Utilising a sizeable chunk of their iconic 4.2 litre V8 from the B7 RS4, Audi were off to a strong start in their first super-car venture. Using a revised intake due to the now mid-engined lay out along with a dry sump. The R8’s V8 remains almost unaltered from its B7 guise, producing the same 414bhp.
The R8’s driving dynamics appear to be very similar to those of the RS4. It is keen to rev highly, yet feels as if it has more torque – although this could be down to its 100Kg weight advantage and a lightened fly-wheel. Power is split 60-40, rear biased, although it’s said the R8 is able to handle almost 80% to the rear. Audi’s Dynamic ride control was the factory option although Mag-Ride was offered too. Magnetic ride control gave the car an added agility with ball bearings in the struts controlled by a magnetic pulse. Failings of this system were greatly reduced compared to the now well-known fragile Dynamic Ride Control (DRC).
The R8 shared the fantastic “RS4” 8 piston front brake callipers, used on the C5 platform with 365mm discs. As you can see above though, the R8 has a much smarter rear set-up. A 4 piston set up with 356mm discs and separate handbrake callipers. These are said to increase the brake balance front to rear during heaving usage (who really drives a super-car slowly?). The R8 came with two transmissions, the first being the purists choice of a straight 6 manual, but an R-Tronic auto was also available with flappy paddles of course – for those of you who need to blip on downshifts somewhere near a tunnel.(R-Tronic is basically Lamborghini’s E-Gear transmission.) Other notable options for the R8 were Audi’s bucket seats which debuted with the B7, 380mm carbon ceramic brakes and the carbon pack (carbon side blades, extended engine bay carbon – which also added carbon to the already lavish interior). 0-60 was taken care of in around 4.5 seconds with near 190mph being in reach from factory.
The R8 was a huge success at the time, but I feel it is somewhat forgotten for its iconic breakthrough into the supercar market. Audi’s first venture being the success that forged the way for the big V10 to supersede and rival the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari, yet less than half the cost.
The first generation R8 (V8) can now be had from as little as £35,000, with decent spec and mileage. However, unlike most super-cars of the era, the R8 is a car that can handle daily duties and accumulating mileage. I’ve seen early examples with over 140,000 miles, still performing admirably. Quattro enables this mid-engined super-car to perform no matter the weather. Delivering its power in a controlled and planted manor via its 295 section rear tyres – although these can be lit up with the back-end, happy to breakaway with little provocation. A true drivers car that’s both affordable and engaging yet refined enough to use everyday. A future classic, I’ve no doubt. The last of the first generation cars were treated to a dual-clutch R-Tronic gear-box. The perfect addition to the V10 with faster shifts to hone the experience.