfortably as the majority of the four ring’s lineup. My week with the R8 coincided with Miranda’s week with a 911 C4 Targa (tough life, I know). I took the Targa for a quick spin and immediately felt as though I was driving a bus -- more specifically, as if I was sitting on the wheels and not between them, as in the R8.
Despite this driving “position,” the R8 is poised. Over my weeklong test, I put 1,200 km on the car’s odometre while it covered various road surfaces at varying speeds. One road trip took us to the townships and a city known for its very poor roads; the R8 kept us at ease.
The all-around double wishbone suspension is designed for maximum grip, and grip the car does. Only under medium to hard acceleration and while the wheel is turned slightly does the R8’s front end lose some of its coveted planted behaviour. In fact, the front rubbers never leave the road’s surface, but the weight’s transfer towards the rear somewhat damped the driver’s feeling of confidence.
The hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion steering is not the best I’ve experienced, but precision and weight are good. The car’s brakes are immensely powerful, almost grabby at the top of the middle pedal’s travel.
Once acclimatized, the 2015 Audi R8 will tackle all plains, all conditions, and nearly any speed. The Quattro AWD system with viscous coupling is rear-wheel biased for the most dynamic of driving experiences. Torque split is of 15:85 (front:rear) in normal conditions, but when the going gets a little tougher, up to 30% of available power can be routed to the front.
Warm spot available
All in all, this car is a surprisingly good drive with the Porsche 911’s ease-of-use and the Lamborghini Gallardo’s exotic flare.
The as-tested price of my R8 was $162,450 and that’s without a rearview camera and a few other items that are easily available in cars costing roughly 140,000 fewer dollars. But I’d still have one -- this exact one, in fact.
A number of weeks after my time in this car, we were reintroduced at the Circuit Mont Tremblant along with one of its sisters, a 2015 V10 with S tronic.
Between the two R8s, I’d still take the V8 6-speed home.