I think it’s safe to say everyone loved the R8 right from the day Audi showcased it back in 2006. In its day It was a bit of a game changer, Audi’s first supercar and like so many developments from Audi’s engineers, they slapped everyone else straight in the face as to say “this is how you do it”.
Where did it start and how did I end up here? It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a supercar only die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep through my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars were now being bought at 1:1 scale, it start with a BMW 520i then a HSV GTS, from there I got my first Audi, an S5. From there it was obvious it was getting worse, as my next car was the twin turbo v10 Audi RS6. This disease had finally reached my brain, and it pushed me over the edge. Down the rabbit hole into the world of the bedroom poster I fell. Next stop was the V8 Audi R8.
What Was It Like As A Daily Driver?
Well it was anything but dull that’s for sure, but a very easy car to live with as a daily driver. It was very comfy, so much so on the roads around town and cruising on the motorway, it could quite easily be mistaken, comfort wise, for any of the other regular Audi models. Many people were surprised by how ordinary the drive could sometimes be, I even had a couple of people fall asleep in the car on long trips.
The cabin of the R8 was a very nice place to be, and had the same physical properties as the TARDIS. Leather, soft touch vinyl and carbon fibre where the main ingredients here, neither one more overpowering than the other. The cabin was simple, letting you focus on the experience of the drive and not on the extras the car had. And the list of those was short. When the R8 came out they came with nothing, not even the light to tell you one of your tyres has a puncture. My R8 had Bluetooth, parking sensors (a must), heated seats and the Bang & Olufsen sound system, and when I remember using it, it was amazing. It was surprisingly roomy inside the R8 too, which was due to the long sloping windscreen and dash. When sitting in the driver’s seat I could only just reach all the buttons on the center display, but you never needed that many. The only buttons I needed were the electric window buttons, which in my mind where volume buttons, the more you pressed them down the more sound came in from the 4.2L V8 right behind you. And that sound was intoxicating, to the extent that I would drive with the windows open even in the rain. But this didn’t matter, as the sloping windows paired with the aerodynamics created an air barrier which kept all the rain out as long as you were doing over 60km/h.
There was also a decent amount of storage space, but I use this term loosely and only in regards to supercars. You had a boot in the front which was 70 Litres, and a luggage shelf behind the driver and passenger seats. Nothing crazy but more than enough for the day-to-day stuff. If you did take it away on a long weekend you had to pack using cloth or smaller bags that are all “squashable”, which you had to mould into all the front boot space to make the most of its odd shape and cargo shelf behind the seats. But this is to be expected from such a car, you don’t get it because its a practical family car. The dumbest interior feature was the position of the cup holders, they are where your left elbow needs to be while driving. This made them totally unusable.
Driving the R8 was a different story, and by driving I mean, the spirited driving, it was no doubt a fast car, but you didn’t need to break the speed limit to enjoy it. The happiest moments in this car were when it was on the winding roads. The steering was pin-point accurate, as was the feedback through the wheel. You knew what each of the wheels were doing at any time, the entire car managed to feed a lot of information right to the driver’s seat. The quattro four wheel drive system helps the R8 stick to the corners like glue. You could quite idiotically plant your foot mid corner, which as any Ferrari driver will know is a big no-no, and the quattro system would take care of it. Some would say that there were too many driver aids, and that real men only drive with them all off. Well those people were not paying for this R8, I was. And I wasn’t about to do something foolish like prove to someone that I was a real man by wrapping it around a tree. All of this equipment made the R8 a very easy, enjoyable and safe car to drive. Even in the wet it was a safe as any other Audi model available, which is quite a testament to the design of the car.
This R8 was the automatic R-Tronic model, which in the simplest terms is a manual gearbox that is controlled automatically. So what did this mean? It meant it was more complicated than a regular automatic, which we will come back to later. But it also meant that you got the same feeling as you would from a manual gear shift. In regular mode you would get an above average gear change feeling, and a pretty good gear shift sound. However like most of these cars, you need to press the sport, or as I used to call it, the loud button, which changed the shift response and throttle control. When you shifted gear in sports mode, you had better have your head right back in the seat as it was like being kicked in the back by a horse. Which was awesome. This paired with the roaring engine made some of the most boring motorway on-ramps some of the favourite highpoints of my day. This wouldn’t last long though, as the R8 shot to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds. The R-Tronic also gave you a throttle blip on the down shift, which I will honestly say was used more than required. I could very easily pull up to a traffic light and let the gears down shift when fully stopped, but you didn’t get the blip shift that way. So I took it upon myself to downshift like any “true” enthusiast would as I came up to most traffic lights, windows down of course.
