Miles to date: 31,819
Months in fleet: eight
Winter is over and now it's time to take stock of the Audi R8's ability to serve as a mid-engine winter car, if you can imagine such a thing. We did, and both we and the R8 survived one of Michigan's harshest winters in years with no problems. Naturally, we didn't attempt this without the aid of some winter rubber, specifically Pirelli Sotto Zeroes. These tires are biased more toward performance than toward pure ice and snow traction, but they have enough grip to transform the Audi R8 from being practically undriveable in the snow, despite Quattro all-wheel drive, to a reasonable winter car. Audi's toasty heated seats didn't hurt, either.
Here are some staff comments from the 2008-2009 winter:
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
I only drove a few miles on the ice-glazed streets of Ann Arbor. Despite the snow tires, the R8 easily overpowered its traction control, and even when I drove in a straight line it was fishtailing around given anything but the very lightest applications of throttle. With the ultra slick conditions magnifying the effects, I found it not so easy to precisely modulate the throttle. Still, I will admit enjoying the ultra-low-speed oversteer moments."
Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
"Oh, my God! I love this car even more now that I've driven it in the snow. You'd never know it's AWD unless you force yourself to stay on the gas during a big, long slide--and it won't send power up front until it's basically too late. You need all the room in the world to discover that it's all-wheel drive; for the rest of the time, you just think you're in a perfectly balanced rear-wheel-drive masterpiece.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
I have driven the R8 during the bulk of the early-winter weather that we've had here in Ann Arbor and have enjoyed it immensely. It's true that the R8 is not exactly a champ in the snow, but I made it through lots of snow in all manner of road conditions with no problems, and I even made it up my very steep driveway with several inches of fresh snow on it several times (although one time I had to back down, which was nerve-wracking). And as entertaining as it was to drive this exotic mid-engine car through a major Michigan snowstorm, it was almost as much fun to see the reactions of other motorists whose mouths were agape at the sight of this low-slung, obviously expensive sports car churning up rooster tails of snow.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Driving the R8 on snow and ice is a lot of fun as long as there's not more than a few inches on the ground; otherwise, ground clearance becomes an issue. The incredible RWD bias is much more apparent on the slippery stuff and the car is very predictable and easy to drive. I just wish there were a heating element in the shifter. That aluminum shift knob isn't so nice when the temperature is below freezing.
Marc Noordeloos, former Road Test Editor
The R8 served as my chariot for the Detroit Auto Show. It worked very well but the first day--in eight inches of unplowed snow--was a bit scary. The R8 is not a snowmobile. It is fun, but as Jason pointed out, leave a lot of space. This is no winter rally car. It's best to turn off traction control but leave stability control on (one push of the ESP button). This keeps your yaw in check but allows wheel spin, which seems to help transfer power to the front wheels.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
If you're very careful, the Audi R8 is tons of fun in below-zero temperatures and on slick roads. And although it takes a while for the engine to reach operating temps, once it gets going, the small cabin heats up quite quickly. The heated seats are great, too. Other people have said it before, but I'll say it again: the R8 works very well as a Real Car.
2008 Audi R8 Coupe Quattro MT6
Base Price: $109,995
As Tested: $131,245
Body Style: 2-door coupe
Accommodations: 2 passengers
Construction: Aluminum "Audi space frame"
Engine: DOHC 32-valve V-8
Displacement: 4.2 liters
Power: 420 hp @ 7800 rpm
Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 4500-6000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 13/20/15 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Steering: Electromechanical with speed-dependent power assistance
Turning Circle: 38.7 ft
Suspension: Double wishbone-type (front and rear)
Brakes: Vented discs, ABS
Wheels F/R: 19 x 8.5/19 x 11 in alloy
Tires: Pirelli PZero Rosso
Tire Size: 235/35YR-19 front and 295/30YR-19 rear
Wheelbase: 104.3 in
Track F/R: 64.3/62.8 in
L x W x R: 174.5 x 75.0 x 49.3 in
Weight: 3597 lb
Weight Dist. F/R: 44.2/55.8%
Fuel Capacity: 23.8 gallons
Est. Range: 357 miles
Fuel Grade: 91 octane
ABS and ESP
Chest and knee airbags
Automatic climate control
Power adjustable driver and passenger sports seats
Mugello Blue Pearl Effect paint, $650
Enhanced Leather Package, $5500
Carbon Exterior Package, $5300
Premium Package, $3500
Audi Parking System Advanced
Audi Hill Hold Assist
Bluetooth Phone Preparation
Auto-Dimming Exterior Mirror
Carbon Interior Trim, $2200
Audi Navigation System Plus, $2000
0-60 MPH: 4.2 sec
0-100 MPH: 10.4 sec
1/4-Mile: 12.9 @ 113 mph
30-70 Passing: 5.6 sec
Speed in Gears: 1) 40; 2) 64; 3) 92; 4) 123; 5) 155; 6) 180 mph
Cornering L/R: 1.06/0.98g
70-0 Braking: 148 ft
Peak Braking: 1.15 g