Robb Report Car of the Year 2008: Winner Audi R8

  • Gregory Anderson, Paul Dean and Marco R. della Cava

By a Nose.

Not since the 2000 presidential election had a vote been this close. Our weeklong Car of the Year extravaganza concluded without a clear winner; after two straw polls, the sports cars from Audi, Ferrari, and Porsche remained in a dead heat. But after we tallied the ballots, the finishing order—like those of recent Le Mans races—started with Audi. The R8, Audi’s latest entry in the sports car market, represents an amalgamation of racing experience, engineering prowess, and design bravado. More power would not hurt the car, nor would a smoother-shifting automatic transmission. (We tested the 6-speed manual, which is highly recommended over the R tronic automatic.) However, this is a sports car that you could drive comfortably to work every day—taking the long route. Audi may not hold the cachet of Ferrari or Porsche, but give the R8 an empty stretch of tarmac, and it can keep pace with a prancing horse. —Gregory Anderson

 

Purrs and Roars
As evidenced by those monstrous Auto Union V-12 racers that spanked Mercedes in the 1930s and more recently by the monumental diesel-powered R10 TDIs that continue to excel at Le Mans, Audi long has embraced Vorsprung durch Technik, or advancement through technology. With its all-wheel drive, mid-engine V-8, and aluminum and carbon-fiber build, the R8 is a technologically superior supercar that is both kitten and tiger, depending on a driver’s mood. The R8 is balanced better than a Porsche, runs easily alongside higher-horse-powered Ferraris, went to a better finishing school than any Lamborghini, and shows a vital, voracious silhouette—which is a fine interpretation of the snub nose and pollywog tail of those old Auto Union racers. —Paul Dean

 

Ready to Race
This is a car in search of a track. Sure, it will hum along on empty country roads and idle contentedly in traffic, but, with all its midmounted eight cylinders, the R8 screams for off-camber apexes and long straightaways. The car also is exceedingly generous, offering a driver instant competence. Hop behind the race-ready steering wheel, snick the gated lever into first, and suddenly you are a budding Lewis Hamilton, chewing up your favorite twisties. The R8 embodies Audi’s always solid build quality, but the swatches of carbon fiber on each flank interrupt what is an otherwise appealing retro design. Long slung and wonderfully noisy, this car is less suited for a cruise to the country club than for one that leads to nowhere in particular. The Audi TT has been more design triumph than automotive beast; the R8 is both. —Marco R. della Cava

Audi, www.audiusa.com

LAYOUT
Mid-engine, all-wheel drive
ENGINE
4.2-liter V-8
TRANSMISSION
6-speed manual or automated R tronic manual
POWER
420 hp, 317 ft lbs
ZERO-TO-60
4.4 seconds
TOP SPEED
187 mph

BASE PRICE: $112,095
PRICE AS TESTED: $133,045
ROBB REPORT RATING: 100 points

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