After years of making high-performance variants of its existing sedans, wagons and convertibles, Audi enters the supercar market with its new R8. The sports car is named after Audi's five-time Le Mans-winning racecar.
Like the Ferrari F430 and Lamborghini Gallardo with which it competes, the R8 has a mid-mounted engine. Featuring a weight-saving aluminum body and Quattro all-wheel drive, Audi says the R8 can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds and has a maximum speed of 185 mph.
The R8 will be priced at $109,000 with a six-speed manual transmission and $118,000 with a six-speed automatic transmission when it arrives in the U.S. in the summer of 2007.
The front end of the R8 is dominated by air intake grates and Audi's trapezoidal grille. LED headlights are optional, and weight distribution is 44/56, front to rear. Distinguishing features include a rear glass canopy that allows bystanders to examine the engine, and "sideblade" air intakes, aft of the doors, that route air to the V-8 engine.
The R8's four-wheel-independent suspension uses standard gas-filled shocks or optional adaptive dampers. Similar to General Motors' Magnetic Ride Control, the Audi Magnetic Ride system can pass an electrical charge through the shocks' fluid to instantly change its damping properties. Two modes — one geared toward performance and the other designed for comfort — are offered.
The rear of the R8 echoes the front with two more large grates in the body. Rectangular LED taillights are standard, and quad exhaust pipes poke through the rear bumper. A power-extendable rear spoiler provides additional downforce at high speeds. Standard wheels measure 18 inches in diameter, but 19-inch wheels are available.
The R8's two-person cabin has standard sport seats covered in leather and Alcantara fabric or full leather. Like the new TT coupe, the R8 has a flat-bottom steering wheel that Audi says makes it easier to get in and out of the driver's seat.
Available features include a Bang & Olufsen audio system, rearview camera backup aid, and a navigation system with Audi's Multi Media Interface system. MMI controls vehicle settings via a knob and buttons on the center of the dashboard. Audi claims there's room for two golf bags behind the rear seats, and the small front trunk measures 3.5 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
The 4.2-liter V-8 engine makes 420 horsepower at 7,800 rpm and 317 pounds-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. The V-8 drives a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional sequential manual transmission. Dubbed R tronic, the sequential manual transmission's gears can be changed by a console lever or paddles on the steering wheel. The transmission also has an automatic mode.
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