96 Hours with the Audi R8

Regis Lefebure
#Audi, #R8

The truth, dear reader, will make you cry. Car magazines, as you imagine, have rotating fleets of shiny new press cars--BMWs and Mercedes-Benz AMGs and Corvette Z06s and Lotus Elises galore. You might also imagine that we spend every waking moment driving them hither and yon, revving engines, burning rubber, and flying under the radar of the Ann Arbor police, who have little to do but ticket speeders and issue summonses to drunken college students for peeing in public. Well, we do all of those things (the speeding and the revving, not the peeing), but generally not between nine and five, other than occasional lunch forays. The truth is, most of the time we're too busy sitting in front of our iMacs, editing the magazine, to drive. And the cars sit in our adjacent parking structure, waiting patiently for our after-hours attention.

Clearly, that fate would not do for the Audi R8, the new, mid-engine exotic that so deliciously synthesizes German precision with Italian soul (it shares a few parts with the Lamborghini Gallardo.) The Audi arrived on a Monday, giving us only ninety-six precious hours to show it off to friends, flaunt its flanks in the finest neighborhoods, and drive the bejeezus out of it. There was talk of running the R8 continuously, but sleep seemed wise, lest we ball it up in a ditch at four a.m. We knew one thing: the R8 would not spend a single daytime minute in our parking garage. Let's set the trip odometer to zero and see where the R8 takes us.

A GEARBOX IS WAITING FOR ME IN PITTSBURGH

It's spring in Ann Arbor. I know this because the snow has melted, the daffodils are in full bloom, and there's a puddle of transmission fluid under my twenty-year-old Volkswagen Scirocco. Even though I always shelter my old friend in a heated garage, something major breaks on it every spring. German cars hate to sit.

This Audi R8's arrival presented me with the perfect excuse to take it on a twelve-hour round-trip journey to pick up a donor transmission from my friends' shop in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. After all, if we let the R8 sit in the garage all day, it might break, too. (Or not. But that's my justification for swiping the keys the moment the car arrived on Monday at eleven a.m., and I'm sticking to it.)

The R8 looks like the offspring of a Bugatti Veyron and an Audi TT, and judging by the number of cell-phone cameras that were aimed its way along the Ohio Turnpike, that's a good thing. Even better, the R8 drives as spectacularly as it looks.

The only hint of Audi-typical isolation is in the steering--it's millimeter precise but gives practically no feedback. Everything else about the R8 makes it a true sports car: its V-8 sounds ferocious, it can light up all four Pirellis, and its suspension allows no excess body motions.

The R8 is a true Porsche 911 fighter. I know this because I own a 911, too. It, however, is sitting in my garage, leaking. Never let a German car sit, I tell you. Jason Cammisa

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