As the speedometer needle whirled back to the civilian zone, I spotted a red speck swelling in the distance. Long before the Nevada state patrolman bounded like a Baja buggy across the rough median, I had documents in hand for the inevitable indictment. To my everlasting amazement, the first words out of the officer's mouth were, "Why were you driving 100 miles per hour?"
Previous roadside meetings have taught me that there's no suitable answer to that question. I responded with a sincere promise to maintain a closer watch on my speedometer. After a severe dressing down, lightning struck again: the officer handed back my documents with a stern warning but no citation.
Twenty miles along on Nevada 160, heading toward Pahrump, I turned onto a secondary road that beelines toward a distant mountain range. (The road's identity will remain anonymous to safeguard future exploitation.) As promised, I kept a close eye on my speed, now monitored by a digital Vbox display stuck to the R8's windshield. My colleagues, who'd arrived with the Ferrari and the Porsche, stood guard while I whistled by on eight performance-measuring passes, all of which produced 0-to-60-mph acceleration in the mid-four-second range. On the seventh pass, after a crisp launch, five perfect upshifts, and more than a minute of full-bore acceleration, the R8 earned its stripes by briefly touching 180 mph. Its ticket duly punched, the new Audi was now eligible to run head-to-head with the red crowd.
Our back-road test session proved that the R8's full-time four-wheel drive is a fine way to slingshot 3450 pounds of curb weight into motion with only a hint of wheel spin--and that this bullet shoots straight even when the suspension is stroking furiously to maintain contact with undulating surfaces.
The well-organized cockpit is handy at hyperspeed. Slipping behind the R8's wheel stirs hints of dj vu. The view forward is framed by windshield pillars inset over a wide lower body, as in the 911. The look back mimics the perspective in the F430, with an eyeful of the engine and roof buttresses but hardly any road in sight. While the 911 feels as comfortable as your favorite sweater and the Ferrari cockpit resembles the scene of a recent Formula 1 victory celebration, the R8's interior is cool, calm, and contemporary. A long entry opening and a flattened steering wheel let you plug your butt into the seat without scuffing the door leather, a perennial Ferrari issue. Coordinated shades of black and gray accented by matte-finished metal and a carbon-fiber arch secure Audi's lock on good interior taste. Visually, the knurled knobs, wide-eyed gauges, and metal-trimmed pedals are superb. Unfortunately, some of the controls that appear to be hewn from billet are cleverly disguised composite material. Tactile feedback suffers. Pivot shafts are looser and the detent clicks less satisfying than in the seminal TT that won Audi much acclaim for interior quality. The shift paddles are also injection-molded; while they're nicely ribbed and precise in operation, caressing plastic is never a joy in this league. Two ergonomic flaws that warrant mention are sun visors that don't hinge to the side and a row of switches susceptible to accidental operation by the heel of a hand leaving the shifter.