Audi R8

Published: 28 September 2006

The lowdown

Audi has unveiled its first mid-engined sports car, the R8. The 420bhp, 4.2-litre V8-powered 911 rival will hit 188mph (or 301kph) and gets to 62mph in 4.6secs. The Lamborghini Gallardo-based supercar will cost an estimated £75,000 when it arrives in the UK in May, with the Audi R Tronic sequential manual costing an extra £5000. The UK will get 350 cars a year, with deposits already taken on the first 550.

Mighty V8 power

The dry-sumped V8 sits low in the middle of the aluminium space frame chassis, producing 316lb ft of torque at 5500rpm and revving to 8250rpm, with peak power at 7600rpm. Front-rear weight distribution is 56/44, with the standard Quattro four-wheel drive system adapted for a mid-mounted engine for the first time. Suspension is by aluminium double wishbones at both ends with a conventional hydraulic steering rack. 18-inch wheels are standard, with 19s as an option.

The inside story

The R8 is 1.25m high and 1.9m across, but relatively short at 4.43m. It has a 100-litre boot in the nose but can accommodate two golf bags behind the seats. The interior features Audi’s MMI multimedia interface system with a 7-inch colour display. Full-race bucket seats are an option, and Audi’s Quattro arm will offer a full personalisation program. Just 15 cars a day, or around 4000 a year, will be built in a special assembly facility at Audi’s Neckarsulm plant.

Ground-breaking options

The R8 will be offered with a series of innovative options. Full LED front lighting will be available from the end of 2007 and is likely to make the R8 the first production car to offer it. The engine bay will also offer LEDs in the engine bay to illuminate the V8, which has been designed to be seen clearly from outside or from inside the cabin. Audi’s magnetic ride system will also be an option, the dampers filled with a magnetorheological fluid whose viscosity can be altered instantly with electromagnets.

R8: The ultimate Audi

Audi is unlikely to make much profit on the R8 but will benefit from the ‘halo’ effect of having a credible mid-engined sports car in its range. Audi chairman Dr Martin Winterkorn described the launch of the R8 as ‘a key moment in the history of Audi’ and said that after record growth the brand wanted ‘to go further and be the leader of the premium sector,” of which a mid-engined sports car was “the ultimate expression”. Audi’s launch event laid its Le Mans credentials on thick. Seven-times winner Tom Kristensen drove the R10 diesel race car in which he won the 24-hour race last year onto the stage; Audi has now won five times, the first four victories with the petrol-powered R8 from which the road car takes its name. Then leathery Belgian Le Mans legend Jacky Ickx drove the production car onto the stage.

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features