Exclusivity as part of the deal
Driving a precision high-performance sports car need not involve spartan self-deprivation. Quite the opposite, in fact: the Audi R8 combines superior performance with both a surprising measure of everyday suitability and an exclusive equipment specification. In a nutshell, when it comes to quality and overall appearance, the R8 is one hundred percent an Audi.
The standard technology package is in itself already an exclusive affair: the R8 is the only car featuring an FSI mid-engine with quattro permanent four-wheel drive and Audi Space Frame construction. The sports car in addition comes with an equipment package that accentuates in equal measure its sports characteristics, its standard of comfort for long-distance driving and – naturally for an Audi – its sophisticated appearance.
Exceptional build quality
Even in the basic version, the materials and surfaces are of choice quality. The sports seats provide excellent support and can be adjusted in a wide range of ways (power-operated, as an option). They are upholstered in fine Pearl Nappa leather in the colours black or pale grey.
The seat centre sections are in colour-coordinated Alcantara. The precision-stitched seams arguably do even more to reinforce the visual and tactile impression than the material.
The upper side of the cockpit and the door panels illustrate this particularly vividly: even the basic version, with the technical structure of its surfaces, has a soft backing and stitched edges. The resulting finish is exquisitely elegant – especially when compared with some competitor products.
Another example is the polished stainless steel gear lever gate of the manual gearbox. It is one of several gleaming highlights in the interior, along with the clips in the three-spoke steering wheel, the gear lever and the controls for the air conditioning and audio system.
As distinctive as its owner
Every R8 can be customised to be a precise reflection of its future owner's preferences. It all starts with the body colours, ranging from Ibis White to Phantom Black. Those envisaging a very specific colour can order a custom paint finish from the quattro GmbH Audi exclusive range.
The sideblades behind the doors are definitely a striking visual highlight. They are colour-coordinated with the paintwork, or available optionally in high-gloss Oxygen Silver. The material Carbon Sigma possesses a special sporting flair: as a further option, the sideblades can be supplied in genuine carbon fibre with a clear-coat finish.
Carbon fibre for undiluted racing flair
As a means of customisation, Carbon Sigma is also used to adorn the interior and even the engine compartment. Though the conventional designation of engine compartment barely does justice to this spectacle. The eight-cylinder engine is displayed beneath a glass cover, as if in a showcase. Its recess can be lined virtually in entirety in carbon fibre if desired. Then there are the white light-emitting diodes to illuminate the engine compartment, in conjunction with the coming home / leaving home function.
After all, owners of an R8 are bound to want to cast a final, admiring glance at this jewel of a car after parking it in the garage at night.
A carbon fibre package is also available for the interior. It envelops the monoposto, the unit comprising the displays and controls, and embellishes the doors and centre console. If carbon fibre evokes the sheer excitement of motor racing, the black piano finish is the elegantly sporty alternative. The all-leather equipment specification definitely complements it in perfect style: virtually the entire interior of the R8 is then trimmed in Fine Nappa leather, with colour-contrasting seams if preferred. Here too, an almost inexhaustible choice of colours and variants is available in the Audi exclusive range from quattro GmbH if the standard versions are not quite what the customer is looking for.
The same is true of the optional bucket seats. They have been developed and designed specially for the R8 and are yet another example of the unique blend of uncompromising sportiness and unflinching everyday suitability. The bucket seats envelop the upper body in particular even more resolutely than the standard sports seats and provide perfect support even under the influence of high lateral acceleration. But above all they can be adjusted in a great many ways, are comfortable over long distances and above all permit an easy entry and exit, and do not get in the way when stowing luggage behind the seats.
Expressive night-time guise
The lighting is emphatically one of the highlights of the R8. Because with such an expressive design visible by day, it would be a shame if anyone were to miss beholding Audi's sports car at night. The standard xenon plus headlights with a diameter of 70 mm illuminate the road surface outstandingly well. But the daytime running lights, which trace the contours of the main headlights with 12 light-emitting diodes, provide a truly unique accent. With the low-beam headlights on, the LEDs are dimmed slightly but then assume the function of sidelights, giving the R8 its unique "night-time look".
Admittedly, this high-performance sports car is much more likely to be seen from behind.
And it is no less engaging when viewed from that angle at night, because for the first time three-dimensional illuminated bodies have been created using LED technology, instead of merely flat, two-dimensional lighting surfaces. The tail lights function is performed by 40 light-emitting diodes, which are installed in two tubular-shaped light units. The external structuring and internal optical-fibre effects reinforce the three-dimensional impact. The light output of the LEDs was increased for the brake lights, with a further eight diodes filling the inner surface of the tubes. 32 yellow light-emitting diodes on the bottom edge of the tail lights serve as indicator lights. The high-level brake light, comprising 26 LEDs, extends over almost the entire width of the roof. Its light intensity and the extremely short response time of the light-emitting diodes are genuinely necessary for warning traffic following on behind, because the R8 does of course have excellent brakes.
The world's first all-LED main headlights
But the all-LED main headlights are the absolute highlight: from the end of 2007, the R8 will be the first vehicle in the world to offer this innovative lighting technology as standard. Not only will it give the headlights a futuristic look; it also brings significant functional benefits: the light colour of the LED headlights of almost 6,000 Kelvin is close to that of daylight, and therefore makes driving at night less tiring. It differs markedly from the 4,100 Kelvin of xenon headlights or the relatively yellowish appearance of halogen headlights, at 3,200 Kelvin. The light quality and illumination of these lights are in no way inferior to Audi's outstanding bi-xenon headlights.
