2014 Audi R8, perfection has its price: Motoramic Drives
Parking at Sonoma Raceway for a test drive of the 2014 Audi R8, I quickly realize it’s not the typical track-day press junket. Instead of the random assortment of Chryslers, Toyotas and BMWs with manufacturer plates, there’s a sultry red Ferrari 458, and a couple of R8s on the lot. Their California street plates show that this Audi Sportscar Experience caters to affluent prospective or current buyers, not impoverished and grizzled automotive journalists.
For the event, each participant partnered with another attendee and maneuvered around a short slalom course, did a few track exercises and ran a couple of controlled laps. My co-driver was a Silicon Valley executive who owned an RS5 — and concepts like racing line or braking points were all new to him.
Which only made the R8 more impressive.
Even when driven by someone who’s never harnessed a 400+ horsepower, mid-engined supercar, the resounding stability of the R8 means it’d take dedication to wrap the AWD coupe around a pole. My driving buddy would slam on the brakes midcorner, or lift off the throttle of the 525-hp V-10 and cut the wheel before the bend like he’s steering the Titanic away from an iceberg, and it didn’t matter — the car would give ample warning through the chassis that you’re doing something grossly wrong, with plenty of leeway to make corrections (or have the computer do it for you via its stability control).
Plus, Audi’s update to the 2014 model makes it even more livable for the average corporate exec or entrepreneur. Finally ditching the aloof single-clutch R-Tronic, the new S-Tronic dual clutch offers smooth effort in casual driving, yet aggressively grabs the gears with near-instant response when gunning it on a straight. The suspension was supple in the standard mode, and noticeably stiffened up in sport mode, with the R8 adeptly snaking through the slalom cones with little fanfare. The damping difference is more appreciable than the suspension toggling in, say, a Nissan GT-R.
But speaking of Gozdilla, the R8 doesn’t deliver the same neck-snapping acceleration as the Nissan even in V-10 form, which goes from 0-60 in 3.8seconds (you’d need the V10 Plus to bridge the gap). While the Lamborghini-sourced powerplant delivers a sonorous, higher-pitched roar, I prefer the R8’s throatier 425-horsepower V-8, which grunts like a muscle car finely tuned by German hands. Both sound too muted from the cabin, which makes the open-top Spyder a more desirable trim.