The world has seen a few game changers in its brief history: David’s sling, Julius Caesar’s betrayal, Hilter’s alleged opioid addiction, Nutella, and the 1st generation Audi R8.
Being a car blog, we’re largely here to talk about that last one.
The History of the Audi R8
Stemming from the LeManns concept car built in 2003, the R8 was built – and billed – as a daily driver mid-engine supercar. Fulfilling the niche of the premium sports car/entry level supercar, the R8 was released to the public with an engine borrowed from the RS4. It also had the choice of a six speed manual or the automatic transmission taken from the Lamborghini Gallardo, optional magnetic adjustable suspension and all wheel drive. Audi was hungry for the premium sport coupe market crown at the time held by Porsche’s 997.
Two years later, Audi stuffed the Gallardo’s V10 into this beauty while keeping the optional manual transmission. Good for 525hp and 395ft-lb, the 5.2L V10 adds 105 horsepower and 74lb-ft and only increases weight by about 70 pounds.
Driving the Audi R8
Taking a 2012 R8 V10 convertible with a manual transmission up and down parts of San Francisco and highway 101, we can fully recommend the car.
Mated with an excellent six speed gated manual, the clutch feels light, though a bit challenging to predict uptake, (we were told the clutch was due for replacement after the drive). Rowing your own gears hasn’t quite felt this good. With seemingly unlimited power even in 6th gear, lane changes and passing are incredibly quick. It may be worth having a good lawyer on retainer.
With the top down on a deserted highway section on highway 1, we took the car to 135mph. Wind and road noise are minimal even at this speed. The exhaust note is roaring gloriously and may even take the exhaust note crown from our recently tested 2010 C63 AMG. Fun fact: the Tom Lantos tunnels near Pacifica, CA, allow you to witness the R8 exhaust note magic for nearly a mile.
We took the Audi R8 to a few twisty back roads in Marin County. The road was perfectly communicated through the steering, there was no hint of body roll – particularly after pushing the sport suspension button – and grip was abundant
Most unexpected, though, was how tame the R8 felt on the road when it wasn’t being pushed. In moderate moving traffic heading back on 101 South, it is relaxed and almost interchangeable with other Audis. Throttle input is buttery smooth and power delivery is very evenly paced.
Many of components of the interior, like the convertible functionality and adjustable suspension buttons, were shared with other Audis which reduced the ‘premium’ feel of the interior. Otherwise, though, the rich leather dash and two-toned leather seats aided in the upscale approach to this sports coupe.
2012 Facelift Changes
Both versions of the R8 are updated in 2012 with standard LED lights, a 7 speed S Tronic transmission replacing the R tronic, and leather updates to the interior. The V10 models get standard navigation and the Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Which One Should You Get?
Our recommendation is a lightly used R8 5.2. The extra horsepower, added standard features, and excellent exhaust note are worth the ~$15k mark-up from the R8 4.2 to the 5.2.
Good examples of the R8 5.2, with mileage under 30,000, run about $90,000 and have a future forecasted depreciation of about 4% per year.
Clean examples of R8 4.2, with mileage under 30,000, run about $75,000 and have a future forecasted deprecation of 6-7%.
Magnetic Suspension: Components of the magnetic suspension have been known to fail at different points in R8. They begin to leak for a few thousand miles before failing completely. Most commonly, this occurred in 2011 models and earlier. Cost to fix can range from $2k – $7k.
AC Compressor: The AC compressor can fail, typically early in the car’s life. While not a terribly expensive part (~$1k), the labor will get you. The replacement requires over 30 hours of labor to fix on the R8 V8, as the engine needs to be removed to complete. On the R8 V10, only about 10 hours are required to replace the compressor. R8 V8 Cost: ~$7k; R8 V10 Cost: $3k.