Dec 6 2008 Robin Roberts
Audi R8 4.2 quattro
IN what is not much more than a piston-stroke in automotive history, the Audi R8 has shouldered its way into the ranks of the most desirable sports cars.
Audi emulated its rivals and accrued experience on the world's race tracks, honed its four-wheel-drive technology on international rallies and has delivered a supercar in which you could slip to the shops or school.
This everyday exotic is a very rare car indeed because it simply does everything so well and nothing badly.
It is designed and assembled like a racer with a dedicated team of builders picking only the finest components to create the car which is not only a halo for Audi but a hell of a rival for competitors.
There is only one model, but you get the choice of manual or automatic transmission and a range of additional equipment which has seen the average cheque written out for an Audi R8 to be closer to £90,000 than £80,000. But what's £10,000 between you and your bank manager or satisfaction and sublime sophistication?
The powertrain is a familiar package to any Audi owner and will become something Porsche drivers will experience next year as the company adopts it, and it's a very refined combination.
The engine delivers enormous pulling power over a wide power range and shows no sign or sound of stress but simply pushes out what ever is desired.
Under the hand is a slightly heavy but very positive gearchange and a box of cogs which give time-crunching acceleration and utterly relaxed motorway cruising when the engine is barely turning over as it whisks you along at the legal maximum.
You are reassured there is another 110mph to go before it reaches its maximum.
With so much in reserve, you know you are in safe hands in terms of performance but it is off the ruler straight roads that the Audi R8 excels.
At the launch of the car I was able to test it over some incredible sweeping country roads in France and I could not wait to get it onto my favourite roads in Wales which I know better and which allow me to concentrate on the car and not unknown hazards.
Hazards are there but I am more familiar with them and the Audi brushes them aside with complete composure and utter safety.
The Audi R8 is a very complete package, a cosy package which delivers enormously sharp responses, adhesive grip and brakes so powerful you can watch your tongue fly out of your mouth as you utter an expletive when you hit the middle pedal.
Roll up your tongue and you find yourself gabbling away to anyone who does not mind listening about the experience in the driver's seat.
A strict two-seater, access is surprisingly easy and once inside the room is very generous while it is very good at locating occupants and the ride is surprisingly smooth for a sports car. Seat adjustment is also plentiful and the visibility is surprisingly good all round.
Oddments are well provided for and the boot in front will hold a soft bag, but not much more. Secondary controls are straightforward and well placed along with the simple clear instruments.
It is not a lavishly equipped interior and some features you may expect to be standard are options, hence the higher average price paid for each one sold, but it does mean the residual value is very good as a result.
Not that you would want to get rid of it anyway, but its heartening to know the Audi R8 is a car you will enjoy buying, driving and then replacing, probably with another R8.
Personally speaking, the Audi R8 is a stunning looking car which is closest to the cheaper Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche models, but its everyday usability is truly comparable to the Stuttgart supercars.
I have always been a firm fan of Porsche but I feel the Audi R8 has the measure of its rivals and its rarity gives it an edge which provides the bottom-line clincher.
Audi R8 4.2 quattro
Price : £79,075
Mechanical : 420ps, 4,163cc, 8cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6spd manual gearbox
Max speed : 187mph
0-62mph : 4.6 secs
Combined mpg : 19.3
Insurance group : 20
C02 emissions : 349g/km
BiK rating : 35%
Warranty : 3yrs/ 60,000 miles, 3yrs paint, 12yrs anti-rust