WASHINGTON – It sat squat to the ground. And its big one frame grille, cats' eye headlamps and its air intakes made the car look like a natural to be caricatured in yet another animated car film.
But there was nothing funny about the 2008 Audi R8 Coupe Quattro MT6. In a word, the two seat speedster was a serious piece of automotive technology that certainly wore the label of supercar well.
The R8's aluminum space frame was hand welded and the body panels of the same metal were hand assembled. There just aren't enough adjectives to aptly describe its low slung, wide stance, curved speedster silhouette separated by a body bladed at the B pillar.
Dynamically, the R8 was a wind tunnel on wheels. Front air intakes cooled the brakes. Side air intakes cooled the engine and its bay and all that oxygen flowed through and under the car exiting out diffusers in the rear.
What's more, LED running lights, like eyeliner, underlined the headlamps. The feature is being cycled through Audi's product line and it is now on the S6 and the S5. We like the look.
The R8 had the wide rump of exotic Italian sports cars and the dry sump 4.2 liter direct injection 420 horsepower V8 was mid mounted and viewable through the rear hatch glass. What dry sump means is that there was no oil pan so the engine was housed lower creating an even lower ground-hugging center of gravity.
Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the R8 made 317 foot-pounds of torque. It was equipped with a special version of Audi's all-wheel-drive quattro system. The torque split sent 10 percent to 35 percent of the power to the front wheels depending on driving conditions.
By the numbers: the R8 sped from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, covered a quarter of a mile in 12.7 seconds and had a top speed of 187 mph. However, in the U.S. it's electronically limited to 155 mph.
We found the driving characteristics of the R8 awesome. Its magnetic ride suspension could be set on sport or normal. Sport was firm but not so firm as to bruise us up and in comfort mode dampening was softened but not enough to take away the R8's sports car feel.
Our drive route covered a lot of two-lane rural roads. We took it easy, seemingly loping along at 70 mph. TheR8 could have covered the asphalt a lot faster than that but we kept it civil. It was the same on I-66, 75 mph felt like we were cruising at 35 mph.
However, we wish our test drive route would have had more sharp turns because we couldn't get a feel for how agile the R8 was. Still, there was no lag in responding to driver input.
Audi has mastered creating spacious interiors in small cars, its TT Coupe being the first. The R8's curved roof provided plenty of head space, our legs had plenty of stretching room in the wheel wells and there was plenty of hip room. The R8 comfortably seated two full-size adults.
The instrument panel was cockpit like. Everything was in easy reach of the driver and there was plenty to reach. Our test vehicle had the enhanced leather package. It was sinuous to the touch but we didn't like its black color. We weren't thrilled with our test car's exterior white color either but it's a matter of taste.
We also had the premium package that included hill hold assist, a navigation system with rear view camera and parking assist sensors fore and aft. That feature helped when approaching curbs during nose in parking. The R8's ground clearance looked no more than eight inches.
The R8's base price was $109,000. Trust us, for what you're getting that's a bargain. It's half as much as a comparable supercar. With options our test vehicle had a sticker of $124,895.
The Audi R8 is an image changer. It says Audi is the most stylish of the German luxury car manufactures.