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4T : R8 2012 Reviews & Road Tests

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20 November 2012


Early days with your first Audi R8 are a somewhat surreal adjustment… especially when that R8 is red. We’re not new to the experience of driving here or there in Audi’s four ring supercar, but the arrival of this particular R8 to our garage reset the bar.

In front of home, in the office parking lot or even at the Audi dealership where R8s are not an uncommon sight, this scarlet coupe seems more than willing to draw a crowd. No lie – we’ve achieved an average running count of 5 passers by per day that swing into our office parking lot to snap a shot of the car on their mobile phone… and that is for a car that’s been on the market since 2008.

Having logged some decent mileage, we’re also ready to log a few first impressions.

Like: Audi Ceramic Brakes
About the same time we were ordering our R8, we were admiring two certified pre-owned Porsche 911 GT3s (early 997) on our dealer’s lot. Both had carbon ceramics and our dealer pointed out that the brakes were costly enough so as to be a catalyst for the owners to trade in the car when replacement came due. That didn’t deter us.

At $9,900, carbon ceramic brakes aren’t exactly for those who might be faint of heart or wallet. That said, their savings in unsprung weight at the wheel is significant and their resistance to fade is also well renowned. To our eye, this relatively recent addition to the American R8 options list is a must for the track rats within the car’s owner ranks.

Early examples of the very same setup on German-spec cars left us with the impression that these would be hard to modulate, and we were curious what they’d be like to live with day-to-day.

Logging some miles, we learned that modulation isn’t so much of an issue. Switching from a car without carbon ceramics, you need to get acclimated to an aggressively strong initial bite. Once acclimated, modulation of the system is natural… though going back to the non-ceramic will need similar acclimation, leaving you initially concerned that the brakes in the non-ceramic car have little initial bite or a bit of jerky braking when jumping into a so-fitted R8.

As mentioned in our previous story, our R8 is a bit of an oddity. Whereas most V10s are ordered with plenty of options, many V8 owners tend to financially reach for the car and thus go light on the upgrades. At nearly $10K, carbon ceramic brakes are probably not on the list of those reaching for R8 ownership… and that’s fine, as the standard braking system on the car is more than adequate. For those who can afford them though, we’ve fallen in love with the system and highly recommend it. And, like the red paint, those grey ‘Audi Ceramic’ calipers peaking through the spokes of the wheels definitely grab attention nearly as abruptly as they grab at those carbon rotors.

Like: Matte Titanium Finish Wheels
Like it or not, that split 5-spoke alloy wheel design has been on the R8 since the car was launched. Given wheels can go in and out of fashion with relative ease, it is a testament to the design that the car still looks so good and so fresh with these original wheels. Even still, we felt the need to change it up just a bit when we ordered the car.

Relatively new to the R8 options list is a matte titanium finish for this familiar wheel design. The darker look matches the car well, especially when optioned with plenty of carbon fiber as we’ve done with our car. Even better, the finish doesn’t show brake dust much at all… no doubt in some part due to our upgraded brake configuration. We’re finding a high-pressure rinse during the car’s usual wash keeps them plenty clean.

Dislike: Infotainment and Navigation
It’s not that the R8’s infotainment system is bad. It’s just that the new infotainment system in other Audis based on the MLB platform are so good. Given its progress in the product lifecycle, the R8 uses the same RNS-E DVD-based navigation system found in the current TT and A3 models. While on one hand it is quite a bit simpler than other more complicated systems and does include niceties such as SD card slots and full iPod integration via the Audi Music Interface, its graphics just aren’t on the same level as the NVIDIA Tegra-driven systems in other Audis and it also lacks that trick Google search and satellite overlay mapping.

Some will argue that this isn’t really necessary in a car like the R8 anyway, and we’d probably be amongst them. Still, a weekend in a car like the Audi A7 will leave you electronically wanting just a bit.

Our other complaint is with the placement of the Audi Music Interface (AMI) cable. Located in the cubby mounted behind and between the seats and paired with a relatively short cable, hooking up your iPhone while already seated becomes an exercise in contortion. Though plugging in your mobile device or iPod while driving is not an impossibility, we’d prefer the cable be mounted in the center console tunnel cubby located just aft the e-brake or perhaps inside the glovebox.

Overall, these are minor complaints. The RNS-E paired with the R8’s Bang & Olufsen audio system is quite pleasing to the ear. And, if that weren’t enough, the eight-chambered primary sound system located just aft the firewall sounds considerably more amazing when dialled up via the long flat volume pedal mounted between the clutch and the brake. It is particularly impressive when accompanied by the snikt-snikt-snikt of the gated shifter in cars like ours.

Like and Dislike: A Slight Favor
Shortly after taking delivery of our R8 we got a call from the dealership. Knowing that part of our intent with this red R8 is to take it to events, the dealer had a favor to ask. It seems the local Auto Show was in town in about a week and though they’d ordered an R8 for the event, the car had sold about two hours after hitting their showroom floor. “Also”, we were told, “it doesn’t have all the carbon fiber upgrades your car has. Can we use your car for the event?”

There’s nothing worse for a brand new R8 owner than giving it away for a week, but that’s just what we did. Our dealership (Audi Mechanicsburg in Pennsylvania) had been so helpful during the acquisition process and has been a good partner to this website. We agreed, putting the onus of any damage done to the car on them.

A very long week sans R8 passed. We truly missed the car, but it was a thrill to take the kids to the car show and point to ‘our car’ on the stand. And fortunately, one week later, the car was returned safe and sound. Even better, we have had several instances where people now approach us asking if this was the car from the show.

 

Next Up: Snow Tires
Our next installment of our test will include the fitment of snow tires. Read it soon.

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