Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2009 Audi R8 Review

The 2009 Audi R8 looks every bit the exotic, a silhouette that seems designed for high-speed runs with extensive ductwork for engine cooling and brake venting, and huge wheels with a staggered size, front to back. Stunning details such as the LED light bar at the front and a glass engine cover that displays the LED-illuminated engine make it resemble a museum piece.

The entire vehicle weighs only about 3,400 pounds and has a near-perfect (rear-biased) weight distribution to take advantage of the engine's mounting, just behind the front seats. The R8's lightweight construction and racing-inspired details are derived from Audi's experience with the racecar of the same name.

Though the engine in the 2009 Audi R8 isn't particularly torquey for a V-8—it needs to be revved a bit to extract all the power—it delivers very brisk performance with either the standard six-speed manual or optional R-tronic gearbox. The manual gearbox has distinctive metal shift gates inside and shifts easily; the R-tronic gearbox can shift roughly in leisurely driving, but it's the choice for track driving, where it nails down shifts faster than the most experienced drivers and blips the throttle expertly on downshifts to maintain control.

You don’t have to drive the R8 at illegal speeds to enjoy it, though it sure does have a presence on the racetrack. The R8 feels hefty and stable at triple-digit speeds, while also managing to convey lightness and nimbleness at low speeds. Meanwhile, the all-wheel-drive system, which can send up to 35 percent of torque to the front wheels, puts the power to the pavement without drama. And the sound from the V-8 is a nice baritone, but not so loud that it brings on fatigue.

The 2009 Audi R8 is about five inches longer than the Lamborghini Gallardo (with which it’s somewhat mechanically related) and has several more inches of seat travel and legroom than the Italian stallion; even tall people will find the R8 ample in space. Headroom isn't tight once you're in, but some might bump their head on entry or exit. The layout of the cockpit area is very driver-centric, like that of a racecar, with controls and displays angled toward the driver. The R8's interior lacks storage compartments and cubbies for small personal items, and cargo space is limited to a modest area underhood at the front of the car and a cargo shelf that's good only for a small duffel bag.

Major options on the 2009 Audi R8 include carbon-fiber trim, upgraded leather upholstery, a navigation system, a parking-sensor system, and premium Bang & Olufsen sound.

The 2009 Audi R8 hasn’t been crash tested by either of the U.S. testing programs—and it probably won’t because of its low-volume production—but a performance-oriented electronic stability control system is standard on the R8, along with side impact airbags and dual knee airbags.

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