2011 Audi R8 4.2 R Tronic
2011 Audi R8 4.2 R Tronic. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2011 Audi R8

With the 5.2-litre V10 version of the Audi R8 supercar getting all the press of late, I thought I’d slum it for a bit and test the 4.2-litre FSI V8 version with the six-speed automated single-clutch R Tronic transmission.

Oh, the sacrifices we make.

Of course I’m kidding (keep those cards and letters coming). Any chance to pilot the sublime R8 in any form is a privilege. But I will confess to some hesitation when it came to the R Tronic transmission: more on that later.

For 2011, the R8 4.2 FSI, with a starting price of $144,000, gets new standard equipment in the form of Bluetooth, Homelink, a 6-CD changer, hill-hold assist, storage package, exterior auto dimming/power folding mirrors and stylin’ illuminated door sills.

2011 Audi R8 4.2 R Tronic
2011 Audi R8 4.2 R Tronic
2011 Audi R8 4.2 R Tronic. Click image to enlarge

Power from the direct-injection naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 sees a ten horse boost to 430 hp at 7,800 rpm, while torque remains at 316 lb.-ft. at 6,000 rpm.

I had forgotten what a glorious engine this is. If ultimate speed is not your goal (and for me it really isn’t), then there’s no reason to not be perfectly happy with the V8. For one, it sounds fabulous, bursting to life with a deep and ominous idle that rises to a feral NASCAR-like howl as the revs climb. In contrast, the 525-hp V10 sounds quite non-descript until you rev the bee-jeezus out of it. And just to qualify, the R8 4.2 is still bloody quick.

The R8 remains one of the most usable, and comfortable exotics extant. The quattro all-wheel-drive sends just a whiff of torque to the front (15 per cent), enough to add security but not corrupt the rear-wheel drive feel. Considering its formidable grip, intuitive chassis, and push-me-as-hard-as-you-like-I-won’t-bite poise, the R8’s adaptive magnetic dampers serve up a very nice ride.

The hydraulic steering is leagues ahead of any other Audi automobile when it comes to natural feel and feedback.

So what about this single-clutch R tronic transmission that sets you back an eye-watering $11,500?

Let’s start by saying the standard manual six-speed with its click-clackety aluminum gate is a tactile joy, if a little balky, and gives drivers an intimate connection to the R8’s soul.

However, if you can’t drive a stick or intend to do a lot of track work, then the R tronic makes sense. According to Audi, the zero to 100 km/h time for the 4.2 FSI drops from 4.6 to 3.9 seconds with this gearbox. Having driven both transmissions at an R8 track event, I can attest that flicking paddles and having auto rev-matching beats heel-and-toeing and negotiating the gate if you want to go fast – at least for a hack like me.

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