Note: While the R8 is still in production, this post covers 2007 through 2012 models. Additional variants will be covered at a later date.
Audi created the R8 to celebrate its success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (13 wins since 2000) and introduce a competitor to the Porsche 911.
It is a very different sports car. Not because of its longitudinal, mid-engine layout. Not because of its V8 engine. But because it contains so many unique technologies, synthesizing the great strides that Audi made in the years since the fallout from the unfounded accusations leveled at its cars by a 60 Minutes report on unintended acceleration. I wouldn’t be surprised if a fistful of patents were granted for the design of this car.
To get an idea of the magnitude, think of the Audi’s aluminum spaceframe structure, all wheel drive, optional carbon ceramic brakes, direct injection engine, semi-automatic gearbox and magnetorheological suspension. Then blend those elements in a package capable of nearly 190 mph that has, by all accounts, the usability and comfort of a daily driver.
Surprisingly, despite the company’s long history in motorsport dating back to its pre-war (WWII that is) Auto Union days, Audi had never produced a sports car in the modern era. Sure, there was the Audi Quattro with its remarkable performance, but it was more of a rally car than a sports car. The R8 was Audi’s foray into such territory.
One of its differentiating elements is the extensive use of aluminum. Like Honda with its Acura NSX, Audi chose to employ aluminum throughout its flagship sports car, continuing the work it began with the 1997 Audi A8 sedan.
The production version was unveiled at the 2006 Paris Motor Show, a potent mix of German technology and Italian flair. VW Group, Audi’s parent company, acquired Lamborghini in 1998. As a result, the R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo share structural aluminum technology and a number of components, notably the all-wheel drive (AWD) system, transmission and, in certain models, the same V10 engine.
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