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First drive: Audi unleashes R8 supercar

Sexy genes: The Audi R8 shares its platform with a Lamborghini.

New German super hero takes on Porsche and Ferrari

Audi logo5 Oct 2007

THE Audi brand will rocket to new heights with the launch of a Ferrari-fighting supercar in Australia.

Audi Australia welcomed the stunning R8 supercar to its range at Phillip Island racetrack in Victoria this week with a high-speed introduction.

The V8-powered supercar not only sets new standards for the performance of Audi cars, but is also the most expensive sportscar to wear the four-ringed badge.

The R8 manual starts from $259,000 and the sequential automatic comes in at $274,000, which means the awesome Audi competes with the all-wheel drive Porsche 911 Carrera 4S ($259,990) and the track-ready 911 GT3. It also significantly undercuts the $389,000 Ferrari F430.

The R8 will clearly be the hero of the Audi range, but it will not be the most expensive model. That honour remains with the A8 long-wheelbase limousine, priced from $326,000.

Like that model, Audi is not expecting to shift large numbers of R8s, with an annual allocation of 80 cars. Even so, Audi Australia managing director Joerg Hofmann said the car would have a big impact.

“The Audi R8 will become an icon for Audi and, albeit niche, this is a car that clearly embodies our Vorsprung durch Technik (advancement through technology),” Mr Hofmann said. “It will be instrumental in further boosting our brand image and awareness in this market.”

While Audi has built high-performance versions of existing production cars such as the A4-based RS4, and has the dedicated TT in its arsenal, it has never before built a real supercar.

It does own Lamborghini, though, and it comes as no surprise that Audi looked to its Italian sibling when developing the R8.

The new uber-Audi shares its lightweight chassis with the Lamborghini Gallardo. It also uses an optional automated manual transmission called “R-tronic”, which is a substantial evolution of Lamborghini’s E-Gear transmission, allowing for faster, smoother changes.

Audi resisted borrowing the V10 powerplant from Gallardo, instead opting for the sweet-spinning 4.2-litre V8 that first appeared in the RS4 sedan. This direct-injection engine, which can spin all the way to 8250rpm, pumps out 309kW at 7800rpm and 430Nm at 4500-6000rpm.

It is mid-mounted, just like the Gallardo, which helps contribute to the R8's high levels of directional stability.

The engine also uses a dry sump, which means it can be installed very low in the car to lower the centre of gravity.

A six-speed manual with a short-throw shifter is standard, while the optional R-tronic automated manual also has six gears. The single-clutch R-tronic can be operated with steering wheel-mounted paddles or can be left in full automatic mode. It also has a launch feature to help drivers achieve the ultimate start.

7 center imageThe official 0-100km/h sprint time for the R8 stands at 4.6 seconds. Initial sprint testing from international media outlets has indicated that that time may be conservative and could come much closer to 4.0 seconds flat. The supercar can also accelerate from 0-200km/h in 14.9 seconds and has a top speed of 301km/h.

In order to feed the power to the ground, the R8 uses a quattro all-wheel-drive system using a centre viscous coupling. Audi engineers set up the R8 as a predominantly rear-drive model, with between 10 per cent and 35 per cent of drive sent to the front wheels.

The R8 runs a rear limited slip differential for the ultimate cornering traction.

It uses an aluminium spaceframe with some magnesium sections, which weighs just 210kg and is made alongside Lamborghini chassis at Neckarsulm in Germany.

Forged aluminium is used for most of the suspension components, with the R8 using a double wishbone set-up at the front and rear.

A magnetic suspension damping system that adapts to road conditions is an option in many overseas markets, but is standard in Australia.

The use of lightweight aluminium for many parts, and plastic bootlid and wings, has allowed Audi to keep the kerb weight of the R8 at a respectable 1560kg for the manual and 1565kg for the automated manual.

Audi was not about to skimp on the braking hardware for the R8. Up front, eight-piston calipers lock onto massive 380mm diameter discs, while four-piston calipers and 356mm discs take care of rear braking.

While some markets have introduced the R8 with 18-inch wheels, 19-inch rims are standard equipment for Australian cars.

Audi has included electronic stability control, and it is fully switchable for track-day fun.

The R8 is 4431mm long, 1904mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2650mm.

The design of the R8 production car was first hinted at with the Le Mans concept of 2003. It features the trapezoidal single-frame Audi grille and large air vents that sit below each of the headlights.

The headlights feature a main Xenon light, surrounded by 12 LED lights for daytime running.

Audi engineers are finalising full-LED headlights, which the company claims will be brighter and crisper than any Xenon or traditional halogen headlights. It plans to add the optional system to the R8 next year. LEDs are also used to throw light on the R8’s engine when the ignition is turned off.

The same design team that shaped the Le Mans-winning R8 racecar was responsible for the R8, but the road car was never going to feature the wild wings of the Le Mans racing special. Designers were against large spoilers, but needed to create substantial downforce.

The R8 features a restrained rear-mounted spoiler that extends automatically and uses a complex underbody diffuser system to keep the car glued to the track at high speeds.

The LED tail-lights are punctuated by large vents that sit below them. Two twin exhaust pipes are incorporated into either side of the rear bumper.

The side view of the coupe is dominated by what Audi calls the side blade, a vertical panel that sits behind the driver. These are available in carbon fibre for an extra $5050.

The leading edge of the lower part of the blade features ducts that pump air into the engine.

While performance was the ultimate aim of the R8 development team, it was also recognised that some level of practicality was required. As a result, the R8 has a small cargo area of 100 litres under the bonnet, while Audi insists there is enough room for two sets of golf clubs behind the seats.

Leather and alcantara are used for the supportive sports seats. Like the Audi TT and RS4, the R8 features a flat-bottomed steering wheel.

The R8 also features Audi’s MMI control roller ball and display screen that sits above the climate controls, while a lap timer is also standard for track work.

Satellite navigation is standard, along with a reversing camera and a premium sound system.

A top-line Bang and Olufsen sound system is a $3800 option, as is a carbon-fibre engine bay surround at $7850.

2007 Audi R8 pricing:
R8 $259,000
R8 (a) $274,000

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