2009 Automobile All-Stars

Charlie Magee

The Outgoing Automobile of the Year:  Audi R8

Iconic sports car designs don't come along too often, usually only once or twice per decade. In the 1940s, we had the Jaguar XK120, in the '50s the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, in the '60s the Jaguar E-type and the Porsche 911. For us, the car that will live on in memory as the icon of the first decade of this century is our 2008 Automobile and Design of the Year, Audi's R8. It is one of those rare designs that jumps to the eye whenever you see it, no matter how many times that may happen. Even as LEDs are now being added to all Audis (among other makes), the R8's headlamp treatment remains distinctive and dramatic.

Drama is a big part of the appeal of Walter de'Silva's brilliant "blade" panels behind the R8's cockpit. We loved seeing them flash through distant foliage on our All-Stars drive last year, and their power of attraction has not dimmed in the least. That detail has had to be diminished for the forthcoming droptop version, but it remains a stylistic high point for the coupe, which will always be the core design statement. The R8's proportions are dramatic, too; it is wide, low, astonishingly purposeful for what is, after all, a luxury grand tourer as much as it is a pure sports car.

The near-perfect synthesis of the key characteristics of Audi's flagship A8L sedan and its all-conquering R8 and R10 Le Mans racers sets the R8 apart from all the other excellent all-wheel-drive supercoupes. From the bargain-priced Nissan GT-R to the over-the-top Lamborghini Murciélago, by way of the classic Porsche 911s, none of them is quite as comfortable or quite as satisfactory for everyday, all-weather use as the easy-to-drive, very high performance R8, clearly an outstanding All-Star.

-Robert Cumberford

Base price: $117,500
Engine: 4.2L V-8, 420 hp, 317 lb-ft

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