If the technical description of these lights sounds complex, it is because these engineering masterpieces of lighting technology are highly advanced creations. The task of providing light is tackled in an entirely different way to conventional headlights. A total of 22 ultra-high-performance light-emitting diodes are arranged in seven groups of two or four, performing the various tasks of the low-beam and high-beam headlights.
For the low-beam headlights, the light from the two groups of four LEDs is distributed by two free-form reflectors as a source of basic lighting. In combination with the projection system of the three groups of two LEDs, the design resembles that of an open pine cone.
They provide the range and the asymmetry. This is achieved first by concentrating their lumens via a primary optical device, then distributing it via a new type of plastic lens. The high beam is operated by the two internal reflector shells each with a group of four LEDs. In stylistic terms, the light is cast forward as if by turbine blades.
The daytime running lights, too, serve as a distinguishing feature of the all-LED headlights: while they have the same contours as the standard lights, the LEDs here form a continuous strip, whereas they appear as individual dots in the xenon version. Simply guaranteed to grab the attention of onlookers!
The energy consumption of the Audi R8 LED headlights totals 60 watts (50 watts for the LEDs, plus 7 watts for the actuating electronics and around 3 watts for the fan). Xenon headlights are even more efficient at 42 watts (35 watts for the xenon lamp and likewise 7 watts for the actuating electronics). Halogen headlights have the highest power consumption, at 68 watts. Compared with standard xenon headlights, the Audi R8 with LED headlights adds 0.008 litres per 100 km to the fuel consumption, a difference that is barely relevant in practice.
What is relevant is the reduction in consumption for LED daytime running lights compared with vehicles without daytime running lights, for daytime driving. The LED daytime running lights in the standard headlights of the Audi R8 use 14 watts per vehicle (6 watts for the LED light output and 1 watt for the actuating electronics, for each headlight). The lights of vehicles without daytime running lights use the same amount day or night, namely 300 watts for halogen headlights and 248 watts for xenon headlights. In other words, around twenty times more.
Tried-and-tested MMI operating system
Safety features such as the tyre pressure monitor and headlight cleaning system and comfort/convenience elements such as automatic air conditioning are all supplied as standard on the R8. An anti-theft alarm with tow-away protection is likewise a matter of course on such an attractive car. All the essentials are included, even down to the drinks holders.
The optional radio and navigation system, to keep drivers always on course, comes with a DVD that covers the entire road network of Western Europe. It is integrated into Audi's tried-and-tested MMI operating system, via which a large range of vehicle and comfort/convenience functions can be selected. The mobile phone preparation with Bluetooth link is available as an option.
Clear view to the rear
The optional Audi parking system advanced provides a clear view of things when manoeuvring into a parking space – another USP in the sports car segment. It combines ultrasonic sensor technology with a rearview camera and displays the space behind the car on the MMI system's monitor. The camera is located above the rear number plate.
Guidance lines are superimposed on the image on the monitor as an aid to manoeuvring. The zone coloured blue, for instance, depicts one vehicle's length to the rear, and orange lines mark the car's course at its current steering angle.
New standard of music pleasure
The R8 is already equipped with a high-quality sound system as standard, with seven speakers and a five-channel amplifier with an audio output of 140 watts. The radio unit incorporates two VHF tuners with diversity aerial for constantly optimum reception, an MP3-enabled CD player and two sockets for MMC/SD memory cards.
The quality standard of Audi's sound systems is reflected by the fact that the company has teamed up with the Danish high-end specialist Bang & Olufsen, which has created an optional system for the R8 that pioneers unprecedented standards of music enjoyment in a sports car. Twelve sound sources, surround sound and the very high audio output of 465 watts for a small interior compartment provide just an inkling – but barely more than that – of the experience that awaits the occupants.
The interior of a sports car presents a particular challenge to the sound designer because of so little space being available. This makes it a real challenge to integrate the 12 speakers to good effect. The doors accommodate the 200 mm woofers and also the 80 mm mid-range speakers, which are complemented by the 25 mm tweeters in the mirror triangles and the surround speakers on the upper side of the cockpit. Additional 168 mm woofers/mid-range speakers with their own tweeters are concealed in the rear side sections. The 150 watt subwoofer box for ample bass reproduction is installed behind the glove box.
Sound that envelops the driver
The amplifier, with a total output of 465 watts – together with the optional CD changer – is fitted behind the driver's seat. A conventional linear amplifier would produce a very large amount of power dissipation and therefore heat – as a rule of thumb, two watts of heat for every watt of audio output. The Bang & Olufsen system consequently has an amplifier using innovative ICE-Power technology that limits the power dissipation to no more than 50 watts.
The digital signal processor integrated into the amplifier can transform straightforward stereo music into surround sound that totally envelops the driver and passenger. This effect is achieved by a complex process of analysing music for components that sound rather "dry" and contain little echo, and components that the listener would experience as rather diffuse in a natural environment. The signals are distributed to the twelve speakers accordingly. A microphone in the roof of the R8 constantly measures the level of noise inside the car, the volume of the space and the resonance behaviour, and in effect corrects the sound pattern in real time.
However impressive it is, though, the R8 driver is bound to want to switch even this sound system off occasionally, in order to savour the splendid sound of the eight high-revving cylinders.
The equipment, data and prices stated here refer to the model range offered for sale in Germany. Subject to amendment; errors and omissions excepted.