The mid-engined R8 is an easy-to-use modern classic
Before its debut, if you had told people Audi would produce a mid-engined supercar to rival the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo and Lamborghini Gallardo, and that it would be a resounding success, they would have keeled over laughing.
Who knew that once the Audi R8 arrived in 2007, it would take the car world by storm? From a thrilling driving experience to remarkable everyday usability, it will go down as one of Audi’s greatest creations.
How did they pull it off? Despite its four-ringed German badge, the R8 borrowed from a certain Italian marque also under the Volkswagen Group umbrella: Lamborghini. It got the same aluminium spaceframe construction as the Gallardo and proudly displayed its beating mid-engined heart through a glass cover. One aspect the pair didn’t share, though, was price. In 2007, the R8 began at £76,825, some £30,000 less than a Gallardo.
The first-generation R8 was initially offered solely with a naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 producing 414bhp and redlining at 8500rpm. It’s essentially the same unit you find in the Audi RS4 of the same vintage, and you can expect the same throaty, sonorous roar and rev-happy nature. Pair it with an awesome, gated six-speed manual gearbox, and it becomes an enthusiast’s dream.
For even more drama, a 5.2-litre V10 with 517bhp became available in 2009. And, yes, the engine is taken from the Gallardo. So equipped, the R8’s 0-62mph time drops from 4.2sec in the V8 to 3.9sec. That figure dropped further to 3.5sec in 2013, when the 542bhp V10 Plus variant made its grand entrance. In this guise, the model also received a 50kg weight reduction, revised suspension and carbon-ceramic brakes.
However, a supercar is nothing without sharp, precise and engaging handling, and in this respect the R8 yet again proves spectacular.
Its Quattro four-wheel drive system aids traction but allows the car to be playful thanks in part to its rear bias. You get an amazing sense of balance and agility. It’s also communicative to drive, with steering that’s hydraulically assisted for confidence-inspiring weight and feel.
With all this in mind, the R8 is truly breathtaking from behind the wheel, both out on a twisty country road and at full tilt on track. But this is far from a one-trick pony. In fact, the R8 balances its more raucous aspects with some real Audi comfort and usability. Its plush interior is spacious and practical (for a two-seater), and the dashboard is designed logically and to be easy to use without being ostentatious.
In sum, this makes the R8 both a wonderful grand tourer and an exciting performance car. And do you know what else is exciting? Used prices. They start at an extremely tempting £32,000, making the R8 one of the most affordable used supercars money can buy. What’s more, it makes a compelling case as an investment, with well-maintained examples only likely to rise in value over time. Whether in V8 or V10 form, this is a serious car that warrants serious consideration.
What we said then – 14 January 2007
“Despite the supercar underpinnings and the sight of the mid-mounted V8 under a glass cover, the R8 drives more like a sports car. It delivers agility and massive cornering grip but matches this to impressive high-speed refinement and the sort of comfort necessary to devour transcontinental journeys at a sitting. If you’re already on the waiting list, then well done: the R8 looks set to become 2007’s must-have supercar.”
How to get one in your garage
An expert’s view – Alex Green, Fontain motors: “We have bought, sold and maintained R8s right back from the model launch in 2007 and really learned to love them in that time. In a changing world, and with a few years under their belts, they have cemented their position as a modern classic, becoming even more likeable and enjoyable with it.
“Some parts and repair jobs can be expensive, and careful, regular maintenance is essential, but the reward for investing in upkeep is a near-unique experience. An appreciating classic as usable as it is lovely to drive, the best examples are a rock-solid ownership proposition. It is unquestionably one of the finest cars Audi has yet built.”
Engine: While generally bulletproof, a few V8s have suffered bottom-end bearing failure, so listen out for suspicious noises. The lines to the oil cooler, at the rear left, can rust through, and faulty ignition coils are known to cause misfires.
Gearbox: Expect around 20,000 miles from a clutch. Also bear in mind that the R Tronic automated manuals aren’t always very reliable.
Suspension: Steel nuts and bolts can seize and lower rear wishbones can fail, necessitating a whole new unit, so it’s an expensive fix. Magnetic ride dampers fail on older cars, too. Replace in pairs or with high-quality coilovers. R8s are sensitive to worn tyres, shocks and suspension bushes. Listen for knocks, and on a test drive accelerate and decelerate hard to check if it’s pulling left or right.
Brakes: Brake discs are costly to replace, so it’s worth changing pads when they’re 50% worn to extend disc life. Check for oxidisation and galvanic corrosion where steel and aluminium react. The R8’s long doors are vulnerable to knocks, and the panels are expensive to replace.
Also worth knowing: Before introducing the V10 Plus, Audi produced the limited-run GT in 2011. Only 33 were brought to the UK, each making use of the 5.2-litre V10 – this time with 552bhp – and the R Tronic automated manual gearbox. When new, it started at £142,585, althoughused prices are now considerably lower. It’s also worth noting that a GT Spyder variant came out in 2012 but was limited to 43 UK-bound units.
In 2014, the R8 received one last special edition, named the LMX. Only 99 examples were built, each in Ara Blue paint, with 562bhp on tap and a starting price of £160,025. They all also featured laser headlights as standard – a first for a production car.
How much to spend
£32,000–£34,999: This is your entry gate. Examples here will be early cars with high mileages or potentially previous damage, so beware.
£35,000–£41,999 Early cars that tend to be in good condition, sometimes with fewer than 50,000 miles on the clock.
£42,000–£49,999 The sweet spot for early cars. From good to great condition and mileages are usually low. You’ll also find plenty of respectable 2010 to 2013 cars in this price bracket.
£50,000–£59,999 Some fantastic R8 V10s with fewer than 50,000 miles. Convertible R8 Spyders also feature here.
£60,000–£75,000 Late 2014 and 2015 models, plus special-edition GTs and GT Spyders. Expect low mileages and the cars to be in excellent condition.
One we found
2008 Audi R8 4.2 FSI Quattro, 33,000 miles, £42,950: This ticks all the boxes for an excellent early, V8-powered R8, most notably that sought-after manual transmission. There is a laundry list of optional extras and what appears to be a clean history. It’s in great nick, according to the photos, with a reasonable mileage and price tag.
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