This 4.2L V8 Audi R8 was kindly provided- and is currently for sale by- Gilmour Collection.
Go big or go home. This seems to be the general advice society would give us on all major life decisions. Get the bigger house, the newer phone, the higher definition TV. Buying a Porsche? Get the Turbo S. Buying a 3-Series? Get the M3 Competition. This notion that we have to have the top of the line in everything has become so prevalent, that lesser models almost elicit a disappointed response. It’s completely uncalled for.
What if you want something that is spectacularly good to drive, but still sensible. Something that’s stylishly striking without being obnoxious. Something that can destroy a mountain pass, then cruise for hours on a highway in comfort and still return reasonable fuel economy.
That surely sounds too good to be true. Such a car doesn’t exist…. Does it?
R8 4.2 V8 can honestly tick all of these boxes
This 2008 Audi R8 4.2 V8 can honestly tick all of these boxes. The car looks spectacular in this colour. It just seems to show all the muscular crease lines and curves as the sun flashes over the surface. The carbon fibre side-blades also compliment this shade beautifully without looking garish or out of place. The stock wheels on the R8 were a little boring. Luckily the 19” items on this example really look the part. They also do an excellent job of putting those beautiful big brakes and contrasting yellow callipers on display.
The look is striking, yet somehow understated and restrained. Even the glass showcase in the rear for the engine somehow doesn’t feel over the top on this car. Every detail just seems to be perfectly measured. Aggressive, but not brutish. Eye catching, but not in your face. Exotic, but still sophisticated.
Step inside and you are greeted by a lovely mix of high quality materials, including real carbon fibre and super-soft Nappa Leather. The dashboard’s raked design under the steepness of the windshield create a feeling of space in the cabin. Many mid-engined supercars can feel cramped inside, but the R8 makes you feel like you can stretch out. The B&O sound system is excellent too… not that you’ll want to listen to it.
it starts to sound more modern, more aggressive
Fitted with an optional sports-exhaust, this car sounds incredible. From idle and in the low RPM ranges it sounds like an American muscle car, with that classic V8 burble. Then between 3500 RPM it starts to sound more modern, more aggressive. Between 6 and 8 thousand it’s just a magical scream that you simply won’t hear from too many cars. Torque is almost unbelievable for an engine with such a high red-line. It pulls strongly from any RPM and keeps pulling harder and harder as the revs go up. It’s quite simply a phenomenal engine, with great character and more than enough power to get to silly speeds rather quickly.
The gearbox was another pleasant surprise. In auto mode, changes are super smooth and predictable. There’s no need to lift off or adjust your driving style. You can literally get in it, stick it in auto and off you go. Manual mode is unfortunately somewhat hampered by laughably small paddles behind the steering wheel. My personal preference is also more aligned with Ferrari’s paddles that stay put, but the Audi paddles are attached to the wheel.
The big, chunky, metal lever feels great
Luckily the R8 does allow you to shift gears using the gear lever. The big, chunky, metal lever feels great and has a satisfying “thunk” to its action. Although this requires you to take a hand off the wheel to change gear, I found it far more fun to use the lever than to use the paddles. Again, probably a personal thing, but I would have just preferred for the lever’s actions to be reversed. I like to push forward on the stick for downshifts and pull back for up, but the R8 is the other way around. I’m pretty sure that by simply changing around a couple of wires on microswitches, I could probably make it work the way I want it to though.
The R8 is always talking to you
Traction and grip levels are excellent. Unlike lesser Audi models, the Quattro system on the R8 splits the torque in such a way that it still feels good to drive. Of course it will eventually understeer, but by the time it does, you’ll be going much faster than you really should be anyway, so it’s hardly ever going to be a problem. What really surprised me was how good the steering feel is. It’s always talking to you and telling you exactly what your front wheels are up to.
Special mention must be made of the brakes though. They are perhaps slightly over-assisted, but they feel great to use and really give you confidence. Very easy to modulate, you’re never going to launch yourself unexpectedly through the windshield. However, stomp on the pedal hard and it will slow you down with the same violence as an arrestor hook on an aircraft carrier. It really does stop on a dime.
all of this for the price of a Golf GTI
The 4.2 R8 offers incredible value for money. It has traffic stopping looks, mid-engined supercar performance and a level of sensibility not usually associated with this category of car. Even though this is a first generation R8, judging by the reaction of on-lookers whilst I was driving, it is still a very popular head-turner. To think you could have all of this for the price of a Golf GTI is almost ludicrous. Proof that simply because a newer version, with a bigger engine exists, doesn’t mean the old car doesn’t deserve consideration any more. I really enjoyed my weekend with it and would welcome it to my collection any time.