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Autos

Audi R8: Art and machine meet in an extraordinary car

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 27, 2013 at 06:25 AM

Many may ask if we need a new super-car in the United States. We do not have the Autobahn nor do we have many areas where a driver can or is willing to approach the outer limits of an automobile's capability.

What we do have is a great number of motoring enthusiasts. They love driving on backcountry roads listening to the sound of a well-engineered machine. They are keen on taking off in a vehicle that is as much a work of art as it is a driving machine.

The Audi R8 fits the bill. This lightweight, aluminum-bodied two-seat vehicle will curl your toes with its performance. The R8 is beautiful to look at and exciting to drive.

I drove the R8 around Infineon Raceway in California to see how it handles when pushed to the limit. I also drove this Audi on public roads, ranging from smooth interstates, busy city streets and beautiful backcountry roads.

I came away from the two days with an admiration for the designers and engineers at Audi. They get kudos for doing a masterful job developing the R8.

I applaud the leaders at Audi for having the forethought to bring this fantastic vehicle to the U.S. market. American car enthusiasts often are excited to hear about automobiles developed overseas only to be disappointed because they never make their way to our shores.

The basic Audi Space Frame aluminum body weighs a mere 530 pounds, which is the foundation for the mid-mounted 420 horsepower V-8 engine that provides the go. And go it does. Unofficially, the R8 will take off from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 187 mph. Granted, we could not get near that top number even at Infineon, but having that power at my beckon call was pure joy. When I needed to stop, the brakes brought this wild cat quickly to a stop. In the handling department, I could not have asked for better abilities.

Equipped with Audi's Quattro four-wheel-drive system, the engine's power went straight to the road surface through all four wheels. The low-slung body and state-of-art suspension system consisting of aluminum double wishbones at all four corners, coupled with big, sticky tires, make the R8 appear as though it is a full-size slot car. The automobile hugs the road and powers around corners without a complaint.

The contoured body is low slung, with the roof sitting barely above a man's waist at just above 48 inches. It is wide to accept the capable suspension and wide tires. The mid-mounted engine is covered by a glass hatch so that onlookers can see the business end of this Audi. The rear end suggests the race car heritage, with a broad rear bumper and valence that pulls the air from under the car.

At night, another wow factor becomes evident as the engine compartment is lit up by strategically placed LEDs that give the appearance of a museum piece on display. LED lighting also is used for the front daylight running lights that sit above the huge air ducts and convey a ghostly look at night. A similar use of red LED lights at the rear makes one feel as though he or she is standing at the start of the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Audi may not sell thousands and thousands of the R8 - and they don't need to; but they have injected a new enthusiasm for the limited-edition sports car. This is truly a wondrous automobile. I need not say more.


Ron Moorhead, a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, can be reached at ronmoorhead@hotmail.com.

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