Las Vegas Nevada is always busy but the desert surrounding the city has been seeing more than its fair share of motoring scribes in recent weeks. Even Jeremy Clarkson braved the Nevada (Springtime) sunshine, coyotes and cops to give the new Audi R8 a good flogging. Some people have all the fun.
The Audi R8 is built around an alloy space frame chassis and uses the same 4.2 litre engine as Audi's RS4 in a mid-engine format, a first for Audi. That means the same 309kW and 430Nm as seen in the RS4. Audi has spent their time tuning the exhaust note to ensure it is suitably exotic sounding. It is expected that the R8 will be fitted with a larger engine down the track, possibly a version of the V10 seen in the Lamborghini Gallardo.
As you can see from the photos it looks stunning. Low, wide and beautiful. Logic dictates that the R8's competition will be the Porsche 997 range and Aston Martin's V8 Vantage. I think potential purchasers of Ferrari's F430 and Lamborghini's Gallardo would be foolish not to consider the Audi R8. Conceptually it shares more in common with these two mid-engined exotics that in does the Porsche or Aston.
The motoring press are convinced that it's the Porsche 997 that Audi have squarely in their cross hairs. I am a huge fan of the Porsche 911 but its timeless design is starting to look a bit dated next to the R8's carefully sculptured and graceful lines.
Performance is in the ballpark for this category with 0-100kph taking a claimed 4.6 seconds or 2/10ths quicker than the 911. The Audi R8 runs out of breath at a claimed 307km/h leaving the Porsche in a dither as it hits the wall at 293km/h.
A 6-speed manual or 6-speed sequential R-Tronic gearbox are available depending on your preference for swapping cogs. The R-Tronic is a tweaked version of Lamborghini's e-gear box from the Gallardo.
So far most journos who have driven the Audi R8 agree that it is an immensely capable and stunningly beautiful high performance car. Motoring reviewers tend to experience a honeymoon period when new cars are released and their opinions may yet come back to earth a little but the consensus is that the Audi R8 may have the 911 licked. I'll update this when some Australian back to back testing has been done.
The most amazing part of the Audi R8 story in my opinion is the cars pricing. Pricing details have just been released in the US and the manual comes in at US107,000 (AU134,931) while the the R-Tronic will cost a few green-backs more at US118,000 (AU146,072). Lucky Americans! By the time Mr Costello has staked his claim to the first born of the lucky new Australian owners the price is expected to start at AU270,000. Still, it is positively cheap compared to what a new Lamborghini Gallardo costs the not-so-average Aussie, which I guess makes us the lucky country.