Built on the Lamborghini Gallardo platform and patterned after one of Audi's Le Mans racers, the R8 was introduced at the Paris Auto Show in 2006.
Initially offered as a two-door hardtop, then later as a Spyder convertible, it was an instant sensation. Easily the most eye-catching production car put forward by the German company, the R8 looked like it was doing 160 km/h just sitting there.
In 2010, there were two engine choices: a 4.2-litre V-8 and a 5.2-litre V-10. These two developed 430 and 525 horsepower, respectively, making the R8 as fast as it was pretty. A clear plexiglass cover gave onlookers an eyeful of the engine bay, and you could choose from either a six-speed manual or R-Tronic sequential automatic transmission. Equipped with the manual gearbox, the smaller engine could hustle the R8 from 0 to 100 km/h in around four seconds – the V-10, slightly faster.
Whatever engine you chose, the R8 came with Quattro all-wheel-drive and made glorious noises under throttle. A Ferrari-style shift gate ensured that you picked your gears carefully and, in terms of driving kicks, you got the full measure of the high-end European sports car tradition: almost zero body lean, stop-on-a-pfennig braking, virtually instant power and a symphony of mechanical noises emanating from the engine, which was right behind the driver.
One note here: despite a rear-view camera and sensors, backing the car up was – and still is – an exercise in frustration.
The R8 had all the usual upscale bells and whistles. Heated front seats, goodly sized pedals with a footrest, Sirius satellite radio, various choices of leather interior, climate control, a nifty aluminum shift knob, power up and down windows, and accent lighting for the engine bay, to name but a few.
With the R8, Audi managed to strike a balance between outright luxury and the minimalist ambiance that is part and parcel of the sports car experience. Behind the wheel, you could feel the car's inner workings and mechanical rumblings. Lovely.
Intriguing extras included an optional hill-holder feature and magnetic ride suspension. You could also order other goodies in the form of the distinctive Sigma carbon fibre side body "blades," a navi package, and LED headlights.
In terms of interior storage room – well, there wasn't any, despite Audi's claim that there was "ample and convenient spaces for a wide variety of storage needs." True, you could cram a couple of small suitcases or overnight bags behind the seats and maybe a grocery bag or two in the trunk, but that was it. The R8 was strictly a two-seater with little room for extras.
And, although it's probably a moot point, fuel economy was brutal: the 4.2-litre version, for example, delivered just 17.1 litres/100 km in town and 10.3 on the highway.
One note here: other than a price change and a minor power upgrade, the 2010 and 2011 editions of the R8 were virtually identical.
No recalls are on file for the 2010 R8, but, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2011 edition may have a glitch in the form of a potentially leaky fuel line that could chafe against an engine heat shield and ultimately lead to a fire.
NHTSA also has 21 technical service bulletins on file for the 2010 R8. These include a sketchy back-up camera, clogging issues with the air cleaner, low fuel pressure, engine coolant leaks and problems with the clutch mechanism.
Because it was a limited production model, Consumer Reports doesn't have much to say about the R8. Market research firm J.D. Power, however, gives it an "about-average" rating for predicted reliability. Some comments from owners: "Leather interior looks expensive, but may not be durable," "Car gets noticed everywhere" and "R-Tronic transmission needs work."
Unsurprisingly, the R8 has held its value well. Expect to pay from $100,000 up to $110,000 for a 4.2-litre version, and from the low to mid-$120,000 range for the 5.2-litre V-10. Whichever model you have your eye on, this one has "collectible" written all over it.
2010 Audi R8
Original Base Price: $144,000; Black Book: $110,150-$124,750; Red Book: $101,600-$120,650
Engine: 4.2-litre V-8 and 5.2-litre V-10
Horsepower/Torque: 430 hp/317 lb-ft for V-8; 525 hp/391 lb-ft for V-10
Transmission: Six-speed manual and six-speed R-Tronic automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 17.1 city/10.3 highway (V-8 with manual); premium gas
Alternatives:Porsche Turbo S Coupe, Mercedes SLS AMG, BMW 5-Series GT, Jaguar XJ, Chevrolet Corvette Z06