Audi steps into the supercar market with the 301km/h R8 coupe which goes on sale here later this year. Prices for the V8-powered mid-engined car which takes its name and its heritage from the multiple Le Mans-winning R8 sports racing roadster, start at $260,000.
The road car has a 309kW/430Nm 4.2-litre FSI (petrol direct injection) V8, quattro permanent four-wheel drive and an aluminium space-frame body structure.
Audi says it will accelerate to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds; the car will hit 200km/h in 14.9 seconds.
The R8 is offered with two gearboxes – a conventional six-speed manual or an R Tronic sequential manual six-speeder.
The cabin is mounted far forward and the side profile has what Audi calls a sideblade which visually accentuates the engine’s position as well as acting as an air deflector.
The car’s front end is dominated by Audi’s trademark single-frame grille; for the first time, the Audi four-ringed badge is positioned not over the grille, but on the lid above it.
Bi-xenon headlights are standard and the car has daytime running lights comprising 12 light-emitting diodes.
LED taillights produce a three-dimensional effect. All-LED headlights will be available as an option from the end of 2007. These lights also have an enormous functional advantage – with its colour temperature of 6000 Kelvin, LED light resembles daylight much more closely than xenon or even halogen light. Audi says drivers will consequently suffer much less fatigue when driving at night.
The interior has a motor racing atmosphere. An expansive arc runs around the steering wheel and instruments, “connecting the driver to the car.”
Audi designers have engineered a large amount of space into the car which has a 2.65m wheelbase.
To give the driver good visibility, the A-pillars are narrow.
The front luggage compartment is 100 litres, and there is room for bags with a total volume of a further 90 litres behind the seats.
Two full-size golf bags can be stowed behind the seats.
Owners will have good scope to customise the interior. Choices include piano finish, carbon fibre and a wide variety of leathers.
The Audi aluminium space frame body weighs just 210kg. It comprises extruded sections, aluminium panels and highly complex cast nodes, joined together by 99m of weld seams, 782 punch rivets and 382 self-tapping screws.
It’s built largely by hand at the R8 production shop in Neckarsulm, Germany, but with precision measuring and machining methods keeping a watchful eye over the whole business.
A laser measuring system checks 220 points on each body to within one-tenth of a millimetre, and a special computer tomograph can investigate the absolute quality of every join with micron precision. A central processing plant cuts and drills all 52 connecting points on the running gear and steering in a single pass, ensuring maximum precision in the axle geometry.
Audi aerodynamicists have designed downforce into the body shape, promoting directional stability at high speeds.
Audi says the V8 engine isn’t only powerful, it sounds powerful too. Design engineers isolated disagreeable frequencies and then orchestrated an impressive soundtrack from the intake and exhaust.
The R8’s R Tronic transmission shifts gears faster than even the most skilful driver, and offers racing-style changes with the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
The quattro 4WD system was adapted to the mid-engine concept, with its front/rear axle load distribution of 44/56 percent, and directs between 10 and 35 percent of the engine’s power to the front wheels as necessary.
The suspension uses double wishbones front and rear.
Audi magnetic ride adapts the suspension characteristic to the profile of the road and the driver’s style within milliseconds.
Standard equipment includes a 140-watt audio system, an alarm system, deluxe automatic air conditioning and a driver information system with integral stopwatch for taking lap times.
The sports seats are trimmed in combined Alcantara/Leather and the cast-alloy wheels are 18-inchers.
Options include the Audi parking system with integral rearview camera, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system that produces surround sound from 12 high-end speakers with a 465 watt music output.