It might have the looks of an absolute killer, but inside that carnivore's body lives the soul of an absolutely loving pet. So we get up-close and personal to the new Audi R8 5.2 FSI to see how close it comes to perfectly threading the line between 'super' and 'car'
How do you define a supercar? Well, many people have said many things about it. It should be very fast, it should be very expensive, it should look stunning and the usual fare. Some people also say that a supercar should only be mid-engined and have a 10 to 12 cylinder engine. But probably the most important aspect that makes a car “super” is its exclusivity. So one look at the R8 should be enough to convince you that it truly deserves the “supercar” moniker… or does it?
Well, while the R8 does fit the bill on the most part, it doesn’t quite meet the requirements of exclusivity, considering that over 25,000 of them have been sold since it entered production back in 2006. So what exactly is the R8? To answer that question, we found ourselves staring squarely at one of the latest one of these to hit the streets, the brand new 2012 model R8 V10 coupe, in orange.
Does it look the part?
Over the years, Audi has tweaked a lot of aspects about the way the R8 looks. But even so, the basic design of the car is unmistakable. Low slung, but not intimidatingly so, riding on massive wheels with the cockpit located smack dab in the middle of the wheelbase, there is no denying the purposefulness of the way it looks. The forward slung body with barely any rear overhang makes the R8 look like it’s in motion even while at standstill. And when you catch a glimpse of its gorgeous engine clearly visible in the middle of the car through its glass cover, it’s easy to feel a case of the goose bumps coming on.
For the latest model, brand new LED headlights, which are fast becoming the norm on most of Audi’s road cars, adorn the front, along with a redesigned single frame grille with tapered corners at the top. Round the back, you get a new rear diffuser with large, round tail pipes, further enhancing the sporty stance of the car. In general, there’s more use of exotic materials such as carbon-fibre all around and let’s face it, more carbon-fibre is never a bad thing.
As hot as the R8 does look, in the presence of proper supercar royalty from Italy, it does pale a bit in comparison. We would imagine the subtle design is for someone who doesn’t want to shout out to the world “Hey look at me, I’m in a supercar”, but instead wants to say “I have panache and taste”, or in light of recent silver screen flirtations, say “I am Ironman”.
How about when you get in?
As with the exteriors, subtlety is the key to the R8’s interiors. No gymnastics required for getting into this car; even with its low slung posture, only the very arthritic would have and trouble settling into the driver’s seat. Once in, you’re greeted by a very familiar ‘Audi-ish’ dash layout and anybody who has spent any amount of time in the company’s regular sedans can easily figure out what’s what.
That being said, the sports seats do a good job of snuggling you into a fine driving position and as soon as you’ve settled into them, the ‘monoposto’ cockpit layout, which almost isolates the driver from everything but the controls in the cabin, coupled with the flat bottomed, beautifully contoured steering wheel give you a real sense of integrating into the car. And of course, those who actually want to feel like their bodies were built into the R8’s chassis to begin with can always go for the optional racing bucket seats.
Once you’ve (electrically) adjusted the seat to suit your body, every little control surface is located perfectly within reach, from the wonderfully contoured paddle shifters behind the steering, to the large aluminium pedals and beautifully knurled aluminium gear selector, which actually provides a far more visceral feel while swapping cogs (as opposed to the paddles). And while you’ll find smatterings of carbon fibre along with at least a dozen cows’ worth of leather all over the cabin, nothing feels garish or out of place. It’s a cool, relaxing place to be in and even most of the knobs and buttons seem to function more for making you feel comfortable as opposed to making you go faster.