The R Tronic single-clutch transmission is definitely a compromise. This racing-derived gearbox reportedly works great on the track, and it's better when you put the car in sport mode, but it's extremely herky-jerky in daily driving around town. I'm also told that R Tronic works better with the V-10 engine in the new R8 5.2, but I haven't yet driven that car.
The actual user interface for R Tronic is interesting. Slide the lever to the left to select M for manual mode or A for automatic mode. Push the lever forward to upshift. Pull the lever backward to downshift. Reverse is down and to the right. It's all intuitive and works well, and the gearshift lever itself feels great in your hand. Since there is no P-for-park setting, I'll just make sure to use the parking brake. The Audi setup is certainly much better than the R-for-reverse buttons on a lot of modern Ferraris. I can never get accustomed to those.
To be specific about the R8 R Tronic, when you're in normal automatic mode, this transmission takes a deep breath with every gear change, then spews the car forward. It's really quite weird, and yet more evidence that carmakers, in their quest to provide the convenience of a traditional torque-converter automatic with performance that exceeds a traditional manual transmission, still aren't there yet. They're making progress, to be sure, but R Tronic is just the latest in a long line of compromised transmissions over the past decade, along with BMW's SMG and Maserati's CambioCorsa.
My concerns about R Tronic aside, it was certainly a delight to get into an R8 again, especially one as well tricked-out as our black-on-black test car, and I found the illuminated V-8 under glass to be so enchanting when I got home late last night in the dark, I took a picture of it and Facebooked it.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor