Driving the 2008 Audi R8, Part One

Those of you following closely may have noticed Ray is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with the Audi R8. We can't be sure, but this could be the first sign of a developing mental illness. It could be R8itis, or Ray Wert's Disease, as we're sure it's soon to become known. Not wanting to tip him over the edge into a complete breakdown, we felt it best to keep the car out of his hands for the foreseeable future. Actually, I offered him a ride, but he was out of town.

Photography: Grant Ray

During the early stages of the disease, another member of the Jalopnik team noted a top Audi executive described the R8 as "an Audi for our wives." Eventually working out that this wasn't a marriage proposal, Ray's quick "Oh my God, yes!" nevertheless caused red faces all round.

I think that what the German was actually proposing was that the R8 is a feminine supercar, the first of its kind.

I've never felt comfortable driving other supercars. They make me look like a spoiled rich kid or member of a boy band (I'd like to think I'd be the edgy one). The R8 is different. In place of phallic hood bulges, exhaust notes you can hear from space and the kind of styling that only looks good on bedroom posters, the R8 has a classy, understated design. Something that might actually appeal to the fairer sex.

Living in Brooklyn, I constantly have to cope with the kind of road conditions you'd expect in Baghdad. Repair crews aren't able to keep up, merely stuffing traffic cones or other road debris into feet-deep sinkholes; substituting a warning for actual repairs. Technically a highway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is better used to test an SUV's off-road capability than a supercar's performance. A couple of days ago I struggled to make it through in a Dodge Viper, its wide tires and stiff suspension limiting possible speed to 50 miles per hour. The first thing you notice about the R8 is how well it deals with these kinds of conditions. Rather than being a liability, you can use its speed and agility to cut through traffic. Road hazards be damned.

We're driving out of town through the wastelands of Northern New Jersey, headed for the Catskills. Traffic on these roads is heavy and moves fast, but inexplicably grinds to an emergency stop every few miles. Rounding a fast corner, lanes full of motionless Town Cars suddenly rear their bulbous back ends. This is the first time I've used the R8's brakes, so I go for the kind of pressure that'd bring most other cars to a safe stop. The wheels lock. Grant, the photographer, nearly hits the windshield and loses his camera to the foot well. So that's what the grab handles mounted next to the sexy shifter are for. I'm surprised. Judging by its smooth ride you'd think the R8 would be soft rather than sharp, ABS tuned for safety rather than performance, kicking in long before you needed it to.

Finally leaving the traffic behind, we can kick into cruise mode. Putting the transmission into automatic gives me the chance to look around the cabin. Most supercars sacrifice space for style. That style being mostly confined to the outside. But inside the R8 we're reclining in peerless luxury. Audi, legendary for their great interiors, have really outdone themselves in here. Everything you can touch is metal or leather. The 4.2 liter V8, lifted from the RS4, is only inches behind us, but at these kinds of speeds, you can't hear or feel it. Close your eyes and you could be in an A8.

Grant's flirting with a cute blonde in a 335i next to us. So he's disappointed when it's time to pull off and head into the hills. If women looked at you twice in the Viper, it was a look of pity or hatred. This woman's been following the R8 for half an hour.

Tomorrow: Do ladies like to speed?


Driving the 2008 Viper SRT10