First-generation examples of Audi’s iconic supercar are now within reach of more drivers than ever. Buy with your head and your heart will surely follow…
In the deranged and deluded world some of us inhabit, the Audi R8 is the supercar for every man. It’s democracy in action, a trickle-down Lamborghini Gallardo for the common man.
The common man who can afford to spend 40 grand on a two-seater from 10 years ago, obviously. But while the R8 is every bit as exclusive as, say, the Porsche 911, at least the used market has now brought it within reach of someone who might aspire to owning a Cayman.
“R8s are are quick, easy to drive, reliable and reasonably cheap to run”
Sam Howell, Prestige Cars Kent
We’re talking early R8s, here, of course. The original model had a mid-mounted 4.2-litre V8, rear-biased all-wheel drive and a 4.6-second 0-62 time. Keep the pedal to the metal and you’d end up at 187mph.
The V8 is best mated to the standard manual gearbox, and we’d suggest avoiding versions with the optional magnetic ride suspension – if it lets go, which is not unknown as the years go by, you’ll be looking at a ruinous bill.
Magnetic ride was standard, however, on the 5.2-litre V10 model that came out a year or so into production. With 517bhp, this nuked the sprint in 3.9 seconds and came within 4mph of the big 200. The same engine went into the soft-top Spyder model that followed, and higher-powered versions of both engines appeared as the model range grew into maturity.
The range was revised in 2012, a major step forward being the new S tronic auto – the R tronic unit that came before it was nothing like as good, which is why we’d recommend sticking to manual models until this point. New looks and improved infotainment came in at the same time, along with an even-faster version of the V10.
If you’re shopping for a used R8, the aforementioned 40-grand budget won’t get you one anything like as recent as that. It’s a realistic sum to be spending, however, if you don’t mind going back to the early days of production.
All the same, this is still very nearly a decade-old car – and one which, by its very nature, is likely to have been thrashed. With repairs potentially costing an arm and a leg, you should only buy one with your eyes open. Which means being aware of the following…
- Listen for ugly noises that could be from big-end bearings – on V8s, these have been known to let go. Steel pipework to the oil cooler can perforate, and a misfire is likely to be caused by a faulty coil. R8s’ engines are generally very trustworthy, though.
- Coolant loss can occur around the seams in the outer radiators. If you’re looking at an R8 that’s six years old or more, this is one to check for.
- Clutches last 20,000 miles and cost £3500 to replace. Told you it was a supercar…
- Lower rear suspension wishbones can let go; you’ll be looking at three grand just for the parts. Magnetic ride shocks are known to fail, costing about £800 each to replace. And bimetallic corrosion is a problem where steel suspension fixings react with the aluminium chassis.
- Brake discs cost £300 a pop. The way to preserve them is always to renew your pads way before they need it.
- Corrosion can also happen where the body is mounted to the chassis – and new panels are predictably expensive.
- If the interior looks ready for the knacker’s yard, ask yourself if you really want to spend this much money on it.
And how much money should you be spending? Here’s a potted guide to current pricing:
£38,000-£45,000: Early V8s on perhaps 50,000 miles
£46,000-£49,000: Low-mileage early V8s. Maybe an early V10
£50,000-£55,000: Honest V8s from 2009-10
£56,000-£60,000: Wide range from 2010-11. Cheapest examples from Audi’s own approved stock
£61,000-£69,000: Low-milers from before the 2012 facelift, and a few from after it
£70,000-on: Later models from Audi dealers
“R8s are are quick, easy to drive, reliable and reasonably cheap to run,” says Sam Howell of Prestige Cars Kent. “The V8 is really strong – the V10 engine sounds glorious, but it’s no quicker in the real world. An early V8 manual is the best buy and a future classic.”