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Audi R8 Coupe Limited Edition review (2011 onwards)
Summary - Audi saves you the bother of thumbing through a 64-page options list and creates the the ideal R8 for you - making a new R8 benchmark in the process.
Gallery: Audi R8 Limited Edition (2011 onwards)
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We like - the perfect Audi R8 spec, all-weather abilities, blend of excitement and practicality, howling V8 engine, positive image
We don't like - dated interior, poor economy, high price, popularity means exclusivity is slipping
Does Audi now sell the most perfect R8 of all? Since its launch in 2007, the R8 range has expanded to include V10 variants alongside the original V8, and Spyder models to complement the Coupé. And what a success it's been in the following years - the R8 is considered the thinking man's supercar, the smart choice for those who would like a Ferrari or Porsche but don't like the standout image.
For many though, the original V8 Coupé is still the best of all. But, in standard form, it's still not quite the best an R8 can be. Many of the options that further hone the R8 sit on the options list. Audi Magnetic Ride is not standard on V8 cars, for example, nor are 19-inch wheels, both of which have a marked effect on how it drives.
Audi to the rescue. The R8 V8 Coupé Limited Edition is a feature-packed new variant introduced to mark 10 years of Audi Le Mans success. Strictly limited to just 100 cars - for, as a mark of how much Brits love Le Mans, the UK only - deliveries began last month of a car Audi engineers have carefully honed from the options available to them.
It thus gets those 19-inch wheels, Audi Magnetic Ride suspension, sat nav and, for added comfort, Bang and Olufsen stereo, Bluetooth mobile phone and a bespoke titanium-effect paint. If you had to choose the most fully optimised R8 available, this is what you would have. So, four years on from launch, has the R8 reached its zenith?
The most exciting R8 engine is the 4.2-litre V8. Sure, the V10 has more power, but the intensity of the V8 makes it far more charismatic. The howl at higher revs is incredible, a real supercar experience: the loud scream is spine-tingling and every inch the Le Mans wannabe.
It seems remarkable to experience such sound effects from the refined, businesslike Audi cabin, but this is all part of the dual-nature appeal. The V8 will trundle meekly at low revs without a hint of splutter or ill manners, but also bark right round to a sonorous 8,250 redline with, yes, Le Mans-like ferocity.
The R8 certainly is fast when you work it. A lack of torque means it feels flat below 3,000rpm but get it singing (peak pulling power comes in between 4,500-6,000rpm) and 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds is yours - and the high-rev bite makes this 187mph supercar seem even faster still. Maximum power, of 430hp? Released at no less than 7,900rpm: this is a very fast car but demands very high revs too.
The gearbox follows supercar folklore in being so-so. OK, it's not truculent like supercars of yore, but it's also not that involving and rather dull to use. Yes, it has a Ferrari-style exposed gate, which clicks nicely when you shift gear, but this also get in the way when you're shifting quickly. Mind you, it's still better than the jerky R tronic semi-auto option...
Ride and handling
The most significant addition to this supercar's arsenal is Audi Magnetic Ride. This adds the MagneRide active dampers that adjust in near-real time to feedback from the road, the car and the driving style. This ensures an optimum setting in all situations, rather than the cover-all compromise setting of regular suspension.
It means, first of all, R8 ride quality is sublime. It's far more compliant than you'd ever think a low-slung supercar could ever be, both remaining supple and super-comfortable at speed but also extremely well controlled and consistent on twisting, undulating British B-roads.
A great ride quality is not to be underestimated: it means you can use all the handling ability at your disposal. And what ability. It may be mid-engined and very powerful, but the R8 is a fluid and satisfying car through corners that's very much on your side. Quattro four-wheel drive ensures are no nasty tricks, just a well-honed ability to go exactly when you want and tell you exactly what's going on while doing so.
Steering deserves special mention, for feeling so clean and natural in its response. It's a bit grey on straight ahead but quickly becomes direct and accurate just off centre. It gives you all the confidence you need to enjoy this low, wide, direct and unfeasible wieldy all-weather supercar: come rain or shine, you can use it with reward and without fear.
The R8 Limited Edition gets special red leather accents for the dashboard, to set off the standard Nappa leather. It enlivens a well built, easy to use cabin that's also, by Audi standards, rather plain and now starting to appear dated. And while sat nav is standard, the integration of the system in the dash lacks finesse.
Forward visibility is superb, thanks to the low and wide windscreen, while the deep side windows also help you see twisting roads clearly. Rear visibility is more of an issue: the rear screen is tiny and its buttress-style pillars are very thick. Add in the fact there's a lot of car behind you (not least a 4.2-litre engine...) and it becomes a pity parking sensors only reside on the options list.
Really, though, this lack of rear visibility only adds to the supercar drama. It feels purposeful, from stepping down over wide sills, to finding yourself positioned far forward, to looking in the door mirrors and seeing lots of both 'Sideblade' air intake and voluminous wheel arch...
Boy, does it do the grown up executive cruiser part well, too. Noise levels are low when your'e not screaming the engine, with that concert-like Bang and Olufsen stereo at hand to provide tunes (and impress with its cool pop-up dashboard tweeters). No supercar more ably imitates a long-distance Audi A6 cruiser than the R8: this dual nature remains very striking.
Economy and safety
The R8 has yet to benefit from Audi's latest fuel efficient tech. That's why it returns less than 20mpg even when driven on the meek official combined cycle. Use it as it wants you to and you'll average far less (and worsen the 332g/km CO2 figure significantly).
We don't have any qualms over safety though. The Audi Space Frame is very strong and there are lots of airbags, while ESP and the brilliant traction and stability of quattro four-wheel drive ensures active safety is among the best of any supercar too.
The MSN Cars verdict
If we had to build our perfect R8, this would be it. So configured, it's exciting, able, both thrilling on a twisty road and peaceful on a straight one, stylish and smart, and equipped with all the interior gadgets you really need.
It's not cheap, and the R8's sheer popularity means it's not the head-turner it once was, but if you want to own the most satisfying R8 of all - the one those in the know would buy - you need the Limited Edition. Indeed, it's such a fine all-rounder, it's questionable why Audi's decided to limit the package to 100...
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||4.2-litre FSI V8|
|Torque (lb ft)||327|
|Top speed (mph)||187|
|Ratings||Audi A4 SE 2.0 TDIe 136|
|Ride & handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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