Two moments cemented the concept of the unique Audi R8 being cool in my then-20-year-old mind. The primary was when Tony Stark climbed aboard one in the midst of Iron Man, whereas the second concerned a sure chap referred to as Jeremy Clarkson thrashing one at Bruntingthorpe.
One memorable shot from the latter concerned a 997 911 Carrera S executing a lurid powerslide behind the R8 in an try and place the Porsche because the extra thrilling automobile. To me, it didn’t matter. Lengthy earlier than I’d had the prospect to grasp 911s are virtually annoyingly good to drive, they only appeared too apparent. However the Audi? It was totally different. It was new. And candy lord, did it sound good.
Quick ahead 13 and a bit years, and I’m in that very R8 featured on High Gear all these years in the past. It was Audi UK’s unique press automobile, and when the present PR group had been alerted to it arising on the market not too long ago, it was snapped up for the model’s intensive British heritage fleet.
Because the R8’s arrival again in 2007, the efficiency automobile panorama has modified dramatically. The once-impressive-sounding 414bhp output of its 4.2-litre, naturally-aspirated V8 is nowadays bettered by the two.0-litre four-pot within the Mercedes-AMG A45 S – a jumped-up C-segment hatchback, for Pete’s sake.
When it comes to mid-engined supercars, even ‘entry-level’ choices nowadays are likely to develop over 600bhp. The least highly effective new R8 in the meantime, the RWD, is nice for 533bhp. On the time of the unique R8’s launch, the key automobile mags appeared to be pretty break up when it got here to judging the automobile as a correct supercar or a really fancy sports activities automobile.
The V8 R8 skirts the road between the 2 camps, and in doing so, turns into one thing fairly particular. And one thing that’s a much more entertaining on-road driving expertise than any fashionable supercar. There’s a proviso, although – you have to go for the guide.
Audi determined to combine the R8’s futuristic styling with these big sideblades and its fashionable, aluminium-intensive development with one thing completely old-school – a gated guide gearbox. The purpose of those metallic gates was all about holding floppy gear-levers in place, one thing which hasn’t been an issue for many years. On the R8, it’s merely there to look and sound cool.
Sliding behind the wheel and firing up the dry-sumped V8 just a few inches behind my head, the considered having to press down on a clutch pedal and manually interact a cog earlier than setting off simply appears weird. Excessive-power mid-engined automobiles with guide gearboxes simply haven’t been a factor for years – usually, I’d be shifting up with some paddles hanging off the steering wheel.
Just a few miles in, I’m getting used to the gearbox. The throw is slightly longer than anticipated, and a few care is required to fit every ratio in neatly. Lastly, the temperature gauge is the place it must be, and the revs can enhance. Quickly, I’m exploring the highest finish of the V8, which lets out a incredible howl because the needle races to the 8000rpm redline.
As soon as we’ve arrived, there’s a clunk, click on as third gear is engaged, adopted by a growl from the 4.2, which as soon as once more goes on the hunt for top RPM glory. What a mixture of noises. Slowing down once more is simply as dramatic – nailing a heel and toe shift, which is made simple by respectable pedal spacing, is a giddy second of motoring pleasure.
There are higher guide shifts on the market, with shorter throws and extra correct engagement. However you received’t discover many from the final 15 years which might be hooked as much as an engine as memorable as this one. And I couldn’t care much less that the metallic gate is technically pointless – that click on/clack sound is addictive.
The gearing isn’t too ridiculous both, so you’ll be able to having fun with working by way of the cogs with out hitting foolish speeds. A modest (for right now) energy determine of 414bhp helps, too. You possibly can work this automobile arduous on the street in a manner that simply isn’t possible with fashionable supercars.
A 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds may be sizzling hatch territory nowadays, nevertheless it doesn’t inform the total story. The high-revving V8, the gated guide shift, the low-slung nature of the automobile – all of it works collectively to provide a a lot larger impression of pace and drama.
It’s simple to get caught up by the drivetrain, however there’s additionally a superb chassis to again it up. The journey in the usual suspension mode is clean and cozy, settling down properly every time crappy bits of tarmac are tackled. And but, physique roll is minimal.
The R8 has an early model of Audi’s magnetic journey system, however partaking it doesn’t make a lot of a distinction to the automobile’s dynamism. It achieves little greater than making the journey extra uncomfortable and inflicting delicate amusement by means of the exclamation mark within the message ‘Sport Mode On!’ that flashes up on the dot matrix show.
The hydraulic energy steering presents up a small quantity of suggestions and desires slightly extra work than the typical fashionable setup due to a extra leisurely ratio. That’s simply tremendous, notably since your efforts are rewarded by a automobile that’ll fortunately change route in a short time.
Based mostly round a Torsen centre differential, the all-wheel drive system tends to provide off a way of neutrality, sometimes giving a whiff of motion on the rear. In some corners, the R8 can understeer sooner than I’d like, nevertheless it’s a small grievance. Sure, a 911 of the period will really feel sharper, however the R8 will not be as far-off as you may think whereas being succesful regardless of the climate and packing that V8.
Plus, the cabin’s stood the take a look at of time loads higher than the Porsche’s. Certain, the infotainment system immediately dates it, however in any other case, it’s peak Audi cabin design. Minimalist, trendy and nicely constructed, and solely ever so barely let down by the egregious use of local weather controls from an A1. It’s a automobile you would clock many miles in with out interested by it, and when you improve that outdated nav unit for one thing aftermarket with the same old cell syncing stuff, the R8 will probably be as useable as any fashionable supercar.
Regardless of all the above, there are early 4.2-litre R8s on the market for as little as £30,000. A funds of £40,000 can buy you a extremely respectable one, and whereas actually not low-cost to run, they aren’t hellishly costly to maintain going both.
If I had £40,000 spare, I’d have one in a heartbeat. Even when I had much more than that, I nonetheless would. There isn’t a single fashionable supercar I’d personal over one among these. It exhibits that Audi was on to one thing again then, utilizing a automobile with supercar DNA to ship extra sports activities car-like efficiency. However sadly, it’s massive, spectacular stats that are likely to promote these items after they’re new.
As soon as the V10 was launched, patrons flocked to it, neglecting the sweeter V8. The gated guide discovered itself all however deserted, too. Within the final three years of the first-gen R8’s run, 99 per cent of shoppers went for the S Tronic dual-clutch transmission. No surprise Audi ditched it and the V8 for the present technology.
This merely makes the unique 4.2 guide all of the extra interesting. It’s the connoisseur’s selection. The one for individuals who really give a rattling about driving. You possibly can maintain your 0-62mph bragging rights – going slower whereas being noisier is far more enjoyable.