AUDI R8, CAN A SUPERCAR BE CONSIDERED UNDERAPPRECIATED? Posted on 15 Apr 10:50
Let's start by stating the Audi R8 has always been a good car. The thing is though, it is seemingly haunted by never being "the best" car. I believe this is largely due to Audi having produced the R8 shortly after the year 2005. That year, 2005, was the start of an era that brought an embarrassment of riches in high performance cars and exotics. The R8 would be released in the shadow of the Bugatti Veyron, which at the time overshadowed anything that hoped to lay claim to being an exotic or super car. If that weren't enough, this was around the time a young upstart company from Sweden called Koenigsegg made a spectacular entry into the super car realm as well. Horacio Pagani had been around for several years at this point, honing his art and crafting the Zonda to its pinnacle, the Zonda F...also in 2005. Porsche had put the finishing touches on it's latest 911 turbo, also capable of sub 4 second 0-60mph times and near 200mph top speeds. Ferrari, not to be outdone, released the 599 GTB with it's monstrous V12 heart, the following year, and it was clear to see the arms race was on. In fact, not long after this, even Nissan would join the fray with the newest GT-R, pushing the performance envelope beyond any GT-R before and really any other car before it. The list goes on, and in the ensuing years, there would be more entrants into the exotic segment. Even "lesser" non-exotic cars began pushing the performance envelope into what was once exotic territory. It has left the R8 under appreciated today, instilling an odd automotive version of middle child sydrome. Jalopnik even ran a piece today in their "Nice Price or Crack Pipe" segment, on how inexpensive these late model R8's have become.
The R8 was initially special because it was Audi's first foray into the supercar/exotic arena, and it even played well to the press, getting rave reviews from just about everyone. It was hopeless though, with so many sparkling new toys, making louder noises, flaunting audacious designs, pushing toward more ridiculous speeds; the R8 was a beautifully crafted, hand rolled cuban cigar among a sea of e-cigs and vaping devices. You could have forgiven Audi then for allowing the R8 to quietly fade into the background and ultimately cease production, but they haven't. In fact, here we are nearly ten years later and an ever increasing madness for power, and the R8 is still going. Not only is it still going, up until this year with the release of the new R8, it has done so with relatively modest changes throughout. Clearly, this makes no sense, so many other cars are faster, more exotic, and even less expensive, what is the R8's secret? How has it endured?
It is easy to underestimate or misunderstand the R8. It is not particularly shouty like its Italian cousin Lamborghini, but rather somewhat understated for what it is. Much like the cuban cigar, it is something you must commit some time to, take in slowly, enjoying the moment. The cigar burns slowly, the flavor profile changes as it progresses, you find many little things that feel special within it. Similarly, this is what happens when you spend time with the R8. First off, the engine is behind you, and I defy any car lover to experience that and not feel it special at least a little. The engine makes a wonderful sound as well, especially when uncorked a bit with an aftermarket performance exhaust. This particular R8 was a manual transmission, with a gated shifter, again it catches you by surprise with something inherently special The interior is dutifully well done, it all feels pleasant, solid and easy to use. The clutch is fairly light, just enough resistance to give you feel but not enough to wear out your knee. At low speed it feels as tame and comfy as an Audi sedan, which is quite comfy indeed. You can even see out of it, another special surprise, you would be fooled by appearance into thinking it might be like a tank cockpit, but visibility is better than many even lesser performing coupes on the market. Then there's the driving experience: it is a quick car, others are admittedly quicker, but in practice it is suitably fast. The ease with which the V8 revs and how liesurely it will jaunt from a typical highway speed limit and well into triple digit speeds is intoxicating. It is too easy, you worry about never being able to drive like a normal rational person again. In every aspect it has this ease of use, the all wheel drive taking care of any sloppy missteps, it never feels like it is trying to toss you sideways into a hillside. The numbers be damned, this car just feels brilliant. Perhaps even more important, it feels brilliant in a way that you could use it all the time. To daily drive some of the R8 rivals takes, in some cases, no small amount of compromises to live with. It is a supercar that, dare I say it, seems quite practical.
Finally, there is the looks. When it first released, it smoldered with "cool", even Iron Man/Tony Stark wanted one. It is a subtle beauty that still draws the eye of even the most uninitiated. The styling is nearly ten years old now, and still turns heads. Like an old Porsche 911, Lamborghini Miura, Ford GT40, or Acura NSX, these cars all possess that paradox of looking vintage yet modern simultaneously. I expect this to be the fate of the R8 as well, and having proven to be relatively reliable, I expect it to age quite well indeed. I think I might want one of these, where's that listing Jalopnik posted?.