Testing Audi R8 Editorial

Mark Bramley

Audi isn't a marque you'd associate with the heights of supercardom, but here it is, squaring up against the big boys. Meanwhile, we try 216 mph on for size.

Some of us had preconceptions. When we sent technical editor Don Sherman out west to sample a supercar that has emerged from the unlikeliest of marques (Audi), one or two dismissive opinions were kicking around our office-especially since we had decided to drive the R8 alongside cars from two of the world's most established and storied marques, Porsche and Ferrari. We could have brought that other arriviste, the Lamborghini Gallardo, but that seemed too obvious and too easy. Audi is aiming very high with this, the company's first modern mid-engine sports car, so we decided to set the bar high. Very high.

Don takes us behind the wheel like no one else can, and in the process, shatters a few of our preconceptions. Turn to page 56 and see for yourself.

Do you remember the first time you broke the three-figure barrier? Or 120 mph? 150 mph? Each generation has its own gold standard of maximum- speed aspiration, and the current one seems to be set at 200 mph, which still amazes me. I remember the first time I traveled that quickly on the ground, riding shotgun beside a journalist piloting a McLaren F1 to 211 mph. I shouted each 10-mph increment into a Dictaphone, sounding a bit too much like the reporter on the scene of the Hindenburg conflagration. But it did feel that dramatic, that on the edge. Many years later, I commissioned the same journalist to drive a Bentley Continental Flying Spur at 200-plus-mph around a high-speed track, with a full load of passengers and the air-conditioning on. He called after the event to warn me that the story was going to be pretty low on drama and tension. The Bentley just picked up its skirts and flew, without so much as a shimmy or a cough.

Which isn't to say that 200 mph isn't still a very big deal. Ask Chris Harris, whom we sent on an epic drive across Europe in a Lamborghini Murcilago LP640 in search of places where the Lambo can begin to justify its $327,800 price. He found quite a few more such stretches of road than we'd anticipated, but in the end, the car was the hero. As Chris says, "The most remarkable aspect of this car's performance is how little time and space is required to register something decidedly naughty." Indeed.

The other big news for this issue is the arrival of a brand-new monthly columnist, Ezra Dyer (page 40). Ezra sent us an unsolicited manuscript some six years ago in which he described his ownership of a 1985 Chevy Camaro IROC Z28 ("For Those About to 'ROC, I Salute You," December 2001), with the following quite marvelous observation: "Justified or not, the general public associates IROC ownership with a vast panoply of unsavory behavioral traits, from storing leftover Spaghetti-Os in empty Cool Whip containers to passing out with a lip full of Skoal and waking up with tobacco juice in your mullet." Clearly, the man has talent, and when Jean Jennings pointed that out in her April 2005 column, Ezra's already rising star soared even higher. But I'd prefer not to tell you about the other venues where Ezra can be found, because I'd really rather you come back here once a month for your fix.

Next month, it gets even better, when we welcome back Jamie Kitman as a regular columnist. Jamie's insight and intelligence (and his well-developed ability to provoke controversy and reaction) are just right for the pages of Automobile Magazine, and we're thrilled to have him onboard. As a teaser, Jamie's story on page 76 provides a crucial lesson about why red wine and eBay should never be combined. Personally, I'm in awe of any car guy with the imagination, not to mention the pain threshold, to actually spend his own money on a Rover SD1.

That Jamie's Rover is the "ultra-rare, ultra-undesirable" California-spec model in a shade of yellow best described as "gag reflex" makes him an even bigger hero to those of us who champion left-field cars that reward devotion. Or not, as the case may be.

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