There was also a ride control setting which adjusted the suspension between two preset settings. Normal and Track. These two settings were like night and day, and you knew all too well on the general roads if you had it switched on, as you bounced around in the cabin like a boy-racer on cut shocks. It was very hard, not really meant for the day-to-day stuff, waiting for the time you took it to the track. And the track is the only real place the R8 could come to life, as it was just about the only place you could let the R8’s V8 stretch its legs and let redline at 8000 RPM. Once out there you immediately felt its pedigree, it was born to be on a track. It glided around the track, roaring away with so little effort as the car was so evenly weighted. The reward for getting a corner just right was indescribable.
So Was There A Catch?
It’s not the worlds most practical everyday car by any means, and It definitely wasn’t smooth sailing that’s for sure. The road conditions around NZ were just another level of stress and concentration you had while driving. You have to be scanning the road surface at all times while watching out for everything else that regular drivers do not have to watch out for. This is something stance drivers will already be aware of. The R8 was not super low, but its firm suspension didn’t have a massive amount of travel, so you if you hit a pothole it was going hurt and cost you later in some way or another. Another more important reason you needed to scan the road surface is that there is no spare wheel. You just have the emergency gel pack, which in itself is a game of russian roulette. This was an unfortunate issue after the 2013 Cannonball run, where we woke on a Sunday morning in Auckland to find we had a flat tyre. Our plans to head back to Wellington got slightly delayed, as we could not use the gel pack and expect to travel over 600+ km on it. It’s only meant for short distances at slow speeds. Luckily there was one tyre shop open over the other side of Auckland so we got a tow truck out and carted the R8 over to get the puncture repaired, and eventually set off 6 hours after we had planned too.
The brakes, like any other light high-performance car had their own issues, for instance if someone ahead of you jumps on the brakes, you naturally jump on the brakes too. But instead of looking ahead of what you might hit, you spend the majority of your time checking the rear view mirror to make sure the car behind you has seen your brakes, and if they have enough room to stop, as the R8 could stop in an amazingly short distance. The brakes were very impressive, but if not driven hard from time to time you tended to get heavy build up on the pads which caused a horrific brake squeally noise. This happened every 3 – 4 months from daily driving. Usually the fix for this was to get the pads ground down and rotors cleaned off.
The biggest issues I had with the R8 was the R-Tronic gearbox, I never found out what caused all the issues in the end, and I am not even sure if the workshop knew what caused them either. Sometimes I thought it could have been the regular city driving, as the gearbox was quite a heavy clunky box between 0-20 km/h, but in saying that, this was how it was designed, so you would expect it to be able to handle that sort of daily stuff. Other times I thought it was something I was doing, but the technicians could never nail down anything or any aspect that affected it. The R8 went through four gearboxes in the space of a eight months. Not something I had ever expected to have to do and something I hope I never had to go through again. Each time a new one went in it was not long after that I would get the same Gearbox Malfunction error which would generally lock up the gearbox, turning the car into an instant paperweight. Not ideal to say the least, and even less ideal when it happens in the middle of a busy intersection during rush hour traffic. Due to the car itself, I think I brought a lot of happiness to other drivers that day as they stopped to take photos of it stuck or being pulled up on to the tow truck. As you can imagine the gearbox issues got annoying very fast. This was made even worse as each gearbox had to come from Germany or Singapore as Audi never seemed to keep anything in stock here in NZ.
Pros and Cons
When I didn’t have any issues, it was great. But it did have quite a few problems. Regardless of those, I did love it. It was joy to drive and made getting out of bed every day a lot easier. The best thing about it was the amazing sound from that V8, some say the V10 sounds better, but I have heard both and the V8 is the one for me. The roar from the high-revving V8 made the stress from the worst of days just melt away. It’s a great sports car for taller people too, one of the few possible every day performance cars that I could fit into very easily. No matter if you are stuck in traffic in town or just cusing on the motorway it’s always a pleasure to drive and you know you are cruising in something pretty special. And to answer the final question, would I get another one?…….. Oh Yes!….. but I would make damn sure it’s not an R-Tronic version and would think twice about who looks after it if anything went wrong.
Rating – Chevron rating 4 out of 5
Audi R8 V8
|Vehicle Type||Mid Engine, quattro AWD, 2 Door Luxury Sports Car|
|Engine||4.2L FSI DOHC 32-valve, 309 kw / 414 hp, 430 Nm|
|Transmission||6 Speed R-Tronic|
|0 – 100 kph||4.6 seconds|
|Kerb Weight||1565 kg|
|Length x Width x Height||4431 x 1904 x 1252 mm|
|Cargo Capacity||100 Litres|
|Fuel Tank||70 litres|
|Fuel||Combined 14.2 L/100km, 148 g/km CO2|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||N/A|